Mastercard signs up as first global sponsor of League of Legends esport

Three-year deal is the first for the Riot Games title.

The League of Legends 2017 World Championship

The League of Legends 2017 World Championship

Mastercard has thrown its weight behind one of the largest esport titles in the world with a multi-year sponsorship of League of Legends.

The three-year deal represents the first global sponsorship for the Riot Games-owned League of Legends franchise.

Other big-name brand sponsors include Mercedes-Benz, Doritos, Acer, L’Oréal, Gillette and Adidas, but they are involved in League of Legends tournaments and teams at a regional level only.

The Mastercard agreement involves three of League of Legends’ annual global tournaments – the Mid-Season Invitational, the All-Star Event and the World Championship.

Mastercard and League of Legends have not disclosed how much the deal is worth. Huge sums are currently being poured into esports and it reportedly costs $10 million to buy a team franchise in the League of Legends Championship Series.

Mastercard chief marketing and communications officer Raja Rajamannar said: “Esports is a phenomenon that continues to grow in popularity, with fans that can rival those at any major sporting event in their enthusiasm and energy.”

The brand will act as payment services partner at League of Legends global esports events and the deal adds to Mastercard’s heavy investment in sports, including its Champions League sponsorship.

There are currently more than 860 professional players on 113 professional League of Legends esports teams competing across 14 leagues around the world.

League of Legends is the most-played PC game in the world, with more than 100 million monthly active players. As of March 2018, viewership of the regular League of Legends season averaged 90 million live hours each week.

Naz Aletaha, head of esports partnerships at Riot Games, said: “Mastercard is among the first of world-class brands to take such a big step into esports at the global level and we’re proud to have them support League of Legends esports events alongside their other premier sports and entertainment sponsorships.”

As part of the agreement, Mastercard will invite fans to events to take part in experiences as part of its “Priceless” marketing activity.

The first live event will take place at the World Championship later in the autumn in South Korea.

Source:; 20 Sep 2018

Ikea, Nike, BMW, Marriott: Chinese consumers find you less relevant now

Prophet’s 2018 China Brand Relevance Index shows Chinese brands raising their relevance due to innovation, not just pricing.

Local brands constitute the majority of the third edition of the China Brand Relevance Index just released by Prophet.

Two years ago, 32 of the top 50 brands were MNC brands. Today, 30 are from the mainland, including Alipay, Wechat, Huawei, Taobao, and Meituan Dianping, which cracked the top 10 for the first time.

Prophet measures ‘relevance’ via a survey where consumers rate brands across 16 different attributes. The 2018 edition, conducted by ISSI, included views from more than 13,000 Chinese consumers on 249 brands across 30 industries. Prophet does not include brands in the tobacco and firearms categories or brands engaged solely or primarily in B2B selling.

For the first time, the rise of local brands is fuelled by innovation, not basic price/value reassurance, according to Prophet. Several local competitors beat MNCs in being “pervasively innovative”, meaning they “don’t rest on their laurels” in finding new and creative ways to engage with customers in China.

Huawei and Xiaomi represent this shift by outperforming Apple in the smartphone category. The Huawei P20 Pro is the first phone with a triple rear camera. Xiaomi’s Mi Mix, launched back in 2016, showed the world a nearly bezel-free design long before the iPhone X, Prophet notes.

The weakest MNC brands fell hard from grace. For example, Ikea went from fourth last year to 37th this year, Nike from sixth to 44th, BMW from eighth to 46th, and Marriott from ninth to nowhere (though Marriott-owned W Hotels took 18th place).

“It’s not that these MNC brands are falling behind, but domestic brands are making progress too quickly,” clarified Leon Zhang, Prophet’s co-author of the report.

The drop in Nike’s ranking was simply because “Adidas is moving faster in establishing relevance and a sense of community across a broad swathe of sports in China,” pointed out Tom Doctoroff, the chief cultural officer at Prophet, at a launch event in Shanghai where Nike reps were present. Adidas has been working closely with China’s education ministry, providing training for Chinese sports teachers who will then teach soccer skills in schools. So did Nike in 2016, but apparently, Adidas’ efforts have been more well-received.

Chinese consumers are actively seeking products and services that provide substance, innovative experience and belongingness, Doctoroff added. However, innovation is something easy to claim yet difficult to deliver. Home-grown brands have demonstrated a “strong ability to create continuous, tangible innovation”, often outpacing that of their international peers, said Zhang.

