As a part of my final year project at Staffordshire University, I wrote a research paper about content marketing for Valorant Champions 2022. With Valorant's quick growth and Riot Games' track of marketing campaigns, it was my natural interest to research this a bit more.
This research got a mark of 80% (which is considered first-class) and I am currently working on getting it published in an undergraduate academic journal. Yes, I'm bragging.
This article is a short summary of my research with key points discussed and takeaways. The full document along with references is available here:
What is Content Marketing?
My first objective was to define content marketing. From multiple research papers and books I've found the definition that best describes what I will be looking at:
Process of creating personalized valuable content to an interactive, engaged, and targeted audience
The content itself theoretically is anything that is created and uploaded to the website. Things like blog posts, videos, and podcasts. But we'll soon find out that in the case of video games, content goes beyond that scope.
Breakdown of Valorant Champions 2022
What I found out is that Riot Games uses the Customer Experience Designer digital marketing model. This means it prioritizes segmentation, needs assessment, and omnichannel presence through innovative content.
I used League of Legends as a comparison and defined three main platforms for Valorant Champions' content: social media, website, and the game itself.
These days, the use of social media is quite self-explanatory. It connects you with people. And not only your audience but also partners, journalists, employees, etc. I looked at Twitter in this example and analyzed multiple social media profiles and their subsidiaries.
Note: I know that Twitter is in a fun spot now. At the time of writing it wasn't. So keep that in mind.
I first looked at the most interacted content of the event. And while the majority of them were spectacular highlights of games, there were a few original posts. Those included merchandise announcements, anthem reveal, and in-game reward announcements. This highlights the importance of dedicated content created around the event with the goal of expanding it.
Then I looked at the use of the platform. My main discovery was that the content is optimized for the targeted region/country. For example, on Japanese accounts, things are posted early, likely due to the country's work culture. Then there is the fact that some regions care about completely different platforms. For example, TikTok in Brazil, and Facebook in Vietnam.
What does all this mean? The inclusivity and importance of every region within the community play a major role in Riot Games' strategy. This is also shown through the abundance of UGC on regional accounts.
With the website, everything ended up being very simple. After a brief SEO analysis, I found out that the event did not really bring new traffic to the website and that it was not made to bring new visitors using a search engine.
However, valorantesports.com brings in much more consistent traffic than similar websites of other games like Intel Extreme Masters or Overwatch League. I assume that the reason for that is Riot Games tries to involve their community much more in esports than other games.
Because there's no obvious transaction happening on the site, apart from watching the broadcast (which is huge but barely ever works through the website, everyone uses Twitch.tv directly), when looking at it through the Web Design Preference Framework, the website looks more like a content storage.
While it is still user-friendly and has nifty features (some of the localized versions are better maintained than others though), the website is here only to have more detailed information should you need it. And many players don't.
Remember I mentioned community involvement? This is how that was assumingly achieved. Through a great amount of in-game content.
During Valorant Champions 2022, the game had a makeover. There was a welcome screen in the event's design, a background cinematic featuring the symbol of the event with the remixed event anthem playing in the background.
In the shop, players could spend cash on a limited-time bundle with in-game cosmetics. Those were only available during the event and will never be available after. Cosmetics were made in the visual style of Valorant Champions 2022 and also play the anthem. You could really feel like you are at the event when playing with those. The rest of the in-game content included free playtime rewards and Twitch Drops.
All of that contributed to an immersive competitive experience and aesthetic in Valorant during the event for players who may not follow esports as much. This strengthens the connection between casual players and the esports scene which is something not many games and developers do, at least in such a way.
Outlook on Content Marketing within Esports
My final touch is a bit of an outlook on possible developments within content marketing in esports. With many esports organizations tapping into UGC and community involvement, the area is only bound to grow.
Looking at the Valorant Champions 2022, other game developers may become more involved in their esports scenes and events. Because currently, many developers outsource a company to run events (like Valve) or just do not invest as much in the esports scene (like Blizzard).
On the other side, we have brands and esports organizations. There were many attempts on fan engagement platforms including the one I was a part of - espo.io. Recently, LOUD, a team that won Valorant Champions 2022 announced the launch of the Web3 fan engagement platform.
Many such projects feature web3 elements in them. But the catch is that gamers, in particular, are skeptical towards web3. Mainly because it's associated with crypto and crypto has been through its fair share of downfalls over the last few years. But it has potential, especially because in the web3 space, companies will have to collaborate with their customers, employees, partners, and investors and incorporate business in society to successfully market.
A Road to Immersion
And that's about everything. Riot Games has created quite an immersive experience for Valorant Champions 2022 as far as the competitive game can go. The approach showed many intricate aspects that target specific audience groups to bring them all together.
It will be curious to see if other game developers and event organizers will try to follow in Riot's footsteps and level up their esports experiences.