Kia is taking a cautious but optimistic approach to its first foray into the fast-growing world of esports.
The company is among a raft of big advertisers trying to carve a credible presence in a competitive gaming space where there is no natural fit for their brands. It became the main sponsor the League of Legends European Championship earlier this month to build that credibility over the next year, after which it will assess whether to increase its investment, said Michael Choo, head of brand promotion team at Kia.
As one of the most popular esports titles, League of Legends attracts swathes of viewers to its championship series in Europe and North America. Tournament organizer Riot Games claimed that last year’s League of Legends World Finals attracted nearly 100 million viewers, for example. And the sponsorship prices match that reach. The most expensive tournament-level deals like League of Legends Championship and Overwatch League are set in the mid-seven figures, said one sports sponsorship executive on condition of anonymity.
It’s a small price to pay for a business that can afford to be one of the top tier sponsors for the World Cup, which is arguably among the most expensive rights in sponsorship. Esports, however, is attracting more sponsorship budgets from advertisers like Kia, with spend from those larger brands pushing revenues for the industry up from $655 million in 2017 to $2.9 billion in 2022, according to Goldman Sachs.
Kia will focus its early spending on sponsorships, not advertising, via partnerships with Riot Games and media platform Dbltap. Kia will develop videos on the reigning European champions Fnatic that will follow the team as it tries to defend its title. Another video series will use the esports team setup to promote teamwork, while another will revolve around a game show featuring Fnatic’s players.