SIGN IN      

Why a Korean energy drink is banking on e‑sports 

August 8, 2017

Digital Reporter

Cover art Samantha Gonzales

At two in the afternoon of July 30, the line outside of the World Trade Center stretched out to two blocks. The premium tickets to Rampage 2017, the finals to the League of Legends Pro Gaming Series had sold out, but the demand was still there. Inside, the air was ripe with energy. There was a lot of to do: try out some games at the booths, check out the specs of hardware and internet connections offered, cosplay, compete, win prizes, take photos, or spectate. Despite having the entire convention center dedicated to the event, it was still very crowded. And if all the cosplayers with wings and weapons stood side‑by‑side, they’d be able to block the length of the halls.

In the VIP area, executives of Dong-A Pharma Philippines, Inc., the distributors of Bacchus Energy Drink, gathered. The crowd’s borderline Dionysian frenzy is precisely the reason why they are cashing in, positioning their non‑carbonated South Korean drink as the go‑to energy beverage for e-sports players.

These days, the demographic once thought of as high school boys geeking out after class, playing video games that can be such as League of Legends, DoTA, and even mobile games like Mobile Legends and Clash of Clans has become a bankable market. Playing has turned to a legitimate job, with competitors in the Pro Gaming Series, the Philippines first pro‑gaming league, being given a monthly salary during the league season and a chance to be sent to North America or China for the World League of Legends Championship. And as such, energy beverage manufacturers are cashing in.

“The gaming industry is booming right now, and it’s getting bigger and bigger,” said Dong‑A country manager Won Tack Song. “The e‑games industry in Korea is still growing, and I can see what Korea is like ten years ago in the Philippines.” The relationship between the Philippines and Korea is bonded by a mutual love of games such as Starcraft, DoTA and League of Legends as well as the popularity of Korean Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs) at the dawn of the ’00s. With Ragnarok Online getting its second wind and the release of Starcraft 2 on the horizon, esports is establishing a growing market. Currently, there are approximately 13.2 million Filipinos engaged in e‑sports. “Young gamers continue to play e‑games even as they grow up,” Mr. Song said. “We want to create a culture where as the gamers grow up they will continue to drink Bacchus.”

In the Philippines, energy drinks are largely consumed by shift workers—truck, taxi and bus drivers, as well as call center employees “in need of an energy boost” according to a Euromonitor report. Key consumers of sports drinks, the report added, are athletes and sports enthusiasts who need to rehydrate. The positioning of the brand to target e‑sports seems to hit both, as e‑sports combines the adrenaline of a physical sport and the sedentary lifestyle of being seated in front of a computer until ungodly hours.

Boosting the popularity of Bacchus is official ambassador League of Legends prodigy Sang‑hyeok Lee, more popularly known by his gamer tag “Faker.” Shirts with his face sold like hotcakes at the Bacchus booth. The crowd scrambled to catch free Faker shirts when Mr. Say tossed them off stage during the energy drink’s stage time. And when a video message from the gamer himself was flashed on screen? The crowd went wild.

Sadly, Mr. Lee was not at Rampage 2017. But to see him on the big screen was enough for some of the audience.

“The opportunity for Faker to visit the Philippines is open,” Mr. Song hinted during the press briefing. “We discussed the details of his possible visit here but we have to consider his gaming schedule. July is the month of the summer league.” Pro‑gaming, just like every other sport, requires training, discipline and strategy. To pull Faker out during such a crucial time can be devastating to his career, something that his fans are sure to understand.