Top dog Alipay (in first position for the third year in a row) goes beyond a payment channel, offering functions for travel, insurance, tax refunds, shopping loans and WiFi/internet packages. Arguable competitor Visa has dropped from third in 2016 to 36th in 2017 and is not even on the 2018 list. Outside of China, Alipay’s collaboration with location-based service providers such as Koubei and Yelp enables it to recommend the best places to eat / shop / play for spoiled Chinese outbound tourists.

Source:; 17 Sep 2018

More Product Searches Start on Amazon

Google is losing its grip on valuable search data

Google might leave Bing and Yahoo in the dust for visits, but the popular search engine has been losing some shine as the go-to platform for product search.

A number of consumer surveys have shown that more US digital shoppers now start their searches on Amazon. Nearly half (46.7%) of US internet users started product searches on Amazon compared with 34.6% who went to Google first, according to a May 2018 Adeptmind survey. And the leading method among digital shoppers in the US surveyed by Salsify in February 2018 was searching and buying on Amazon (41%) followed by searching on Google then buying on Amazon (28%).

This is also the case, according to Q2 2018 Jumpshot analysis of multi-device traffic on its platform. In 2015, Google had 54% share of product searches and 46% belonged to Amazon. By 2018, these figures had reversed.

However, shoppers searching on Amazon took longer to make a purchase than those who searched on Google. On average, 25.9 days spanned search to purchase on Amazon while for Google it was 19.6. Most bought an item within five days, though more (35%) purchased in this time frame using Google than Amazon (19%).

Number of Days from Initial Product Search to Purchase Among US Amazon vs. Other* Buyers, Q2 2018 (% of total)

This behaviour can probably be explained by Amazon being used as a product research resource. Shoppers can read extensive user reviews, Q&As and look at photos, but they aren’t necessarily looking to buy immediately, whereas a Google product search could be from a shopper who already knows what they want.

It’s helpful to see that this buying behaviour, and search results can also inform marketing and merchandising strategy. “Amazon is starting to trump Google in the amount of consumers that begin their search for merchandise there. Amazon has that data now—they get the first bite of the apple,” said Mike Sands, co-founder and CEO of location-based services firm Signal.

This shift could hurt retailers that use product search data from Google for bidding and driving site traffic. Wes MacLaggan, senior vice president of marketing at ad management platform Marin Software, cautioned against ignoring Amazon. Marketers need to be aware of how their products are positioned on Amazon and the messaging they use.”

Search result placement on Amazon is key. More than two-thirds of product clicks happen on the first page of Amazon’s search results, according to Jumpshot, with one-third occurring on the first two rows displayed.

Source:; 7 Sep 2018

Twitter announces host of new APAC content deals

New partnerships across live, sports, entertainment and news take the platform to more than 50 in the region.

Twitter has unveiled a raft of new content partnerships throughout Asia-Pacific, further bolstering the social-media platform’s stable of premium video content.

The deals, announced at this year’s All That Matters conference in Singapore, range from short- to longer-form video content across Twitter’s focus areas of sports, news and entertainment. They include the likes of Sony Music, Vice Media and UEFA Champions League on FMA Indonesia.

“We are proud to expand our livestream and video highlights programming that is brand safe and will appeal to the audience and advertisers in APAC,” said Maya Hari, Twitter APAC vice president.

In entertainment, new deals have been signed with Sony Music, providing custom content and behind-the-scenes clips from major music acts; Red Chillies Entertainment in India, producing content with Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan; and NBCUniversal, bringing its E! programming onto Twitter.

In sports, Twitter has partnered with FMA Indonesia to provide UEFA Champions League highlights; Fox Sports Asia for Formula One content; and Stadium Astro Malaysia for English Premier League.

Finally in news, new partnerships were announced with Vice Media over content throughout APAC; Network18 in India for video content around major events including India’s budget announcement and elections; and NET TV in Indonesia, which renewed and extended its Twitter partnership around bringing TV programming and bespoke content to the platform.

Kay Madati, Twitter global vice president of content partnerships, said APAC is driving growth for the company. “Our unique and strategic value proposition that positions Twitter as a complement, not competitor to traditional media companies, has delivered great success.”

The new content partnerships take Twitter’s total to more than 50 in APAC.

Source:; 12 Sep 2018

Brands now get the power of gaming: Twitch co-founder

Kevin Lin says from gaming streams to esports, advertisers are finally giving the world’s largest entertainment genre the respect it deserves.

It’s taken a while but brands are now on board with the world of gaming, with the meteoric rise of esports being a critical catalyst, says Twitch co-founder and COO Kevin Lin.

