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Branding Brainstorm: LCS Branding Ideas Modeled after TreeQuest

FlyQuest's TreeQuest is an example of good cause marketing and branding

Within esports, most fans value talent and success. They want to know which teams are winning, which players are the best and what strategies are meta. Competitions are mostly about winners and losers, favorites and underdogs. But beyond tournament results and win-loss records, fans also enjoy narratives, stories, history and branding.

Most fans probably don’t dedicate much time to analyzing esports organizations’ branding. They like certain teams, don’t like certain teams and don’t care about the rest. However, these organizations constantly invest resources into getting fans to like them more than the others. It is a whole different competition going on behind the scenes, which involves sponsorships, subscribers, followers, media, content, apparel and everything else revolving around the team’s brand.

Recently, FlyQuest announced a new CEO, along with their TreeQuest initiative. For every FLY win, FLY kill, and Ocean Drake, FlyQuest is planting trees. Paired with their newly unveiled Greenhouse, FlyQuest just inserted itself as an environmentally-friendly brand among the LCS teams. Fans immediately latched onto this concept for several reasons.

Firstly, this is much different from anything the other LCS teams are doing. It creates a unique identity for FLY compared to the other organizations. Even if players come and go, this “cause marketing” stays with the organization. Secondly, the philanthropy aspect makes FLY come across more caring and less greedy. Lastly, tying the initiative to actual gameplay gives fans reasons to watch their matches. Each of these aspects of the TreeQuest branding is valuable to potential sponsors and fans who want to be associated with an eco-friendly organization.

What has already been tried?

Before TreeQuest, 100 Thieves produced the most engaging branding in the LCS. Their focus on exclusive, designed apparel still carries over into 2020. Bringing baseball-style jerseys to the stage and offering limited-time streetwear brought a unique image to the LCS, which mostly stuck to the same formula for jerseys, apparel, and other merchandise.

Every organization obviously does a lot for their fans. Most of them create documentaries of behind the scenes week-to-week (TSM: LEGENDS). Sometimes they upload YouTube videos answering questions, playing games, or showcase a sponsor or new player (Jungle Guide with C9 Blaber). They also consistently do giveaways of all kinds through social media.

However, these don’t truly separate any organizations from the rest of the pack. All ten LCS teams engage in these sorts of fan-directed activities, and they should. In an era of streaming and social media, fans get to feel more connected and engaged with all of their favorite personalities more than ever before. Teams that do not produce content or seek engagement with the fans will not have many fans for very long.

So what else could LCS organizations do to create a more valuable brand, other than having the best record, the most trophies, or having the best player brands? What are some original ways to attract fans to stay with an organization, regardless of its players? Is there anything unexplored that could set an LCS organization apart from the others?

The Ultimate Fan Experience

Organizations could set up a program to find their “Number One Fan” each split, and give them the best experience possible. For example, right after the end of the regular season, fans could upload a 60-second video of themselves, where they explain their best moments of the split for the LCS and Academy teams, why they became a fan, and maybe their favorite piece of merch. Members of the organization would watch through them and vote on who they want to award The Ultimate Fan Experience.

All expenses paid trip to a big match, playoffs, or Finals. A swag bag with the best merch from the team. A VIP meet-and-greet with the players. A feature in their documentary series. A tour of their performance center and a chance to play with their favorite player on stream. Branding associated with awesome “IRL” fan experiences would be amazing.

This type of initiative would signal to the fans that they are the focus of the organization. Branding in this way would bring hardcore fans who adore their team for giving them the opportunity of a lifetime. Excel Esports in the LEC gave a minimalist version of this concept to one “superfan” who came to watch them from the UK. Joel and Kieran Darby, co-owners of Excel, invited the fan to sit with them at the match, posted pictures with him on Twitter, and introduced him to a few players afterwards.

Esports Scholarship Program

Since talent development is such a hot topic in North America, an LCS team could contribute with an esports scholarship fund. Over the course of a year, the organization could set aside money to give to several individuals the following year to help go to a college with an official esports program. The Collegiate League of Legends scene has been growing steadily over the years, and this could help set up a pathway for more players pursuing LCS or Academy to get a college education on the way.

There are several ways to tie the funding into something more creative than just announcing a lump sum and giving it away. They could take a percentage of their team’s total gold per game. The amount could be tied to Academy League viewership, since organizations can co-stream their matches in 2020. They could design a specific line of merchandise that sets aside a percentage of revenue for the scholarships. A key sponsor could partner with the organization and a percentage of revenue towards the scholarship.

These are all ways to engage the fans and get them excited for the scholarship with you. This branding targets the young demographic that might be thinking about college, which is easier to sell for sponsors and partners. It might bring more viewership to Academy League, and play into the talent development in North America. More importantly, a scholarship fund would show the maturity of esports, and align them more with traditional sports.

Different LCS organizations have taken small steps towards tackling the whole talent development issue. 100 Thieves recently announced 100 Thieves: Next, an amateur team under their umbrella. Last year, TSM announced TSM Jr., where they chose a few amateur players to develop from Scouting Grounds and Solo Queue. While a great first step, these measures seem fairly minor. Having someone step up and hard-commit to investing in players without tying them down to a contract could separate an organization and build their brand. Starting a scholarship fund and building it over time could be one additional way of doing that.

Support a Cause

One of the best branding tactics, supporting a charitable cause could bring a new level of philanthropy to the LCS. Esports organizations and popular streamers frequently design short-term events with the proceeds going towards a charity. For example, Rick Fox recently dedicated a stream to the Bahamas Relief Foundation to help rebuild The Bahamas, following Hurricane Dorian. He raised $62,000 in 24 hours.

FlyQuest’s TreeQuest is a recent example of a long-term charity initiative among LCS organizations. Last year, CLG joined National Alliance on Mental Illness, creating a jersey whose proceeds went towards the initiative. Other teams could easily copy this strategy and put their own twist on it. They could partner with a fitness brand and donate to Action for Healthy Kids every time a team locks in Braum. A company like TOMS could co-sponsor a program with an LCS organization to donate a pair of shoes for every Boots bought throughout the split. Partnering with an organization like Meals on Wheels, an LCS team could help deliver food within Los Angeles every week.

Tying the sponsor or partner with in-game happenings encourages viewers to watch the team’s matches every week. Turning that into working with a charitable cause means fans cheering for the philanthropy are also cheering for the team. Everybody wins. It also helps bring a positive image to esports as a whole. Headlines about charity donations and programs from esports expands its influence beyond the esports bubble. As a result, It may raise more interest among non-viewers, as they see the good that esports can produce.



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