Everybody's trying to get in with an esports team … even Geico.
In an unexpected web series released in August, Geico-sponsored Team SoloMid (TSM) have moved into a new neighborhood. Convinced that the pro players are actually hackers, a nosy next-door neighbor named Russell drops in to investigate. (A dolly stacked with Geico swag also makes an appearance, but that's pretty much the brand's only imposition in episode one.)
Russell is a total creeper, and you get to know him better as the series progresses (so far there are two episodes). He becomes a fixture in the house, appearing even in separate ads where TSM stars.
Oh yeah, that's another thing. Geico's always been a prolific content creator, and this is no different. The first two episodes came out on the same day, and the brand concurrently released a startling array of 25-second ads that play on the storyline while promoting everything Geico sells. These include…
Emergency roadside service and other features of Geico's mobile app:
Renter's insurance, which is easier to set up than Russell trying to open a jar:
And, of course, car insurance, for which TSM's Svenskeren dutifully repeats the classic line, "Remember, 15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance."
There's more where that came from, and Russell slowly gets to be just as annoying to us as he must be for the team.
The content is meant for esports fans—a demographic that's 70 percent male and 55 percent 21- to 35-year-olds. Production-wise, it feels like stuff your average streamer would produce. Geico's also sponsoring more personal stories that TSM posts on its own channels:
But because Geico's a broad consumer brand, its active involvement comes with the hope that it can demystify the space for mainstream consumers and gun-shy brands. Esports has a reputation for being insular, misogynistic and utterly incapable of suffering fools. As with any young community, it's a reputation built by the few and the vocal, not the majority. (To wit: Women are rising fast in the space, though they remain less visible than banner male players.)
Geico's quirkly series helps disarm some misgivings and common stereotypes (though it's packed with literally nothing but dudes). In fact, it feels a little bit like Silicon Valley, but with gamers and fewer bongs.
TSM seem normal and unassuming. They're not all as young as people assume a typical gamer is. They're kind of funny. We also get a sense of how pro teams function: Most live together for whole seasons, making it easier to train almost nonstop.
Meanwhile, Russell serves as a surrogate audience, a guy discovering a whole new profession for the first time. His fawning over their expensive gear reinforces the sense that pro gaming is a serious endeavor, not just something a kid in a basement does while Mom carries down the Wonderbread sandwiches.
In July, MeUndies released a dating-profile-style video with The Immortals, which we felt would help kick the floodgates open for non-endemic brands producing more content for esports fans, who will fuel the industry with $493 million this year, marking a boggling 51.7 percent rate of year-over-year growth.
Geico launched its Geico Gaming Twitter channel in January. This marks the company's first-ever foray into gaming. And esports, rapidly tipping from niche to mainstream, is its arena of choice. By June, it was sponsoring TSM and a One Nation of Gamers Hearthstone tournament.
Sponsoring an esports team is an easy entry for brands who want to cash in on a trend they don't quite understand. But unlike Coke and Red Bull, which have been in the space for years but aren't producing much creative storytelling, Geico has hit the ground running.