All brands are looking for ways to tap into large communities. In some cases, it is simple enough to buy your way in through advertising, sponsorship or promotions. In some, there’s a number of hurdles a company would have to jump through in order to associate themselves with that coveted community. Imagine working to tap into a highly-coveted group of 30+ million millennials who are part of a passionate community that has defied normal convention by building via social and word of mouth. It’s no longer hard to imagine as Riot Games is allowing American Express to tap into their League Of Legends community with branded pre-paid Amex cards.
While American Express did create a co-branded card for a program with Zynga in Spring of 2012, many would argue that Zynga’s games were open to such intrusion of branding since corporate logos had been incorporated into gameplay since the beginning. We don’t even know how successful that program was and how many points were recorded through the branded cards. A relationship with Riot is completely different and exciting.
Riot differs from Zynga in that they have not incorporated logos into their actual gameplay. There is brand incorporation via sponsorship of their competitive eSports teams – where teams of five get together to compete in round-robin tournaments for major prizes and international coverage. But that’s almost an entirely different experience than the 5 million-plus daily players experience. In effect, Riot is taking a big risk here as such a large corporate partnership could possibly lose favor among the deeply entrenched players – those who are more interested in an unblemished world.
Something that Riot has done extremely well is build on the idea that it is created by gamers for gamers. As such, there is a community pride in the fact that you could play a very long time without spending a dime, so therefore, they are willing to put some money in (a lot of money in) to enhance their experience. But, that “consumerism” is all in the spirit of gameplay and community.
Will this partnership turn on deaf ears – even with loyalty rewards being offered? Or, will this be a huge play for penetration into the highly-sought millennial market? That is where the excitement comes in.
If American Express is able to penetrate this community, it would be a huge win for them as they attempt to increase brand awareness and loyalty for a finance firm that traditionally plays to much older audiences. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and whether they tap in or trip out.