Riot Games’ EU Esports Leadership Team Reflects on First LEC Split

League of Legends Database-Link-e1521645463907 esports continues to move from passion-filled promotion of a game to sustainable ecosystem. In Europe, the seventh Spring finals—and first under the new rebrand League of Legends Championship Series (LEC)—marks the biggest showcase yet for recently signed league sponsors, including KIA, Alienware, and Footlocker.

The leadership team behind the LEC is a mixture of veterans from the Europe’s esports scene, and those with experience in traditional sports and marketing. The Esports Observer spoke with three senior members in Rotterdam to understand the role they had in the relaunch, and their gameplan for Summer.

Monica Dinsmore, Head of Publishing

MonicaDinsmore joined Riot Games Database-Link-e1521645463907 five years ago, initially at the Los Angeles headquarters as a senior development manager. She moved to Berlin to lay the groundwork for the long-term partnership model, which would ultimately remove the relegation-promotion system, and invite ten teams to pay a minimum of €8M ($9.2M USD) for a secure spot in the league table.

“We wanted to address the sentiment of our fans, viewers, and players, that EU was secondary to NA, in some ways,” she said, specifically speaking to the LEC rebrand. “We wanted to break away from that sentiment and build some trust with the European players.”

For its entire history, both the North American and European leagues shared a look and feel, right down to a nearly-identical logo. For the 2019 season, Riot enlisted Design Studio, an agency that has reworked top sports properties such as the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League, as well as tech companies like Airbnb.

Related Article: Riot Games Introduces Newly Redesigned Logo

“They came, spent a lot of time with Rioters across the different disciplines,” said Dinsmore. “It wasn’t just publishing in a vacuum, making decisions. It was talking to live ops and broadcast people, casters, and people who are in league management. Really getting a feel for what we care about and what we’re trying to say to our fans.”

“We wanted to address the sentiment of our fans, viewers, and players, that EU was secondary to NA, in some ways.”

Outside visual aesthetics, the LEC has also differentiated itself this season with off-the-wall content series designed to hype and celebrate the ongoing storylines of the competition. These range from radically escalating rap battles, to Sherlock Holmes-parody analytical segments.

“Luckily, everyone that’s on the publishing team is part of the community in some way,” said Dinsmore. “We spend a lot of time doing retros, and when we do a piece of content we immediately go and see what the sentiment is on Reddit, YouTube, and across all the channels to see ‘OK, did that do what we wanted it to do?’ Honestly, we’ve been having so much fun with making these types of pieces, and the more positive sentiment we get, the more we realize that that’s what our fans and players want.”

Joe Pecchia, Brand and Marketing Lead

JoeBefore entering esports in 2017, Pecchia had a strong background in traditional sports marketing at Formula 1, the Rugby Football Union, and most recently Pulselive, a digital agency that works with properties such as the English Premier League, Australian Football League, and Liverpool F.C.

“Initially with any rebrand you always enter into it with an element of risk. There’s always the diehards that live and breathe EU LCS,” he said. “But I think the other thing is moving the perception that we were a sister league to North America. The other thing we really wanted to drill home is we are 100%, from a Riot standpoint, committed to investing in European esports.”

Like his colleague, Pecchia emphasized how Design Studio wanted to grasp the pop culture phenomenon before them, rather than dictate what it should look like. “A lot of the other big branding agencies, you can tell they had dipped their toe into the water of League of Legends, tried to understand it. Design Studio came in and said ‘we are not going to show anything today. We do not know anything about you, your community to be in a position where we think we know it all.’ We thought that was really humbling.”

“Initially with any rebrand you always enter into it with an element of risk.”

When transitioning from sports to esports, Pecchia expected that there was a lot from the latter he could transfer. “How wrong was I…” he said. “I also get the impression their desire and care for the future, and what happens in the ecosystem, is way more prevalent in esports than traditional sports.”

One project that Pacchia was particularly involved with this split was the ‘Watch Missions’ program, where players who watch a certain amount of games, or play a champion used in an esports contest, will be rewarded with in-game goods. He hinted that more of these initiatives could emerge in the Summer Split.

“We’re still figuring a lot of that right now, but also giving you more for being a hardcore esports fan. We’ve got all the data available to us. We know how much you play, we can probably figure out which teams you support, and really we just want to close that gap between esports being this separate thing to the game.”

Alberto Guerrero, Head of Esports

AlbertoHaving joined the European team as the former country manager for Spain, Guerrero’s responsibility goes beyond the LEC competition. Last year, Riot united regional tournament organizers across the continent to build one integrated ecosystem. For example, Spanish company Liga De Videojuegos Profesional Database-Link-e1521645463907 (LVP) manages both the Superliga Orange, and retains its commercial rights, with Riot aiding in the overall design.

“This combination has at least demonstrated that it works,” said Guerrero. “We exported that idea to France, Germany, and the UK. For example, France, in two years, arrived at the point that took Spain seven years.”

Related Article: Riot Revs Up First LEC Finals With Expo and Local Activations

Though these circuits sit below the LEC, they feature players that are in all respects professional, which still leaves more work to be done on the amateur and grassroots level. “We have our own circuit for amateur competition in Spain, the same in France and the UK, and very soon it’s going to happen in Germany,” continued Guerrero. “We are trying to not only consolidate the European leagues, but build something for the real amateur scene.”

“We are trying to not only consolidate the European leagues, but build something for the real amateur scene.”

Now in its second year, the European system has also introduced secondary academy teams for the ten LEC partners, allowing them to recruit and develop their rosters of the future. There’s already precedent for this; 13 players from the Superliga Orange jumped to the LEC this year, with last summer’s European Masters champions, Mad Lions E.C., having transferred most of its roster to top tier teams.

“In the first game [of the Spring Split], Fnatic Database-Link-e1521645463907 vs. SK Gaming Database-Link-e1521645463907, you had three on SK and one on Fnatic that came from Superliga Orange,” said Guerrero. “This is our way to allow the players, even if there is no promotion-relegation, to easier arrive in Europe.”

The LEC’s permanent partnership model is closer to franchised, North American sports leagues than what is commonly seen in European soccer; where lower performing teams are at risk of dropping from the league table. “We need to build an environment that, even if they don’t succeed at being the number one in the league, do a good job and focus on building all these other things they need.”


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.