NEW YORK: Arby's, the restaurant chain, drove a variety of core brand metrics through its sponsorship of ELEAGUE, an eSports competition developed by broadcaster TBS and events group WME IMG.

Rob Lynch, Brand President/CMO at Arby's, discussed this initiative during a session held at Advertising Week 2016 in New York City.

More specifically, ELEAGUE saw 24 elite-level teams play "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" over ten weeks, with a prize fund of $1.4m, and broadcasts on TBS and Twitch, the livestreaming platform for gaming owned by Amazon.

"We know that our customers are gamers," Lynch said. (For more, including further details of the brand's sponsorship, read Warc's exclusive report: Arby's gets a taste for eSports.)

"These digital natives, these gamers, these hard-core gamers – this is becoming a culture. This is becoming a subgroup of society.

"And if you're a brand that can tap into that in an authentic and real way, and support them in their pursuit of this passion, I feel like that's an opportunity to create a connection that you couldn't otherwise get to."

In activating its sponsorship, Arby's developed a regular content play taking ELEAGUE competitors to a real-life gun range to shoot at its sandwiches, and made ads reflecting gaming culture and its "We Have the Meats" campaign alike.

The brand was also associated with features like "map walkthroughs", showing the various in-game arenas with the tagline "We Have the Maps", and an "arena tour" providing a behind-the-scenes perspective into ELEAGUE.

And the impact of these efforts among ELEAGUE viewers exposed to its ads incorporated double-digital increases in the likelihood to visit and recommend Arby's, as well as brand positivity.

One key contributor to this outcome, Lynch argued, was the fact Arby's eschewed the hard sell in favour of building perceptions of trust and authenticity with gamers, who are often sceptical about brands invading their space.

"It wasn't something we seeded; it was something we inspired. And that is a big difference," he said. "That way, you allow these people who have credibility with this large community to talk about your brand. And that's what happened."

Data sourced from Warc