Esports meets mainstream: Gillette's gradual push into League of Legends

by Daniel Rosen Sep 12
Thumbnail image courtesy of Gillette

Even as we add more and more non-endemic companies to the growing list of esports team sponsors, it's somehow surprising that Gillette was already pretty involved in esports.

Earlier this month, Gillette announced that they had sponsored Team SoloMid, and TSM won the NA LCS Summer Finals wearing Gillette-branded jerseys. Interestingly enough though, TSM is only the third time Gillette has dipped their toes into esports.

In February, Gillette sponsored Origen founder and legendary League of Legends mid laner Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño, naming him one of their "global brand ambassadors," along with sponsoring IEM Katawoice 2017. The announcement was coupled with a bizarre Gillette commercial in which xPeke tries to shave, but keeps having war flashbacks to his days as a pro player.

In May, Gillette sponsored China's EDward Gaming as well. Notably, it wasn't a different arm of the company, but the same, global branding effort that sponsored xPeke and is now sponsoring TSM. Sponsoring both EDG and TSM makes a lot of sense. Both are Worlds caliber teams (and, as it turns out, will be making appearances at Worlds this year), and they're two of the most popular teams in their respective regions, Regions which will be moving to franchised systems very soon.

Gillette's sponsorship, like T-Mobile's comes at a very important time in League of Legends, Gillette is stating a level of confidence in TSM's ability to secure a franchise spot in the new NA LCS, and continue to advertise their brand until the deal runs its course. Gillette has taken a pretty slow and steady approach with their esports sponsorships, and clearly switched gears from single personalities and one-time event sponsorships to major team deals, which, from an entirely outside perspective, seems pretty smart. While xPeke is certainly a recognizable name in esports, Origen is, to put it lightly, kind of a disaster right now, and xPeke himself has mostly kept his head down while the organization goes through a rebuilding phase.

That is to say, Origen and xPeke aren't the best brand ambassadors right now. On the other hand, TSM, with two of the most popular players in North America, a hefty share of NA LCS titles and a strong pitch for becoming a franchise team, are. The question is whether or not it makes sense for Gillette to get involved in esports in the first place.

Obviously, Gillette themselves believe it makes sense, otherwise they wouldn't be here in the first place, it's just interesting that they are given the relative youth of League of Legends players and the pro LoL audience. I have to imagine that a decent amount of LCS players shave, and reportedly, Gillette needs the young blood.

According to Forbes, while Gillette is the 29th most valuable brand in the world, their market share has dropped severely over the past few years. Gillette is profitable, but younger people seem to be looking to other shaving brands. Again, from the outside looking in, Gillette wants to advertise to esports fans for the same reason so many non-endemic brands do: their market base is withering, and young people don't consume the forms of media that traditional advertising relies on.

It's too early to say if esports team advertising works, but if sports sponsorship are anything to go by, the concept pays dividends. According to the Telegraph, several major brands have turned to sports team and league sponsorships to gain footholds in certain markets. For example, Under Armor had little market share in the United Kingdom until they sponsored soccer and rugby teams.

So the idea here is that Gillette could become the official razor of esports. Sponsoring TSM is about as much viewer awareness as you can get in League of Legends, which is still the most consistent esport title in terms of viewership numbers. Essentially, it's the safe pick. Likely one of the more expensive picks, but safe nontheless.

Grade: A — As time has gone on, we've seen more non-endemic brands opt for more organic sponsorship strategies and partnerships. Gillette isn't exactly the first brand I think of when I think about esports, but they tried some of the more out-there stuff before settling on major team sponsorships as the way to go. It's not exciting, but it's a sharp move.