On a day when all eyes were on that incredible (and controversial) finish between Verstappen and Hamilton in Abu Dhabi, there was another automotive championship being decided in Stockholm, Sweden: The Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) Fall Major. This was the first in-person international RLCS tournament in 2 years after Covid had pushed the pause button on a budding esport that at the time still hadn’t completely realised its full potential.
Whilst Formula One has been around for over 70 years now, Rocket League is much newer. Released by Psyonix in 2015 as a sequel to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (thank goodness they gave it a catchier title), the game has a very simple concept: football but with cars. Viewers of vintage Top Gear might recall their own attempt at this ambitious crossover.
However, unlike Top Gear’s rather messy attempt, Rocket League provides polished, action-packed entertainment as two teams of three battle it out on the virtual pitch; with quick 5-minute matches, and goals that leave you asking the same question you ask yourself after watching Messi humiliate yet another defender: “How on earth did he do that?”.
As all traditional sport ground to a halt during the pandemic, we saw non-traditional entertainment blossom. From marble racing to chess, people flocked to find something to watch and being a part of Rocket League was no exception.
The pandemic saw this esport transition to a series of online-only competitions within each region (North America, South America, Europe and Oceania) and global matchups were put on hold. How fitting it was that the first international tournament would be contested by Team BDS and The General NRG, the teams who respectively dominated Europe and North America during the domestic online era. NRG were the defending World Champions and Team BDS, the next generation looking to shake things up. And just like in Abu Dhabi, it was the challenger that triumphed over the established veteran, stunning all those who watched and ruining all the pre-match predictions.
That’s all well and good but why should your brand care?
- Well for starters, 2.5 million people tuned in (on both Twitch and YouTube) to watch this epic storyline unfold, a battle we’d waited 2 years to see. Although it doesn’t quite match the following of F1 just yet (4 million watched the Abu Dhabi GP), 2.5 million views is not to be scoffed at. Indeed, throughout the Championship’s 5 days, the RLCS Fall Major saw over 10 million total views across the two platforms. Seriously impressive numbers for what is not seen as a top esport, one that currently doesn’t rival League of Legends, Counter Strike or Dota 2. And yet if your brand sponsors an RLCS event, you can guarantee over 10 million opportunities to be seen and to interact with a highly engaged audience. I can’t think of any brand that wouldn’t want to pursue such an opportunity.
- Rocket League has truly gone international. Previously the RLCS was exclusive to teams from four regions: Europe, North America, South America and Oceania. But this Fall Major was the start of something new with the addition of 2 more Asian regions as well as the Middle East and North Africa. These are affluent regions, with players and spectators that your brand should be interacting with – there are unrealised advertising opportunities here.
- Speaking of which, this was an event with a surprising lack of external advertising. Outside of Rocket League there was no sign of any other brands at all, the exception being Ford, who sponsored the event. Tune in to a different esport and you’ll see plenty of ads for drinks companies, fancy tech, insurance brands and many more. Here though? There was nothing. Ample space here to showcase your brand with lots of time between games currently not being utilised.
- This esport is only going to grow. The viewer base and therefore the advertising potential especially will expand. Rocket League is such a simple and easy to understand game that pretty much anyone can tune in and immediately feel that they can follow what is happening on the screen – a rarity in the chaotic world of other big esports. Right now, your brand has the opportunity to get on the ground floor. The 2021 League of Legends Worlds Final had a peak of 74 million concurrent viewers, if Rocket League could one day match or even exceed those numbers – which brand would not want a piece of that?
This was a tournament that truly lived up to the hype, one that made up for 2 years of no international competition. Forget about F1 for a minute, this tournament has demonstrated how much potential this simple football-car game has and how bright the future could be. Millions of gamers were paying attention to Rocket League this Sunday, millions more will pay attention in the years to come. If you take one thing away from this weekend, it should be this: “why isn’t our brand paying attention and how can we change that?”.