Wellness Brands Enter the Esports Arena: A Look at their Success Stories
From healthy food choices to non-alcoholic beer, wellness brands are trending among esports and live- streamers.
The recent surge in wellness campaigns aimed at gaming audiences may seem head-scratching at first. Why would a fitness or health food brand team up with a Twitch streamer or esport organization? After all, the gaming space is teeming with advertisements for fast food, unhealthy snacks, and sugary energy drinks —products whose core values are the anthesis of fitness and well-being.
Although all of us need a cheat day sometimes, these promotions often misrepresent the core values of gaming content audiences. They conceive of gaming viewerships as out of shape, junk food-craving masses, which is simply not accurate. More often than not, younger generations of game fans are active, highly motivated, and physically fit.
Millennials and Gen Z’ers are among the most health-conscious generations to date. 76% of Millennials exercise at least once a week, and together the two demographics constitute 80% of all gym-goers, according to the 2019 Les Mills Global Consumer Fitness Survey. Other data shows both groups prioritize making healthy, informed food choices.
They also comprise the lion’s share of Twitch and YouTube’s traffic. Interestingly, while these younger demographics see gaming as a vital part of their lives, they don’t identify with the traditional, scruffy “gamer” profile. Rather they endorse gaming as an important component of leading a positive lifestyle.
Wellness brands who recognize these trends have the potential to reach large, elusive, youth audiences through non-endemic marketing.
Sweetgreen cross-promotes with a major YouTube gaming celeb
Sweetgreen’s partnership with the gaming personality Valkyrae is a good example of the crossover potential. The salad-centric, fast-casual restaurant chain recently pegged her as the face of their Crispy Collections marketing campaign, along with two other non-gaming influencers—Peloton instructor Ally Love and viral sensation Harper Watters of the Houston Ballet.
Sweetgreen is using the collaboration to promote a Valkyrae custom version of their Crispy Chicken Salad to her massive social media following, which includes 3.01 million followers on YouTube, 2.8 million on Instagram, and 1.8 million on Twitter.
For the uninitiated, Valkyrae ascended to internet stardom creating “Let’s Play” content—that is, posting videos and streaming her playthroughs of a variety games, including Fortnite, Among Us, and Valorant. In addition to gaming content, she regularly posts lifestyle content like clips of her doing headstands and glute presses at the gym, making her an attractive candidate for food brands like Sweetgreen who promote healthy values.
Why it works
These health-focused marketing campaigns are a natural extension of the healthy images that many gaming influencers cultivate. In the past, Freshly, the fresh-made meal delivery service, has run similar social media promotions with Pokimane, currently among the top female streamers on Twitch. She also models and posts travel stories for her five million Instagram followers. These type of campaigns come across as more authentic than other food campaigns like Wendy’s x Uber Eats “Never Stop Gaming” cross- promotion, in which prominent streamers including Myth and ItsHafu had unique value meals named after them off the Wendy’s menu.
Yoplait title-sponsors an up-and-coming London esport event
The major food sponsors of esports events mainly consist of high-calorie count brands like KFC, Doritos, and Mountain Dew Game Fuel (along with automobile makers, credit card and payment companies, and companies who specialize in gaming gear).
In December, we saw a new name enter the fold: Yoplait. The ubiquitous yogurt brand sponsored the Inter- Borough Yop Esports Championships, marketing their Yop line of flavored yogurt drinks to esports audiences. Players competed at NBA2K and FIFA 21 in three days of tournaments, drawing 361 thousand total views on Twitch—impressive numbers for a local event consisting only of players from Ireland and the UK.
“Yop is committed to championing positive nutrition and supporting teens to live their passions and drive positive change,” said Joanna Goodman, Head of Marketing at Yoplait UK, of the campaign.
Elsewhere in the esport arena, the Philadelphia Fusion wear the logo of the Phili-based food company Dietz & Watson on their jersey sleeve. Although not explicitly a health food company per se, the pro Overwatch team’s “Official Snack, Deli Meat and Cheese Partner” places a priority on catering to young, nutrition-minded eaters. Their products, which consist of delicatessen meats, franks, and artisanal cheeses, are minimally processed, keto-friendly, low sodium, organic, and nitrate-free—options that are important to the wellness community and athletes.
On the non-alcoholic beer front, the German brewery Krombacher—whose 0% malt beverage Vitamalz Sport targets athletes—has paired with the top-tier esports organization SK Gaming. Meanwhile, in January, the Spanish 0% beer Mahou o,0 Tostada became an official sponsor of the Spanish League of Legends league LVP SuperLiga. The league’s 2020 Summer competition generated 1.8 million hours worth of viewership.
Why it works
Although esports aren’t as physically demanding as some other sports, they do require players to maintain healthy minds and bodies, and pro teams routinely work with personal trainers to develop fitness and wellness programs.
This creates openings for healthy food and fitness brands to build organic relationships with esports organizations, as well as market to esport fans. In fact, several nutrition brands have struck sponsorship deals with esport clubs in recent months. Bio-Synergy renewed its partnership with LDN UTD in October, and the dietary supplement brand Herbalife Nutrition partnered with the pro Overwatch team Guangzhou Charge this past July.
Contrary to the lingering stereotypes around gaming, wellness brands should be on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate with content creators and esports organizations who reflect their core messaging.
If you’re curious about partnering with the positive, healthy, young influencers as part of your next campaign, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s strategize!