This project was a part of my final year project at Staffordshire University. The goal was to develop an event concept relevant to the global esports ecosystem and then create a marketing plan for it.
Important note: the concept of this event is entirely hypothetical. It was developed purely for educational purposes in the scope of a university project. This is why you will also see the use of official Overwatch marketing materials and notable brands as proposed partners and sponsors.
The marketing plan received a mark of 78% which is considered a first-class grade and this article will go over some of the core parts of the plan. But for the full picture, I recommend reading the full available here:
Table of Contents
The concept is a two-day expo-style event created in partnership with Blizzard Entertainment with the goal to educate players on entering and competing in the Overwatch esports scene. The concept is backed up by research on esports sustainability issues as well as research made on Overwatch as a brand and the community's understanding of the competitive environment.
The event will take place in London, United Kingdom. It will feature educational talks from multiple industry experts, a tournament, and a casual gaming area. As an exclusive form of entertainment, the event could allow to playtest unreleased features of the game.
The event aims to have a significant impact on the Overwatch League’s accessibility by providing educational content supported by industry professionals. Some of that knowledge could be applied to the wider industry.
After the event has concluded, the brand of the event might continue to exist as a primary point of contact when it comes to Overwatch esports and continue producing valuable content.
Full event concept and preliminary research can be found here:
Partners and sponsors
The core point I wanted to highlight when it comes to sponsors is that their activation will depend on their needs and goals. The event has a suitable platform to connect with Overwatch esports, it all depends on what the brand wants to do and achieve.
I will go over the key stakeholders of the event and their contribution to it:
Blizzard Entertainment: There's no way to provide global impact without the involvement of the game's publisher. That's just how esports works. They will support the concept of the event, branding, resources on the official esports leagues, and more.
NUEL and NSE: Both are UK organizations that host esports tournaments for universities. Those guys facilitate the grassroots of university esports across many games and can provide great insight into entering and growing as a player. They can also assist in organizing the event's tournament.
London Spitfire: Owned by Cloud9, London Spitfire is the only European team that competes at the top level of Overwatch. That makes them relevant to the events' location and their knowledge of the scene will help aspiring players find their footing.
Other potential partners range from HP Omen to RedBull, but again, everything depends on the brands' individual needs.
The goal here is to follow the official Overwatch branding to be recognizable and consistent. Events like Path to Pro, Contenders League, Overwatch League, Calling All Heroes, and more were used as a reference to create a color palette and logo for Overwatch Training Grounds.
To have a consistent online presence, I created basic brand voice guidelines. The goal is to be informal and conversational. The brand is here to provide value and help players grow, so for the core voice characteristics, I chose Casual, Community-centric, and Knowledgeable.
The color palette was mainly inspired by the Calling All Heroes event for Overwatch. It had a bright and diverse palette that I simplified for my use. And this is what I ended up with:
With fonts, the plan is to use the fonts used in official Overwatch marketing materials. While those will probably be provided (or at least curated) by Blizzard, I've selected those that are somewhat similar: “Address Sans Pro Cd”, “Brush King” and “Config Bold”.
The following is the logo for the brand. It follows the style of the Overwatch League logo but with colors from our palette and a different character as a symbol. There's a horizontal logo, vertical logo, and an example of a social media profile picture featuring the logo:
The event is mostly targeting university students in the UK who are interested in Overwatch esports. And mostly that means interest in official big leagues like Overwatch League and Overwatch Contenders. But it's still ready for a wider audience as well since the event will likely have a set of transferrable knowledge.
Attendees will belong to one of the two groups (customer personas):
Competitive players. They are here to learn and improve. Regardless of their skill level, they want to get to a higher level of competition and need guidance with that. They can be converted through educational content that covers topics highly relevant to them as competitive players and promising high-impact information at the event itself.
Casual players. They are aware of Overwatch esports but are not playing competitively themselves. Casual players want to have fun and spend time enjoying the game. They can be converted through entertainment content campaigns created with the help of influencers promising exclusive entertainment features at the event itself.
With customer personas created, the next step was to identify the touchpoints through which customers will interact with the brand. There are detailed customer journey maps in the document for each persona, but in short, there are five stages:
Discovery. The first interaction with the brand. This part is about raising awareness by providing relevant content to the users on the platforms they use.
Consideration. Consideration is all about showcasing the reliability of the brand. This not only means high-quality content but also partners and creators involved.
Decision. When a customer is deciding on a purchase (buying tickets), the goal is to create a simple and effortless way to facilitate the process.
Onboarding and First Use. While many things will affect the actual experience (including the quality of activities, venue, etc), from a marketing perspective, the goal is to create a seamless onboarding. Like confirming tickets and then using them to enter the venue.