Speaking to reporters at the All That Matters conference in Singapore, Lin said gaming is now being seen as “both a marketing tool and commercial opportunity” for numerous brands outside the industry and that esports has been “a great path for that”.

“We’re all about creators [at Twitch], but esports is a great amplifier of everything and its own industry now,” he says.

Founded in 2011, Twitch quickly established itself as the go-to streaming platform for the gaming community, which until then had been at best underserved and at worst ignored by the business and digital world.

“But now that you’ve got all these big investors from sports and music coming in, celebrities getting involved, that’s brought a lot of mainstream attention, which has been very positive,” Lin says. “Sponsors now get it more, there are more people evangelising, more people inventing other business models around it.”

For Lin, the equation is simple for advertisers, and it’s only surprising that it’s taken so long for many to understand the value of today’s gamers, who are a far cry from the stigmatised introverted shut-outs they have been portrayed as for so long.

“They don’t just play games 24 hours a day, they go to concerts, get on planes, stay in hotels, all the things millennials do,” he states wryly. “We have a very desirable, young millennial audience, that’s very present on the site—15 million people a day watch for two hours, probably one of the most engaged platforms on the internet.

“So that’s been a really good story to tell to advertisers and brands, and we’re continuing to innovate and re-invent solutions for them to reach our audience, whether that’s content activations, esports activations or products that really lean in to the culture of Twitch.”

Amazon bought Twitch in 2014 for US$970 million, a deal that helped shift the platform into the mainstream. However, Twitch has come under significant fire recently for the changes to its subscription Twitch Prime product. Rolled into the suite of Amazon Prime services, Twitch Prime users are now seeing advertising, unlike before, despite the fact they are paying a subscription. Those that want to go ad free must pay an additional subscription fee for new service Twitch Turbo.

Lin says plainly that the changes were largely made to expand Twitch’s variety of revenue sources. “It helps our creators and it helps us. I mean, we’re a business, we have to be able to make money. Kevin Lin

“Historically as we’ve surveyed our users, around subs particularly, the feedback has largely been the reason why they’re buying [is] around supporting streamers. So [ad revenue] felt like an ok thing to tease out. People understand that creators make money from that advertising, and Prime users are high-value viewers on the site. So it seemed like the right decision.”

Lin is quick to add that the changes are being closely monitored, as is user feedback. “We felt like it was a safe bet, but we’ll see. We listen to our users, we listen to our community, we shift our products around all the time, but it felt like the right thing to do.”

More broadly, for advertisers, Lin says the growing sophistication of streamers and esports athletes in their interactions with brands means the industry is at the start of a new and exciting period for advertisers to get deeper, more meaningful engagement with the gaming audience.

This stems, says Lin, from the fundamental difference between esports athletes and traditional athletes: proximity to fans. “Esports athletes develop a much tighter relationship with their fans. They’re much more accessible and approachable, and in fact they’re there talking to you, potentially playing games with you. You don’t really get that kind of access to athletes.

As brands start to learn about the space, and players start to engage with more brands, Lin believes there will be “unique ways” to reach the gaming audience that are more native to the format.

“Posting a picture on Instagram and getting paid to do that is great, and you might actually see decent results as an advertiser doing that, but there are many deeper ways to get involved as brands,” he says. “That’s just getting started.”

Source:; 13 Sep 2018

Social Network Users in Asia-Pacific 2018

Gauging Facebook’s Growth Across the Region

Facebook user growth in Western markets may be tailing off, but that is not the case for Asia-Pacific. In 2018, Facebook’s audience in the region will increase 13.4%—nearly double the rate of worldwide gains—reaching 663.0 million users. India will spearhead this jump, climbing 17.3% and accounting for nearly one-third of users in the region.

Facebook’s growth in India is a result of an expansion of more affordable mobile services. In 2016, 4G LTE mobile internet use exploded in the country after the arrival of mobile operator Reliance Jio and its low-priced data plans. Competitors like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone lowered data costs to stay competitive, which motivated consumers to sign up. Between 2016 and 2018, the percentage of mobile phone internet users grew from 24.0% to 32.3% of the population.

With growing mobile uptake, many of these new internet users also signed up for Facebook to connect with friends and family. New phones coming with Facebook Lite preinstalled was a boon as well. During the same two-year period, Facebook’s share of the population rose from 11.4% to 16.7%. By 2022, continued adoption of mobile internet will further Facebook’s reach to 25.0% of India’s population.

