Matthew Archambault has had an exciting year as Head of Partnerships and Business Development with Riot. Looking around Little Caesars Arena during the Summer Split Finals, evidence was everywhere. Rocket Mortgage presented the event, SNAPS and Red Bull appeared on the screens and various other big name sponsors popped up everywhere throughout the event. This level of involvement from such prominent companies spoke both to the growing desire to be involved with the LCS and the impressive work that Matthew has done. He was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk with The Game Haus between games on Sunday.
So, what went into the decision for event-specific sponsorships? Is that something you want to continue? Or do you want to focus more on long term relationships?
So I would say it really just depends on what the partner is looking to do. In this particular case, it happened to be a really perfect marriage because we were coming to Detroit and Rocket Mortgage obviously has a really large relationship with this city. They’ve been unbelievably helpful with us – with Bus wraps, with working with the Detroit Sports Commission and local sports teams, [such as] the Tigers, etc. So it ended up being a really good marriage in that sense. And I think for us, it just depends on finding a partner in the investment space that is really looking to help out the community, and how do they want to do that.
If they want to sponsor one of our biggest events like the Finals, we’d love to have that opportunity. If they want to sponsor Spring Finals or something like an In-Game moment, we’re happy to explore that. But it really just depends on what the KPIs and the goals at the end of the day are.
Can you speak more on the SNAPS partnership and how that happened?
Yeah, sure. So I was actually introduced to a couple of the investors and the CEO of SNAPS through one of our teams. And we knew that they had a very strong relationship with the NBA, which we have a lot of team owners that also have that investment, and so there’s a lot of crossover there just in general.
So what we actually were able to do was explore what they had done in the NBA, what they did with the NBA Finals, the All Star game and some of the other elements along those lines. And then we were able to facilitate a conversation where we were looking at bringing a new unique item with a limited run, specifically for Detroit to see how it would pick up and how it would really go. And what we’ve seen is that fans are absolutely loving it – the community is excited about it. We came up with a couple of different designs and really honed in on that Detroit vibe that we were going for to try and build off of that influence and they have been amazing.
And it was a limited run, right?
It was a limited run. 600 total, 200 of each design. But you know, Matt the CEO, the investors and the rest of the team are all amazing, amazing individuals. They’ve been fully committed to doing this. They were here yesterday, they had to fly out, but they’ve been walking around talking to people and explaining it.
We’re looking for partners that want to be involved in the space, that want to give back to the community. That’s what we’re doing. And they told us that they had been talking to the NBA and people were asking them about esports, and why weren’t they doing anything with esports. And that led to the “A-ha moment” that they should probably do something in esports. So we’re really, really excited about how that’s going.
How has franchising affected the relationship with sponsors?
I think franchising has been a really strong and positive impact when it comes to the sustainability and the security, because with relegation, you would end up losing teams. Now, we have these brands, and the way we work with the teams, we really view it as a collaboration. Great teams like TL and C9 here, they have multiple leagues, but for us, having that franchising and knowing the fans are going to be there – that drive towards the fandom and the storytelling and being able to build up some of the players that are here like Svenskeren and Doublelift. Yeah, it’s really, really exciting. You can hear the crowd in the background. So for me, I think it’s been a very positive step for us in being able to attract and retain partnerships.
The Overwatch League is planning to introduce geolocation, focusing the teams in different cities. From a partnership standpoint, do you think that would be an opportunity or more of a challenge?
Our LPL League in China has done the same thing. They have their “home and away” model that they started last year. As any league in traditional sports, we’re always exploring a multitude of opportunities. Do we add teams? Do we try geolocation? All these conversations come up. Having NBA owners is part of it – it keeps that dialogue going, right. I think, you know, the questions are [about] where we go and what’s going to be the best service not only to the teams, but also for the fans. But we’re definitely keeping a close eye on not only what LPL is doing, but also on some of the other leagues, Overwatch, etc. to see where we’re going to go and what’s going to be the best service for us.
How separate are the team sponsors and the LCS sponsors? Is there any overlap or are those completely separate?
I mean, there are some brands that have overlap. You know, obviously, Honda is a sponsor of Team Liquid are also a sponsor at the league level. Alienware, similarly, is that way. Red Bull is a sponsor for us, and [is] also a sponsor of Cloud9. So there is a lot of crossover.
But you know, from a competitive integrity standpoint, they are always separate. When you’re buying into the league level, you’re buying a certain system. When you buy in at the team level, it’s a different setup, where basically, you’re working with teams and marketing strategy. So for us, if we see a brand that’s that’s invested into the space and invested in the teams, that’s a great way to level that up to the league level. And there are some brands that are invested at the league level that are now asking if there are certain brands or certain “team DNA” that they could go after and we’re happy to facilitate that. Similar to what you would see with the NBA, right, when you can come at the NBA level, you can have team sponsors, and you can have league sponsors. There’s crossover there, but a lot of times, it’s a synergy.
When you work with some of these bigger companies, how well versed are they in the esports space? And how much education has to come from your side?
I’d say in in all cases, there is a little bit of education that comes into play. But it’s it’s usually a positive, right? And when we are looking for brands, and we’re qualifying them, it goes back to: do those brands want to just look at our audiences, 18 to 34 year old audiences as a transaction? If that’s the case, it’s probably not the best suited for us as a brand, for Riot and for League of Legends and the LCS. So there’s a little bit of education there. But generally, brands are very committed to it. And you can see that. They’re asking for education, they want to know and they want to absorb everything that you can possibly tell them, right.
We have plenty of people at the company that can tell you everything that has happened from Season 1 all the way up to right now. So I think in those cases, you can see where the value proposition comes into play, because brands want to learn, but they also know what they’re doing and that’s where that cross-reference comes in that sense. There’s always a little bit of education, but I think that happens in all circles.