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On Nov. 9-10, global esports tournament organizer ESL, part of Sweden-based media giant Modern Times Group (MTG), hosted its first-ever standalone event in China: the $250K USD Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Beijing-Haidian. Held in the Beijing University students’ gymnasium, over 4,200 attendees witnessed Danish esports organization Astralis hoist their second IEM trophy this year.
Compared to ESL’s other significant CS:GO tournaments such as IEM Katowice or ESL One Cologne (dubbed the “Cathedral of Counter-Strike,” with an attendance of 15,000 for its 2019 finals), the size of IEM Beijing-Haidian is comparatively small. But the small size of the venue doesn’t detract from the fact that this was a meaningful event for Chinese esports fans. According to Tencent’s Penguin Intelligence, the Chinese domestic esports audience is about to hit 350M, and the market value is expected to reach $1.9B in 2019.
In fact, ESL has been running esports events in China for the last ten years, ever since the IEM 2009 in Chengdu, back when ESL was called the Electronic Sports League. After 2015, ESL hosted an IEM CS:GO event at the China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference (ChinaJoy) every year. But IEM Beijing-Haidian was ESL’s first stadium-level esports tournament in the country.
Alongside long-term IEM series partner Intel, ESL brought along five brands to the event: delivery service DHL, energy drink Mountain Dew AMP Game Fuel, Predator (a computer brand owned by Taiwanese hardware brand Acer), and the Beijing Haidian District government. In addition, Chinese esports platform 5E Play acted as marketing and media partner of the event.
Looking at the brand activations, Intel, Predator, and DHL set up booths in the north side of the main venue. In addition, fan signing events were also hosted alongside these booths, which attracted massive traffic to the brands.
Intel and Predator hosted a co-branded booth that showcased Predator’s gaming laptops and a computer featuring three-monitors. Attendees could play CS:GO and participate in activities to win prizes. Predator also invited several cosplayers to hype the space, and a former CS:GO player and streamer, Wu “Qiezi” Quanqing, hosted activities for fans. In addition, Predator provided a lottery prize of a Predator branded gaming laptop for the CS:GO main event.
Delivery service DHL had a booth with two screens that attendees could play a game called “BoxStracker” on. In addition, DHL and the general host of CS:GO main event, “DXMaster,” invited attendees to come to the booth and play some games. Attendees who played the game received DHL gift boxes.
Energy drink Game Fuel didn’t have its own booth. Heather Dower, marketing director of ESL UK, told The Esports Observer that the brand provided energy drinks for the professional players during the tournament.
Tai Yupan, operation director of Chinese esports platform 5E Play, told The Esports Observer that the company provided marketing and media strategies to ESL.
“We provided marketing and promotion plans of IEM Beijing-Haidian on our platform including website, social media, and apps,” Yupan said. “We’ve promoted this event for a month ago. In some ways, we did a number of effects on improving ticket sales of the event.
“It’s also unfortunate that today [Nov.10] is the grand final of 2019 League of Legends World Championships in Paris. Therefore, we prepared creative ideas and content for the event, including add[ing] some Chinese [cultural] elements. [We] hope this could let more traffic [come] to IEM Beijing-Haidian,” Yupan added.
The Esports Observer reached out to representatives from the Beijing Haidian District government for more information, but they declined comment at the time of writing. The Beijing University Students’ Gymnasium is owned by the Haidian District.
In September, ESL’s parent company MTG partnered with Chinese live streaming platform Huya, and announced that the two would establish an ESL/Huya joint venture in China. Meanwhile, ESL and DreamHack announced that over 20 CS:GO tournaments and leagues would be under one circuit called the ESL Pro Tour, with a total prize pool of over $5M.
The IEM Beijing-Haidian was not only a significant early step of the ESL Pro Tour, but also a milestone for the international esports company, showcasing its Chinese operations with an eye towards future (and large-scale) endeavors within the country.
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