Interview: JBL x 100 Thieves Headset collaboration

JBL x 100 Thieves Headset
Image credit: JBL

Gaming lifestyle and esports brand 100 Thieves and audio technology company JBL have realised their partnership through an unveiling of the limited edition JBL x 100 Thieves Headset.

Using the flagship JBL Quantum ONE headset as a canvas, the exclusive product touts 100 Thieves’ signature geo-print design and branding, dropping exclusively on March 24th via DropX, StockX’s direct-to-consumer product release method.

The launch event later today, to be held at the 100 Thieves CashApp Compound in Culver City, California, aims to bring ‘the evolution of audio in gaming’ to life in a VIP experience featuring a special performance by Grammy-nominated artist Gunna, following last week’s 100 Thieves x Attack on Titan collaborative apparel launch.

Esports Insider spoke with Michael Craig, Senior Marketing Director of Global Lifestyle & Gaming at JBL’s parent company HARMAN, to discuss the brand’s experience entering the sector and working with 100 Thieves.

JBL x 100 Thieves Headset
Image credit: JBL

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JBL and 100 Thieves first announced their partnership in April 2020 and later expanded the deal in May 2021 to include the LA Thieves roster.

JBL is best known today for its best-selling wireless speaker products, but the company was founded 76 years ago. The brand decided to make its move into the gaming & esports space in 2019, Craig told Esports Insider.

The flagship gaming peripheral product, the JBL Quantum ONE, and the JBL Quantum range is the result of extensive market research which verified to the brand that its product innovation fit the needs of the gaming market.

A large focus of JBL’s entry into gaming products is the accurate placement of directional sound, in other words, spatial audio experience. With the JBL Quantum product line, in-game audio is amplified relative to the player — in-game sounds behind a player’s avatar emit behind the player — offering an enveloping immersion and an alleged competitive advantage.

The JBL x 100 Thieves Headset is the brand’s first gaming product collaboration, though the brand has already dipped its toes in product drops. In November 2021, JBL collaborated with fashion brand Supreme on the limited edition JBL x Supreme L100 Classic Speakers.

A month later, the brand unveiled the Freak Edition JBL Tour headphones and JBL Endurance Peak earbuds in collaboration with NBA champion Giannis Antetokounmpo, sold exclusively on StockX.

Utilising JBL and 100 Thieves’ ongoing relationship with the online marketplace was the best opportunity to join forces and bring the product to life for drop-culture audiences. StockX was announced as 100 Thieves’ third partner back in 2018.

In 2020, the platform expanded into electronic products, citing in an official release that the category became the marketplace’s second largest, propelled by purchases of gaming consoles during the holiday season’s Cyber Week.

JBL x 100 Thieves Headset BrookeAB
Image credit: JBL

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“If one pillar was our engagement with esports and the pro gamer community,” Craig said, ”the other pillar was having a deeper engagement with esports teams and gaming organisations that the broader gaming public look to for entertainment, for guidance and for expert gameplay.

“100 Thieves checked all boxes, bringing along an additional element of being extremely relevant in broader culture.”

Legitimate hype goes a long way but life comes at you fast. “We had some of the best laid marketing plans that I had ever seen coming to the beginning of 2020,” Craig said. As JBL prepared to unveil its entry into a new sector and speak to a new audience, that great COVID-curveball came off the mound.

Revolving around key cultural, in-person events like SXSW, the JBL Quantum event promotions went back to the drawing board to “find the right mix of consumer and pro player involvement to introduce the product to gamers in an authentic way,” as Craig put it, in a world far away from what was planned for.

The company found the sweet spot in a three-day, three-title, three-region online tournament, debuting the JBL Quantum Cup, in partnership with ESL Gaming, in 2020 and a sequel the following year. 100 Thieves’ pro players and influencers were prominent USPs of the events, activating the close partnerships with the brand. Org-affiliated influencers Matthew ‘Nadeshot’ Haag, Brooke ‘BrookeAB’ Bond, and Kyedae Shymko are also official JBL Ambassadors.

JBL x 100 Thieves Headset Nadeshot
Image credit: JBL

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“Collaborating with JBL has been an incredible experience and highlights how game-changing quality sound can be,” Haag commented. “We strive to work with brands that share our commitment of embracing diversity at the intersection of gaming, culture, and lifestyle in a forward-thinking way.”

In May 2021, JBL partnered with 1,000 Dreams Fund to create the JBL Quantum Grant  — a programme to support women in gaming & esports. Last year, 30 successful applicants received a $1,500 (~£1,261) micro-grant, JBL Quantum gaming headsets, and select winners were invited to a ‘virtual mentorship session’ with Bond and Shymko. It was teased there would be more to come with this partnership in 2022.

“It’s really been exciting to see how [100 Thieves] have continued to grow over the first two years of our relationship and continuing to engage folks.” Craig said. “JBL is not just involved from a gaming perspective, but also in fashion and other pillars that 100 Thieves is touching upon.”

Considering the synergies of StockX expanding from sneakers into electronics, JBL expanding from music into gaming, and both’s involvement with the org that does it all, 100 Thieves — this limited edition JBL x 100 Thieves Headset drop is a trinity of cultural relevance. With such pinpoint accuracy on product/market fit, that the gaming audience’s reportedly high disposable income would been found in the crosshairs was nigh.

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