Sharing. After the event has concluded, we want to collect feedback and retain customers as content consumers.
The marketing strategy is developed for a four-month period with the event taking place at the end of the third month. The goal of the marketing strategy is to build a community of passionate Overwatch fans and maximize the engagement of the produced content converting as many of the community members to the event live attendees as possible.
The first three months each focus on an individual campaign. Although they have different months, campaigns will inevitably overlap to keep both customer personas engaged:
Awareness campaign: Social media campaign to increase general awareness of the event online, containing announcements and promotional materials across multiple platforms.
Knowledge campaign (Competitive players): Content campaign to provide educational content to the players who became aware and interested in the event for its informational value. It will feature a series of podcasts and blog posts created with the help of industry experts. The content will give a strong idea of what information the customer can expect when attending the event.
Entertainment campaign (Casual players): Content campaign to provide entertaining content to people who became interested in the event for its casual value. It will feature Twitch streams with influencers, behind-the-scenes content, tournament qualifiers hosted on the Discord server, and teasers of the upcoming Overwatch update that will be playtested. With the tournament and casual gaming area at the event, this content campaign will lead up to what players can expect at the event.
To execute the event and track the performance of campaigns, the strategy has a set of goals following the SMART framework to ensure there are enough resources to meet the targets. The goals are aligned with the KPIs identified at each stage of the customer journey maps:
Discovery: Increase the number of impressions on social media platforms (the precise number will depend on the final venue choice)
Consideration: Increase the content engagement rate to an average of 10%
Decision: Sell enough event tickets to fill 70% of the venue
Use: Have as many ticket buyers attend the event as possible
Sharing: Have at least 75% positive feedback about the event
While the goals may not seem as specific, they will have to be adjusted based on early performance, partner insights, and general event development.
Social media & content
The core way of marketing the event is digital marketing on social media platforms. When it comes to video games, social media is always the go-to place.
The main platforms for marketing Overwatch Training Grounds are Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, TikTok, and Twitch. While YouTube was considered, it is unlikely that OTG will produce enough long-form video content to actively maintain the channel. At most, it can serve as storage for broadcast recordings.
For each platform, I've compiled a list of recommended content formats, optimal posting times, and any other notes that will optimize the posts. For example for Twitter optimal post length is 70-100 words and the best posting time is at 8:00 AM. That will serve as a starting point to then adjust times and formats based on the analytics.
Online personalities play a big role in almost any marketing campaign at least to some degree. They are "Opinion Leaders" who bring new audiences and help build the credibility of the event.
For Overwatch Training Grounds I selected a few influencers that are popular on a global scale. However, due to my lack of knowledge in influencer marketing, I came up with the option of delegating the task to an agency like Kairos Media.
Community management is one of the company’s pillars. Even though this is a one-time event there is a high possibility of it developing into a sustainable brand.
As a part of the Community Management plan for the event, Overwatch Training Grounds will also have a dedicated Discord server to facilitate community management as well as tournament hosting.
Based on all the previous sections I've developed a four-month-long content calendar for the event to facilitate the marketing campaigns (awareness, knowledge, entertainment).
The following is the plan for the first month:
The rest of the calendar follows a similar logic with new types of content. Here are all the content formats used in the full content plan:
Filler content (memes, polls, questions)
Content featuring influencers
A big part of figuring out the content strategy was the content maximization. While the model shown in the diagram below does not apply to everything in the calendar, it still helps a lot when working on bigger pieces.
The content plan heavily revolves around visual content and complementing images in social media posts. The following are examples of marketing assets used for Overwatch Training Grounds content:
Press releases and news coverage
I also threw around ideas for media coverage for the event. Esports and games news outlets popular in the UK are be perfect to increase awareness of the event. I used a bit of SEO analysis to identify two perfect options: Gfinity and Esports Insider. Both have high levels of traffic coming from the UK as shown in a Gfinity example below:
Obviously, that does not exclude other outlets like Dot Esports. It just highlights some with whom we could build prolonged partnerships.
Paid advertising will come into play closer to the event's date (3-4 weeks before). I am not a huge expert on paid advertising as my experience focused more on organic growth. So my plan will have two parts.
SEM and Social Media: This involves your regular ads on Google Search, Twitter, Facebook, and other relevant platforms. To ensure the quality of the ads, the job could be delegated to Kairos Media once again.
Finally, some live advertising will also be in place. Things like billboards, bus ads, and bus stop ads will all highly increase the awareness of the event. The scope of this will depend on the budget and partner involvement. But after that, the brand's established presence can then be leveraged to continue building and nurturing the Overwatch community in London.