Since launching in 2010, League of Legends has established itself as far and away the most popular esport.
Its 2019 World Championship Final had a record 21.8 million average minute audience, or the average number of people viewing its channels per minute.
Viewership across its four largest leagues – LPL in China, LCK in South Korea, LEC in Europe, and LCS in the U.S. – has increased during a pause in traditional stick and ball sports. Those leagues had seen a 129% increase in AMA across YouTube and Twitch during the 2020 Summer Split thus far, according to a report from gaming streaming analytics firm Stream Hatchet.
So as publisher and developer Riot Games evaluated what the next decade for League of Legends would entail, it saw an opportunity to unveil a new esports brand around the game as it looks to grow it even further.
“We’ve reached this incredible point where we have premier leagues all over the world with 100 million fans plus,” said Andrew Conti, marketing director of esports at Riot Games. “The next step is looking at how we push the sport forward, continue to bring in partners, and rally all of our global leagues together.”
The new brand, called LoL Esports, aims to serve as the platform and the voice for all of the global competition within the game while serving as a new entertainment experience for fans.
Lol Esports will launch a new digital channel alongside three new video series, all of which will provide a more in-depth view of the 12 regional leagues and global events.
Those series will include: ‘Weekly Rundown,’ which will provide a summary of competitive matches and any new team and player developments; ‘The Penta,’ which will highlight the top five plays each week; and ‘Champ Select,’ a bi-weekly show that will feature guests talking about standout players from across the regional leagues.
“Our goal is to create a brand that acts as the face and the voice for the sport globally,” Conti said. “Our promise to fans globally is that the most important thing is the fan and player experience; this brand leans in and delivers on that.”
Conti said Riot would continue to look at new content products and offerings and other things it can do on the broadcast side to “deliver interesting and compelling entertainment that wraps the whole global sport together.”
The goal for this new approach and content is also to draw in new fans as well. Conti said that while Riot has leaned into things like technology and cultural moments in music and entertainment to have a broader appeal, this new brand will also “create more on-ramps” to bring new fans into the fold.
The pandemic has created some challenges for Riot and League of Legends, forcing the cancelation of its midseason invitational and raising questions if its LCS championship series in China scheduled for the fall will be in front of fans or just a virtual event.
However, that has presented some new opportunities that have found success – in place of the midseason invitational Riot held a 48-hour streamathon that drew a 38% higher audience than the event did a year earlier.
Introducing a new brand that aims to highlight the entire global scope of the competitive side of League of Legends may also open up new sponsorship opportunities.
“Some new partners might not fully understand the depth of what we’re doing, and I think this is much easier to understand with the 12 regional leagues, so it’s a great entry point, and we’re excited to get more partners involved,” said Conti.
In 2019 alone, LCS signed 11 new partners include Honda, MasterCard, Rocket Mortgage, and State Farm.
This year it has secured deals with ESPN, Samsung, and Verizon.
There is also the opportunity for this new brand to grow the various leagues’ franchise model. Most recently, esports organization Evil Geniuses paid $33 million for a spot in the LCS, in which they are 10 teams.
“As a modern sport with our mission rooted in our passion for delivering world-class competitive entertainment, we’re going to continue to be focused on progression, thinking more creatively, and taking risks that we think will resonate with fans,” Conti said. “This brand is the first step in that direction for the next 10 years, and we’re excited about the future.”