Why Subway is sponsoring an e-sports app

Details on the audience data that led the QSR to quickly hop on board as exclusive sponsor for the launch of theScore's competitive video gaming app.
theScore eSports

Last week’s news that mobile sports company theScore had launched an e-sports app might have had some scratching their heads and Googling “League of Legends.”

But e-sports (multiplayer video game competitions) are hugely popular among a young, mostly male demo, drawing audiences to rival major sporting events. For instance, a recent world championship for League of Legends, one of the most popular online battle games, was watched by more than 32 million people.  People watched 2.4 billion hours of e-sports video in 2013, nearly double the amount watched in 2012.

Subway Restaurants of Canada is familiar with the burgeoning industry. It has been marketing to the audience in this space over the past couple of years and was quick to sign on as launch partner – with exclusivity until the end of April – for theScore eSports app.

In fact, Kathleen Bell, director of national marketing at Subway, says there was about a week between when Subway, a long-time partner with theScore, was presented with the platform and its first ad appeared in the new app for android (an iOS version is in development) as well as on desktop and mobile web. Subway is using standard ad units for the launch as theScore is still developing native ad options.

“My director of media [Dina Misur] happened to be in their office,” Bell says. “They brought this platform to her and [Subway's MAOR] Carat and Dina did an analysis and said this is an opportunity that fits with Subway.”

Ashley Snowden Coles, senior digital strategist at Carat, says that the agency’s research shows that Subway’s most influential target consumer over-indexes in both e-sports and mobile, making it a prime opportunity. TheScore says its audience for both e-sports and its sports apps are males 18 to 34. 

Subway views its sponsorship of theScore eSports app as a way to extend its reach on mobile, since it is an ongoing sponsor of the company’s sports app, which has 9.2 million active users. However Coles says that “the overlap in users may not be as significant as someone might first assume.”

Regardless of the crossover, e-sports are a force unto themselves that already attracts audiences to rival major sporting events. For instance, more than 32  million people watched League of Legends Season 3 World Championships online. People watched 2.4 billion hours of e-sports video in 2013, nearly double the amount watched in 2012.

The company predicts that hours of viewing will rise to 6.6 billion by 2018. Those are stats that Bell says were “mind-blowing to us.”