Puma and esports: how to get esports branding right

Esports needs non-endemic brands. And any brand still not taking esports seriously isn’t taking their brand seriously. We spoke to Matt Shaw, Puma’s Head of Digital Marketing & Gaming about why they decided to invest in esports, and how to get it right.

3 reasons your brand should invest in esports

  1. The esports market is huge. This year, revenues will exceed $1.1 billion globally.

  2. Esports fans are engaged: the way esports games are structured means that even casual gamers are constantly being shown new features, skins and missions to keep them hooked.

  3. Esports skews young and gender diverse, providing access to un-ignorable demographics.

Puma x Cloud 9 case study

Puma x cloud 9 case study - how to get esports branding right

Puma x cloud 9 case study – how to get esports branding right

In January, Puma announced that it would be clothing the Cloud 9 League of Legends team for the spring season. This May, they announced that they had expanded their sponsorship, signing a multi-year apparel deal which would include a full apparel collection, and claim the apparel/footwear category for the entire organisation except for its OWL franchise.

Puma took their brand sponsorship seriously, aware that as a non-endemic brand they needed to add something authentic and valuable to esports’ engaged and discerning fans.

“We started with six months of really intense research. We hired a team of anthropologists to go into a variety of markets around the globe, and figure out what it is that a non-endemic brand like ours can bring to this industry,” said Shaw in esports observer’s podcast. 

In building the product line, Shaw and his team travelled to Los Angeles for a three-day “apparel boot camp,” meeting and speaking with over 20 players. During this time, they focused on both the challenges of making clothing that looked good from the chest up (to be seen whilst streaming) and also on the necessity of catering to different leagues’ needs- whether that be in terms of style, or sleeve, or fit.

Puma had to invest a lot- in terms of time, money etc- were you worried about the ROI for you guys? How did you guard against this not being a good use of Puma funds?

“Worried” isn’t the word I’d use, really; we know that we’ll make a financial return on our investment with Cloud9 over the course of our partnership. But as a company new to this space, one of the things that’s really valuable for us is acquiring as much knowledge about the industry as we can — and there is a lot to learn. So we’re making sure that whatever we do in the space allows us to test and learn as much as possible. Our ability to learn is a critical part of our “return” calculus, because it will affect everything that we do in the gaming and esports industry from here out.

What does success look like for Puma with this collab?

Cloud9 Fortnite player and streamer Joseph “Keeoh” Winkler - How to get esports branding right

Cloud9 Fortnite player and streamer Joseph “Keeoh” Winkler – How to get esports branding right

We have a lot of goals! We want to solidify Cloud9 as the best-looking team in esports. We want to give Cloud9 fans a uniform worthy of their passion, and to make that merchandise the most sought-after in esports. And, a bit selfishly, as a non-endemic brand we won’t be successful unless we are embraced by the gaming community. You’ll have to tell us if we’re successful there.

How did you choose Cloud 9 (as opposed to other esports organizations?)

Cloud9 is poised to have tremendous success in the short term; we’re really excited to watch it, and even more excited to be a part of it. And of course, Cloud9 as a brand is huge and widely respected, and that makes us confident in the partnership. But what gets me really excited is Cloud9’s passion for success, and its dedication to their community of fans. I see our own brand values reflected back at us, and that means a lot to me.

Puma x Cloud 9 lifestyle apparel will be available on PUMA and Cloud9’s online stores in September, as well as the sports brand’s flagship store in New York. In addition, custom products will be made for the Cloud9 team members to wear both off and on stream.

TL; DR: Matt Shaw, Puma’s Head of Digital Marketing & Gaming explains that non-endemic brands can get a huge amount out of esports sponsorship- but woe betide a brand who tries to get something for nothing from esports fans!

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