Whereas India represents high-end growth for Facebook, other Asia-Pacific markets are slowing. In Japan, Facebook’s share of social network users will decline between 2018 and 2022, falling from 39.3% to 38.5%. Facebook has struggled to catch up to Twitter and messaging app Line, which built large audiences after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami damaged traditional telecom infrastructure. Twitter’s 280-character limit has not deterred usage in Japan since Japanese requires few characters to communicate complex messages.

For the most part, Facebook’s expansion in Asia-Pacific will be based on the maturation of mobile broadband coverage. For example, user growth in developing Asia-Pacific markets like Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam will outpace Facebook’s worldwide growth of 7.7% in 2018. Together, these countries will add 16.6 million users this year.

Although Facebook’s penetration of Asia-Pacific appears low at 44.5% of social network users, this is due to China’s ban on the platform. Excluding China, Facebook will actually reach 81.2% of social network users in the region.

It’s worth noting that some of Facebook’s growth can be attributed to Facebook Lite. The data-efficient Facebook app reportedly has over 200 million users and remains critical for usage in 2G and 3G areas cross Asia-Pacific. Facebook is looking to replicate its success with the release of Instagram Lite, which arrived in June 2018.

It’s too early to tell what impact Instagram Lite will have, but growth for Instagram in Asia-Pacific will be strong this year, rising 24.6% to 216.9 million users. Increases will be fastest in India (48.3%) and Vietnam (21.3%)—again, driven by improving mobile internet coverage. By the end of 2018, 26.6% of social network users in the region (excluding China) will use Instagram.

Source:; 12 Sep 2018

Messaging Is Back

Mobile messaging is the number one trend that marketers cannot afford to ignore.

Over the past several years, the proliferation of chat apps, SMS, and social messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have largely displaced this more traditional form of online messaging like instant messages and email. In 2016, instant messaging and texting (e.g., SMS and chat apps) were the first things 35% of Americans checked in the morning, according to Deloitte, up from 29% in 2014.

We’ve come a long way since brands dabbled in short message service (SMS) or began exploring communications tied to branded apps. We are in the midst of an undeniable resurgence for one of mobile’s original and most defining functions. It’s a renaissance of messaging.

What’s Old is New Again

We first saw the height of text messaging come into play at the turn of the century. Text messaging grew massively in the 2000s, with TV programs like “American Idol” inviting the public to vote for their favourite contestants via text and then-U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama announcing Joe Biden as his running mate through the use of bulk text messaging.

But even at its peak, text messaging had its challenges, such as SMS charges or the risk of users going over their data limits. Now that unlimited texting and data plans reign supreme, and landline bills are non-existent, “going over” is less of a concern. Additionally, a wave of new channels has emerged to complement SMS, including chatbots and mobile wallets.

And while text messaging continues to power the lion’s share of today’s interactions on mobile, new channels and apps centered on messaging have significantly expanded marketers’ arsenals.

Beginning in 2010, messaging and chat apps began sprouting up and attracting users all over the world. We needn’t look further than the impressive sprawl of WeChat in China, or Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp’s billion-plus users to know that messaging — in all its forms — is here to stay.

All of these channels serve as oxygen that fuels the mobile messaging fire, highlighting that all-important, in-the-moment relationship with the consumer. The brands that are ahead are the ones who have discovered that true personalization is about authentic conversations in the right channels.

Embracing the Renaissance

This renaissance of messaging shows no signs of slowing down. More innovation is on the way as new initiatives like Google’s RCS usher in the next generation of messaging standards, and voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa become more sophisticated to make voice commands a mainstream form of messaging. Additionally, conversational commerce, meaning the use of messaging to market and sell, is a largely untapped opportunity in the U.S. — and a sizable one at that, especially if brands’ reported successes on WeChat in China is any indication.

Here are three ways marketers can embrace this renaissance:

1. Leverage existing infrastructure: Building a chatbot in Messenger or creating a digital loyalty program in Apple Wallet and Google Pay doesn’t require you to build from scratch, and you can ramp up quickly by integrating these services into your cloud platform.

2. Make messaging a part of your mobile engagement strategy — quickly: The proliferation of messaging channels and apps is a blessing and a curse. Each brand needs to be strategic about where to play, which is why building a multi-channel view of the customer, complete with their preferred messaging apps and channels, is critical.

3. Build a 1:1 relationship with consumers: To activate a multi-channel understanding of consumers, marketers need robust CRM capabilities to deliver the right message, at the right time, on the right channel.

