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The League of Legends World Championships is about to enter its most decisive phase; the quarter-finals. Taking place in Madrid, it’s the second of three legs for an event—arguably the largest in esports by viewership and live attendance—which has not been held in Europe since 2015.
A few weeks later, and the tournament will end at an esports-familiar space, the AccorHotels Arena in Paris, host of the 2017 European finals. “We had discussions with several cities across Europe, and what was clear from the get-go was the strong commitment from the city itself,” said Alban Dechelotte, head of esports sponsorships and business development for Riot Games Europe.
Authorities from the city of Paris provided us strong support in terms of accommodating the event, in terms of all the visas and support to get all the best players in the world to compete, but also in terms of promotion.”
In the week leading to the conclusive match, the Hôtel de Ville, ostensibly the city center of Paris, will host an activation village, featuring teams and sponsors alike. It’s an extension of a concept first rolled out for the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) finals in Rotterdam and Athens this year, though this is the first to be co-organized with the host city.
The red carpet will even extend to the Eiffel Tower. The monument will play venue for a press conference, at which Riot Games will unveil the much-publicized “Summoner’s Cup” trophy case, designed by Louis Vuitton. The luxury brand’s esports entry came through Dechelotte, who helped develop the equivalent FIFA World Cup trophy case while working with agency Havas Sports 10 years ago.
“Shortly after I joined Riot, I started a conversation through Havas to work on something similar in esports,” he said. “The thinking is for this kind of brand, it’s a balance to find between tradition and celebration.”
The partnership portfolio for Worlds 2019 is itself more global than ever, with U.S. insurance firm State Farm and Chinese mobile phone brand OPPO both now in full view of the international League audience. Sales for Riot’s international events are a joint effort between its global team and regional branches, as is the production and coordination for the event. Whereas the European team typically produces the live feed for use by partners, now it finds itself on the receiving end.
“People can see on the stage that some of the referees are from coming from the EU team. Some of the player management, producers behind the scenes, are also from our team,” explained Dechelotte. “But there are also people coming from Korea, Turkey, U.S., helping. For global events, we put together the best in the world.”
Featuring a best-of-five format, one match in the Worlds quarter-finals can end a team’s journey in as little as 90 minutes. The group stage, by comparison, was an eight-day marathon in Berlin’s Verti Music Hall. Unlike traditional sports where a contender has a few days to rest and regroup, League of Legends teams can play as much as four games in one day during groups.
The extended stay in Berlin offered a number of activation opportunities for the three teams representing Europe, who live and compete in the German capital for most of the year. Fnatic has competed in European League of Legends ever since it launched its professional circuit, and continued its tradition of hosting pop-up shops, albeit with a twist; a joint merchandise line with North American representative Cloud9.
G2 Esports, the first-seed qualifier for the region, built a partnership campaign with Domino’s Pizza, co-hosting a watch party at the team’s Berlin headquarters for fans who missed out on buying a ticket for the event.
“Companies like Domino’s are increasingly interested in increasing their footprint in esports, and a viewing party, a campaign, something of that sort, is always the perfect start for a long partnership,” G2 Esports CEO Carlos Rodriguez told The Esports Observer.
Domino’s is still trying to make headway internationally, having recently announced it would close over 100 shops across the Nordic region and Switzerland. In Germany, the chain still competes with independent pizzerias, who are aided by online delivery giants like Leiferando. The Worlds partnership not only slides the pizza chain in front of a local gaming audience but also reunites it with Rodriguez, who endorsed Domino’s during his time as a professional League of Legends player.
“We want to position ourselves at the forefront of fan interaction and empathy with fans,” said Rodriguez. “Selling shop items was not the main reason why this happened, as a matter of fact, we decided not to sell. We may sell in Madrid, we have to see.”
G2 Esports will host another two viewing parties this weekend in Madrid, the first during its face-off with Korean esports team Damwon Gaming. Rodriguez, who was born in the city, said these events would happen regardless of whether his team succeeded or fell in the group stage.
Any international sports competition is inherently high pressure, but the format of Worlds can throw even the favorite competitors into disarray. Before the tournament, a patch [gameplay update] goes live, which will redefine the metagame [popular strategies used by teams]. “You play 90% of the year with certain things that are not going to be used in the largest tournament of the year. That’s something that all players are fine with, I’m fine with it as well. It just creates unpredictability, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“We scale back things depending on how far the team goes, except when we make the decision to cater to those people without tickets, as we will in Madrid,” he said, adding that G2 Esports will have a presence at the Worlds village, regardless of the outcome.
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