The Art of Esports Branding: Navigating the Evolving Landscape
Esports organizations have come a long way from their humble beginnings as scrappy startups, evolving into ambitious enterprises within a relatively short span of time. In this ever-changing industry, the importance of branding has been amplified, leading to numerous rebrands by esports organizations worldwide. Turquoise Branding, a renowned London-based agency, has been at the forefront of this branding revolution, working with clients ranging from traditional sports leagues to video game publishers. But what exactly makes branding in esports so crucial, and how can organizations navigate the challenges of rebranding effectively?
Branding Principles Through the Ages
While esports branding may be a relatively new concept, the underlying principles remain timeless. Gareth Mapp, Creative Director and Company Director of Turquoise, emphasizes the significance of creating a recognizable brand icon that resonates with the target audience. However, in the digital landscape of esports, logos alone are not sufficient. Mapp explains that brands operating online must incorporate multiple touchpoints beyond mere visual elements, requiring an extended toolkit to thrive in the digital environment.
From Fugitive to Modern: The Mockery and Metamorphosis of Esports Branding
The evolution of esports branding has been vividly portrayed in various instances, including the mockumentary ‘Players’ by Paramount+. This fictitious esports team, Fugitive, underwent a transformation from its outdated ‘classic’ branding to a more contemporary identity. In the real world, leagues and teams such as the LCS, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Dignitas, Mkers, Wanyoo, and Andbox have all sought to revitalize their brand identities to align better with the ever-changing industry landscape. As esports organizations diversify beyond gaming, their visual identities must reflect this newfound diversity.
The Rise of Social Media and the Power of Branding
In today’s digital era, social media platforms have become essential touchpoints for brand-consumer interactions. Platforms like Twitter and Twitch play a pivotal role in establishing a strong social media presence for esports organizations. However, Mapp believes that robust branding principles go beyond mere social media engagement. By effectively conveying their values through branding, organizations can create a lasting impact on their audience, fostering loyalty and engagement.
The Hurdles of Rebranding: Striving for Deliberate Change
Rebrands, while capable of generating short-term boosts in social media metrics, often fall short if they are limited to superficial changes. Mapp emphasizes that a well-planned branding process is crucial for organizations seeking to diversify and expand into new business verticals. Rather than engaging in constant rebranding, a deliberate and premeditated approach is necessary to achieve sustainable and versatile results. Rapid and ill-considered rebrands can trigger negative reactions from fans, as exemplified by the poorly-received 2019 rebranding of Evil Geniuses.
Designing a Versatile and Expressive Brand Identity
Turquoise’s approach to branding focuses on creating distinctive and ownable visual languages for brands. The UEFA Europa League rebrand serves as an example of this philosophy, with the agency developing a versatile toolkit that allows for infinite variations in the brand’s identity. By creating a visual language rather than static designs, brands can remain fresh, adaptive, and intuitive to their audience. This dynamic approach enables the audience to recognize the brand beyond its traditional logo, name, or logotype.
Personal Branding and the Intersection of Players and Teams
In the world of esports, individual players have become larger-than-life figures with their own personal brands. Some players, like Krimz from Fnatic, have become synonymous with the colors and identity of their respective teams. This phenomenon of personal branding, borrowed from traditional sports, has proven to be a powerful tool in creating a global brand presence. Just as Michael Jordan transcended the Chicago Bulls to become a global icon, esports players are building their own legacies that attract fans and enhance the overall brand of their teams.
Navigating the Complex Esports Ecosystem
Esports branding extends beyond the teams and players to encompass the entire ecosystem, including titles, leagues, and tournaments. Each layer of the esports world possesses its own unique branding, contributing to the overall tapestry of the industry. As esports organizations navigate this complex landscape, they must consider the diverse histories and personal brands of their players, while staying attuned to the changing preferences of their fan base. The ability to adapt and pivot in real-time is crucial for organizations striving to stay relevant and successful.
The Power of Best-Practice Branding
As esports organizations encounter challenges and face an ever-evolving audience, adhering to best-practice branding principles becomes essential. A strong brand identity not only fosters recognition and loyalty but also creates a connection with the audience that goes beyond the gaming experience. By leveraging effective branding strategies, esports organizations can establish a solid foundation for growth, cultivate a strong community, and enhance their position in the industry.
In the rapidly evolving world of esports, branding plays a vital role in shaping the identity and success of organizations. From the early days of scrappy startups to the current landscape of ambitious enterprises, esports organizations have recognized the need to adapt and innovate through rebranding efforts. Turquoise Branding, a prominent agency in this field, emphasizes the enduring principles of branding while acknowledging the unique challenges presented by the digital nature of esports.
As esports organizations expand beyond gaming and engage with diverse audiences through social media platforms, the importance of branding has never been more significant. By creating recognizable brand icons, developing versatile toolkits, and incorporating personal branding elements, organizations can connect with their target audience and build enduring relationships. However, rebrands must be carefully planned and deliberate to avoid triggering negative reactions from fans.
In this ever-evolving landscape, where players, teams, and leagues intersect, and trends come and go, it is crucial for esports organizations to navigate the complexities of the ecosystem while staying true to their core values. By adhering to best-practice branding principles and leveraging the power of visual languages, esports organizations can carve out a unique space for themselves, foster loyalty, and establish a lasting presence in the exciting world of esports.