Esports are gaining in popularity in Arlington, TX, home to Texas Trust Credit Union.
To capture community interest while creating a resourceful sponsorship opportunity, the billion-dollar cooperative set up a 50-person Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament in April.
On April 10, Texas Trust Credit Union ($1.6B, Arlington, TX) and the athletics department of the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) partnered to sponsor the Mavericks Smash Challenge, an esports tournament. The event was the first of its kind for Texas Trust and reflects the growing interest in competitive online video gaming among Americans.
The sponsorships also reflects a shift in options available during a pandemic. Athletic sponsorships for cancelled seasons or in front of reduced crowds provide less impression opportunities, so Texas Trust found a sponsorship it could execute remotely and direct at the next generation of sports fans.
“We were excited to participate,” says Sidney Henderson, vice president of marketing and public relations at Texas Trust.
In this Q&A, Henderson discusses how the event came to be, reaction from participants, what she learned from the experience, and more.
Why did Texas Trust want to sponsor an event like this? How did you come to be involved?
Sidney Henderson: We are the official credit union of UTA athletics, but sporting events have changed because of the pandemic. Before, our sponsorship provided the opportunity to advertise with in-game promotions and interact with attendees. When sporting events changed, we had to come up with other ways to engage our UTA audience. We worked with UTA and learned it has an esports club. It was clear we could explore an emerging channel by launching an esports tournament.
CU QUICK FACTS
Texas Trust Credit Union
HQ: Arlington, TX
DATA AS OF 03.31.21
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 21.5%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 21.1%
What about this interested you?
SH: Our community as a whole is really engaged with esports. Texas Trust has participated in an employee esports game-a-thon, the city of Arlington has built an official esports arena, and UTA has its own esports club. Because our community, partners, and organization are all onboard, it just fit.
How did the event work logistically?
SH: It was totally remote. Players needed to have a Nintendo Switch to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Those who wanted to play had to pre-register. Players — it was all individual, no team play — joined an online group we set up and competed against other tournament attendees. For those who wanted to watch, we streamed the entire thing online using Twitch.
How many people participated and attended? What was the reaction?
SH: The reaction was great. We had 50 registered players and 316 live viewers. We had an online chat set up through Twitch, and there was a lot of activity in there while people were playing in the tournament, especially if someone took a big hit or there was a big moment in the match. It was really fun. We played some of our commercials during the breaks in the action and people reacted in the chat about those, as well.
Texas Trust streamed its Mavericks Smash Challenge live on Twitch, a streaming software used by gamers, to broaden the event’s audience at a time when in-person gatherings were discouraged.
Fifty gamers competed remotely to win Texas Trust’s Mavericks Smash Challenge esports tournament.
The credit union eventually crowned a winner, but it was primarily interested in driving awareness, engaging new populations, and having fun.
How different was this from your other sponsorships?
SH: It was completely different. For basketball or baseball, we have radio spots or announcements and a commercial display between innings or during halftime that the crowd sees. For the esports tournament, we had more logo placement, and we set up a branded microsite that had our information on it. Additionally, our press release was picked up by several different gaming-focused websites, which was a new front for us.
Did UTA help you market and promote the event?
SH: Absolutely. We were targeting UTA students, but the tournament was open to anyone in our community. UTA handled any paid promotion and helped facilitate things while we promoted the event on our channels and our networks. And because this was part of our broader sponsorship agreement with UTA, there was no additional cost to us.
“We wanted to generate some buzz and engage our UTA audience by capitalizing on the popularity of esports in our community.”
Can you talk more about the commercials you created for the event?
SH: They were branding spots. Instead of running a traditional commercial, we made commercials specific to gaming and filmed employees talking about Texas Trust and our checking account — through a gaming lens — to engage with that audience. They were fun and meant to drive awareness back to Texas Trust. People seemed to like them, as well.
Texas Trust enlisted two employees in its Mavericks Smash Tournament commercial spots. Click here to view its branding spot. Then, check out its checking spot.
What were your goals going into the tournament? Did you achieve what you set out to accomplish?
SH: Because it was new for us, we didn’t have a specific objective. We wanted to generate some buzz and engage our UTA audience by capitalizing on the popularity of esports in our community. To that end, I think we were successful. Everything was smooth.
Looking forward, we’d like to venture into emerging channels to explore what is out there and how we can further drive awareness to Texas Trust.
It was our first time trying something like this, but it was positive for us. We didn’t have any hiccups and we had a lot of fun participating.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Want more credit union strategies? Sign up for the CreditUnions.com free newsletter.