First of all, the fact that the sentence in that headline is even possible to type is fairly remarkable. A professional League of Legends league has more than one music video — insane. But it’s true, the LEC’s newest video, “Reckless With My Heart,” which presents an emo rock take on the departure of longtime star Fnatic player Martin “Rekkles” Larsson to rival organization G2 Esports, has been on repeat on my phone since it released earlier this week.
At the time of writing, the music video has more than 470K views on YouTube and 29.5K plays on Spotify. On top of being a funny concept with some humorous LoL-related lines, it’s actually a good song that’s fun to listen to. But, the reason I have been fixated on this video isn’t just the fact that the song is stuck in my head, it’s the fact that it exists at all.
Esports leagues have an inherent problem they must solve. Sponsors want to attach to content because it provides a much greater level of engagement than a simple logo slap. For an esports league, the best asset you have (in theory) for content is the players and their teams. We saw this approach in the early days of the LCS which produced videos that saw players go minigolfing, or a hype trailer that in retrospect is one of the funniest things still available on YouTube — players running through a parking garage.
There’s two big problems with this strategy in esports. First, pro players don’t have a lot of time to participate in your goofy videos. They’re practicing for hours on end and would better serve their personal brand by streaming in their downtime. Plus, most esports pros are just super awkward on camera. Many video ideas and interview topics that may seem great on paper just do not work out in practice because so many pros still lack media and entertainment training or the experience to have a strong on-camera presence.
A few years ago, the LEC uncovered the solution to this problem: turn your commentary team into your content assets. They already have experience on-camera entertaining an audience, and their voices and faces are highly recognizable to your viewers. And so, the LEC began pumping out unique content not seen in any other esports league. Rap battles, music videos, analysis segments in which your analyst is dressed up like a tree, the LEC’s content all stays focused on its league and the players, but the comedy and entertainment comes from the people trained to do so.
To me, the greatest example of this is not the music videos, but the 2020 Summer Split hype video, titled “Our League is f****** great!” Compared to the running video from 2013, we can see a massive evolution toward embracing comedy and focusing the source of that comedy on the entertainers.
Esports leagues need to be built around the competition. This video talks about the teams, the matchups, all the on-paper reasons you would watch an esports competition. However, the reason the video is entertaining is because of the commentators.
We have already seen the LEC leverage its content output for sponsor activations through multiple music videos sponsored by KIA, but the league doesn’t just make an entertaining video when a sponsor shells out for it. “Reckless With My Heart” is an entire song and music video that’s just promoting this weekend’s contest between Fnatic and G2, it isn’t directly serving any brand partners. By consistently churning out engaging content, the LEC builds value for its brand as a whole, which brings more attention to the league itself, and inevitably to its partners.
This week I have seen YouTube channels that have nothing to do with League of Legends reacting to and hyping up this latest video because it’s just a good song with quality production value. Some channels will then go back and react to the LEC’s previous videos, including those sponsored by KIA, bringing the brand an exponential return on the activation.
Esports may be built around competition, but in the current era of the internet, content is king. The LEC has proved out the power of investing in engaging content and is now reaping the rewards through sponsorships, growing viewership, and a level of outside cultural awareness that shows just how much further esports can grow as more and more companies invest in proper content creation.
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