Marketing

How car manufacturers are forming brand personality in esports

By Tobias Seck
Porsche is one of the car manufacturers that has turned to esports as a marketing tool for selling its brand. Porsche

Building brand awareness through marketing plays a crucial aspect of a car manufacturer's capability to sell its products in a heavily competitive market with hundreds of brands. Sports marketing has been part-and-parcel of the process to create brand awareness for most car makers for decades, resulting in almost every major sporting event and team having an auto brand sponsor today. In addition to promoting brands, most car companies are or have been involved in motorsports to showcase their cars in a competitive environment and develop new technologies and features for their consumer products. While sports and motorsports remain the marketing channels most invested in, an evolving target group created new marketing channels for automotive brands such as esports and sim racing.

START YOUR ENGINES

Motorsports play a special role in the marketing mix for most automobile brands. Unlike banners, video or audio clips and activations at non-racing sporting events, competing directly with competitors at racing events is a powerful tool to create brand personality. Brand personality and sporting successes can translate into positivity and loyalty toward a brand that goes far beyond brand awareness. Consequently, car brands in motorsports are developing with the signs of the time. In the early days of motorsports, manufacturers tried outdoing each other by building the fastest cars in a straight line. After the world wars, auto makers started focusing on technical innovations that were tested in material-punishing endurance races or high-performance Formula 1 and NASCAR races. More recently, safety technologies and sustainability have become a major focus in motorsports. Over the last two years - catalyzed by the global pandemic — sim racing esports was integrated by all major motor racing entities in some capacity marking the latest development in the world of motorsports and is offering car brands a new channel to influence their brand personality.

Prior to hitting the ground running in sim racing esports, car brands started to gain a foothold in the wider esports ecosystem in 2017, with multiple manufacturers entering the scene, including Mercedes-Benz sponsoring Dota 2 event ESL One Hamburg, awarding the tournament’s MVP with a Mercedes-Benz. Audi Denmark becoming a partner of the best CS:GO team at the time – Astralis. And BMW flew its flags at the LEC finals in Paris. Over the last five years, a variety of car brands followed, and today, more than 30 brands are actively involved in esports.

The most common marketing approach in esports with car brands are traditional sponsorships of teams and events, featuring brand assets throughout digital assets, broadcasts, content segments, spaces in venues and audience activations. However, some car companies figured out new channels to promote their brands, such as in-game content in games (including Rocket League, Fortnite, PUBG and a plethora of racing games), integrating esports in employer branding or outright owning esports teams.

Sports Business Journal compiled a list of all car brands active in both motorsports and esports in a significant capacity. The white highlighted segments display an automotive company’s involvement in motorsports (from left to right: Formula 1, prototype racing, IndyCar, NASCAR, gentlemen racing, touring car racing, rally racing, and Formula E). The segment with a dark background shows an automotive company’s involvement in esports.

Tobias Seck

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