It’s been a busy week in esports news, but perhaps the most important announcement came from Team Liquid with the announcement of its Naruto Shippuden apparel collaboration. At the time of writing, the initial announcement video has over 7K retweets, and more than 28K likes on Twitter; exceptional engagement figures for an esports announcement.
For comparison, the LA Thieves player kit announcement video is sitting at just 267 retweets and 3.2K likes. The esports community was clearly hyped for Team Liquid’s new merchandise, and it highlights an important point for both teams and marketers to understand: esports fans really love anime.
Dropping 2.12.2021 at 12 PM PST
SIGN UP: https://t.co/zBB0jshSqa pic.twitter.com/DgFBtxkFus
— Team Liquid (@TeamLiquid) February 10, 2021
Whether it’s the LEC’s weekly podcast, a tier list on a livestream, or a reaction video from a popular player or commentator, Japan’s animated television tradition has become interwoven with esports culture in much the same way the community has embraced Korean pop music. Each week, you’ll see esports Twitter ignite with reactions to the latest Attack on Titan episode. Anime is a prime source of meme material for esports accounts. In short, esports is a globally interconnected entertainment fandom, and the pop culture consumed by this fandom reflects that fact.
Anime also just happens to be a growing global phenomenon in the broader zeitgeist (one of the highest-grossing films of 2020 was the Demon Slayer movie that was literally just a season of the show crunched into a film’s run-time).
Just as Riot has recognized and capitalized on the community’s affinity for K-pop through its in-game music group K/DA, esports organizations have an opportunity to drive engagement and merchandise sales through actively embracing the community’s love for anime. There is enough content out there for every major esports organization to collaborate with a different show and still only tap into things with mass cultural appeal. Plus, I’d really like to own a Cloud9 x One Piece shirt.
Credit: Team Liquid
We talk constantly in the esports business about the need for authenticity when trying to engage consumers, so much so that it has already become a meme among marketers and sponsorship sales folks. Even so, the point remains true — engaging the esports audience in an authentic way that makes your brand part of the culture pays dividends compared to a clunky logo slap or out-of-touch activation.
There are a number of major team brands that are in desperate need of a hype injection to boost their brand. Bringing another popular anime directly into the esports space through a unique collaboration could be just the answer these teams are looking for.