Interview with Alban Dechelotte, Senior Entertainment Marketing Manager, The Coca-Cola Company
A lot of people outside of the gaming community have difficulty understanding the appeal of eSports. When did Coca-Cola see the potential of the concept?
We began to see a shift in 2010, when online streaming platforms enabled fans to watch their favorite games played at the highest level in real time, no matter where they were located. While some may not understand the appeal of eSports content, the audience size is large—nearly 200 million people. Coca-Cola became one of the first non-endemic brands to embrace what was dubbed eSports in 2013 by becoming the official global partner of Riot Games and the League of Legends Championship Series.
Why was it important for Coke to associate its brand with eSports?
Coca-Cola has a legacy in partnering with what people care about: sports, music, and movies. Gaming is becoming a very popular passion point for teens and young adults today, and eSports is one of the fastest growing forms of entertainment. Just like traditional sports, eSports is best enjoyed with an ice-cold Coke, so we focus our efforts of partnering with the viewing occasion around this new pastime.
Is it unfair to call eSports a niche activity? Coke’s involvement suggests there is a strong base of support.
I wouldn’t say it is fair or unfair—niche is a rather subjective term. From a strictly numbers standpoint yes, it’s not accurate—for hundreds of millions of fans around the world it’s as mainstream as it gets. However, it’s scarcely shown on television or covered by large media outlets, so it often flies under the radar of awareness for an older demographic.
Do you believe Coke can help eSports grow and reach a wider, crossover audience?
We never set out to grow eSports; our mission is to grow our business and brands through eSports. That said, if we help grow eSports along the way, fantastic, but that would be presumptuous of us to assume. The sector is vibrant and growing at an exponential rate. We are just thrilled to be part of it and that our brand has a clear role of celebration and uplift within the community. Hopefully we can help highlight the passion and potential of eSports to the media as a legitimate form of entertainment, which may pave the way for other brands into the future and result in growth all around.
Can you share with us some of the experiences you’ve had hosting eSports cinema events?
We’ve brought the biggest and most exciting eSports events to cinemas all over the world. For us, it is an amazing way to celebrate the game with the fans and give them an experience they’ll never forget. Last year for example, we had thousands of fans watch the League of Legends World Finals live on the big screen in 196 locations and 17 different countries around the world.
What have you found most surprising about this eSports venture?
What has been most surprising is how welcoming the fans have been. Gamers are known for being openly opinionated and communicative so we were very careful starting out. This was a good idea because they appreciated our authenticity and the way we entered the space and now love the fact that they are getting the attention of a brand like Coca-Cola.