When Kale Sligh, now Vice President of Marketing, first joined insurance company The General’s marketing team, they sought to get a better understanding of their customer base. “We spent a good part of the first part of my tenure here…really just getting out and talking to customers,” he told Sports Business Journal. “One thing that always over-indexed when we looked at interests within that market was gaming.” The company identified a need to enter the gaming space and began searching for opportunities.
Eventually, through The General’s relationship with Shaquille O’Neal and his investment in esports team NRG, that opportunity made itself known. Recently, The General and NRG announced a partnership which rebranded the esports organization’s Rocket League team to The General NRG.
While the automotive connection made Rocket League a natural fit (the game is essentially soccer played by rocket-powered cars), there were other aspects of the game that made it appealing to The General. According to Sligh, the fact that Rocket League was “up and coming” made it interesting for a brand newly entering the esports space. But what made it particularly exciting was the strength of NRG’s Rocket League roster. “If we’re going to get into this space, and we have an opportunity to get in with the best, it was very appealing.” He added that the opportunity to get into a space with the very best team “doesn’t come around very often.”
Out of the gate, The General NRG made good on that opportunity, winning the Rocket League Championship Series North American championship earlier this month.
Naming rights deals in esports can be a challenge as the majority of esports broadcasts are controlled by the game publisher. As TSM recently found out with its FTX naming rights deal, if the publisher (in this case Riot Games) is not on board with your naming rights partner, they can simply bar them from being mentioned on the broadcast. Fortunately, NRG President Brett Lautenbach said that this was considered early on in the discussion. As the deal was forming, he said that the first phone call was to Rocket League developer Psyonix to inform them of the deal and to identify any areas of concern. The studio was “super supportive” of the deal, and The General went on to be featured in that championship broadcast.
While the partnership is a great opportunity to learn about the esports and gaming space, Sligh said that a key metric for the deal is how it enables The General to reach its audience. “People’s media consumption habits have changed quite a bit over the last several years and you’ve got to find new ways to reach your audience.”
Additionally, The General is looking to build a positive brand image among esports fans. “I think that’s very important, when we’re looking at passion areas like gaming, to make it authentic and organic to the sport.”
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