• Transform magazine
  • July 01, 2022

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Why the world’s leading esports company turned to traditional sport to find its sound

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Andie Richardson, senior account and project manager at MassiveMusic, talks through an exciting project her agency undertook with esports company ESL. She describes the challenges along the way, as well as why the agency opted to create ‘The Hero’s Journey.’

As an industry, gaming is rich in sounds. Sounds that can trigger different emotions – excitement, rage, victory, defeat, even nostalgia. From the sound of a game starting – think EA Sports and its epic ‘It’s in the game’ to the sound of Mortal Kombat’s ‘Finish Him!’, to the devastating sound of losing your final life on Super Mario Bros. Each begins to carry deeply ingrained associations as people become more accustomed to the game’s experience.

Therefore, it was no surprise when ESL, the world’s leading esports company, reached out to us to help develop a sonic brand that would cement its position in the market – really using the power of music and its association with gamers as a powerful brand-building asset.

As an experience, esports is growing by the minute. Organised, competitive video gaming is a sport watched, followed and participated in by millions of fans all around the world. Think CS:GO, Starcraft, Dota 2 – big tournaments that see people compete in huge arenas with live and online fans watching their favourite players and teams in real-time proceed through various stages.

Looking out of sector

ESL was keen to create a sonic brand that was distinctly theirs, really representing the company’s brand DNA and becoming the audio manifestation of its purpose “to create a world where everybody can be somebody.” In esports, like traditional sport, people rise from zero to hero, stage by stage, building momentum and prestige the further they go in the competitions. Which is one of the reasons ESL looked to the likes of traditional sports, such as football, for inspiration rather than its own sector. Despite gaming’s plethora of sounds, no other esports company has managed to capture the spirit, excitement, tension and prestige of a tournament in the way some of the big real-world sporting anthems have done. 

You don’t have to be a football fan to recognise and know the epic melodic crescendos of the UEFA Champions League anthem. The sounds of ‘The Champions’ in the operatic soprano set tingles down the spine as fans gear up to watch their team play on the greatest European stage. Even the F1 now has a filmic Hans Zimmer-esque composition with the sound of speeding sports cars interspersed, creating a rousing anthem that gears you up for a thrilling fan journey with twists, turns, winners and losers.

So our brief was to create ESL’s new sonic brand to rally fans and employees together for one of the biggest stages in esport gaming, but breaking away from the generic rock or electronic genres usually associated with the experience.

‘The Hero’s Journey’

MassiveMusic therefore created an anthem inspired by the values rooted in the competitions of traditional sport: the idea that anyone can be a superstar and you don’t need to come from a particular background to succeed; at ESL, everybody can truly be somebody.

The sonic branding tracks ‘The Hero’s Journey’ (or the player’s journey) start from The Lobby, The Grind, The Battle, and The Victory, with each part of the journey consisting of different sonic qualities designed to build excitement, drive action, evoke the passion and endurance and celebrate the epic heights of the action.

At MassiveMusic, we know and continually educate how music and sound are the most effective and profitable assets to increase the ROI of a marketing budget – mainly because the emotions triggered by music and sound increase the attention, memorability and likeability of a brand, impacting positively on awareness and image. Therefore, for the ESL master brand anthem we created several adaptations to suit different moods, genres and styles to fit with ESL’s varied events and content, now used by ESL across their various touchpoints. As a company, ESL produces thousands of hours of content a year and has millions of social engagements, so it was natural to add a sonic identity to the brand system, creating a common thread across all the content.

The result? The next generation of momentous sporting anthems; the sound of greatness on a real and digital stage for one of the fastest growing passions across the globe. ESL, like many companies, now recognise that audio is more important than ever. The number of touchpoints it can be ‘heard’ is growing exponentially – brands without a sonic strategy are missing out on valuable brand-building opportunities. Here ESL has an audio ecosystem that can be flexible on its own platforms as well as sitting comfortably within others, whether YouTube, TikTok, Twitch or the next big trend to come along and capture ears and eyes.

ESL recognised that to cut through the noisy landscape, it needed to carefully plan and design how it can be perceived in these sonic-rich spaces – and that sometimes means looking away from your sector. Rather than falling into the sea of sameness, sounding like most in the category and risking ‘game over,’ they decided to level-up with an industry-first, paving the way to becoming the most recognisable, emotion-inducing anthem in the gaming arena.

Listen to the new ESL sonic brand experience here.