Thriving in this golden era of messaging is not as simple as firing off messages. It requires a multi-channel understanding of your customers. This view should include: real-time insights, analytics to measure impact and a comprehensive multi-channel strategy to reach the right customers at the right time.

Source:; 4 May 2018

Facebook rolls out Watch video platform to Asia-Pacific

Ad Breaks program expands to ANZ now and Thailand in September, sharing revenue with publishers and creators.

Facebook Watch, the rival to YouTube that the social network launched in the US a year ago, is now available in the rest of the world. Watch exists as a personalised video feed on Facebook and is designed to be a social experience, with users able to see comments other people are making on a show.

“We’re excited to announce that we’re making Facebook Watch available everywhere, giving people in Asia Pacific a new way to discover great videos and interact with friends, creators, and other fans,” said Saurabh Doshi, director of entertainment partnerships for Asia-Pacific in an emailed statement.

Doshi noted expanding Watch’s availability would create new opportunities for creators and publishers in the region, but noted Facebook “still had work to do.” No Asia-Pacific-specific funded content was announced for the launch. Instead, the global announcement highlighted the popularity in the US of shows such as Red Table Talk with Jada Pinkett Smith and Huda Boss by beauty mogul Huda Kattan.

But all Page videos are available to be published on Watch and Facebook says its focus will remain on video experiences that connect people. As examples, Facebook pointed out creators from Asia like Ms Yeah with over 3.5 million likes and 4.2 million followers, or How to Dad from New Zealand who has built a community of 1.8 million followers.

While Watch has struggled to gain traction with viewers since its US launch, Facebook head of video Fidji Simon said in a blog announcing the move that the total time spent watching videos in Watch has increased fourteen-fold since the start of 2018.

Source:; 30 Aug 2018

Malaysia heads for high-income status

Solid GDP growth is moving Malaysians up the spending-power ladder.

According to the World Bank, Malaysia is one of the most open economies in the world, with a trade- to GDP ratio averaging over 140 percent since 2010. It’s openness to trade and investment has been instrumental in creating employment opportunities and income growth. In 2017, Malaysia proudly increased its ranking in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report to rank 25th out of 138 economies, leading the region of emerging economies. Malaysia aspires to achieve status as a high-income economy by 2020 as classified by the World Bank and as a result has been focusing on efforts to attract investments and drive productivity and innovation through political, economic and regulatory reforms.

In Q4 2017, the Malaysian economy expanded by 4.9%, continuing the strong momentum shown throughout the year. Headline inflation moderated to 3.5% in Q4 2017, mainly due to lower inflation in the housing, water, electricity and gas as well as transport categories. The central bank expects GDP growth to remain favourable in 2018, with moderate inflation coming from domestic demand, continued export growth from encouraging global demand conditions and the stronger Ringgit.

While the economy expanded in Q4 2017, consumer confidence has remained stable throughout the year. The economy continued to be the top concern for Malaysian consumers during this period, reflected by subdued consumer spending. On the FMCG front, the market hit an all-time high for the year in Q4 2017 after subdued performance over the festive periods in Q1 and Q2 2017. Modern Trade growth has come via Super/ Minimarket and Convenience store format expansion in line with the growing propensity for Malaysian consumers to shop at stores that are ‘convenient to get to’ and shops that offer low prices for most items. It is these attributes that appeal most to consumers’ changing lifestyle needs, which are driving the expansion of smaller store formats.

The digital landscape is changing the way Malaysians interact with each other, how they form their opinions and how they make purchase decisions. It is an exciting time for Malaysian media, as digital media continues to grow and traditional media innovates to keep pace and stay relevant. Increased internet usage has also positively impacted Malaysia’s e-commerce industry. Among the 17.4 million Malaysians aged 15 and above, 10% have shopped for products or services online past month. Online shoppers tend to be younger (the majority are under the age of 39), and among the most affluent (with a household income of more than RM8000) online shopping rises to a healthy 25%.

The rise of digital media, however, does not mean that traditional media is no longer relevant in Malaysia. Nielsen Consumer and Media View shows that in 2017, daily newspapers, television, radio, outdoor advertising and in-store media continued to enjoy more than 70% reach across the board.

In this environment, it is critical to embrace both traditional and new channels and formats to ensure consumers receive a consistent brand proposition across both physical and digital mediums. Authenticity and transparency are central in this highly connected world, where consumers can quickly verify claims and check price comparisons at the click of a button.

Source:; 27 Aug 2018