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BMW is known for being really “unorthodox” in its marketing strategy. 90s kids might remember the series of short films released by the German brand. Some of those films featured major stars like Madonna, Clive Owen and directors like Guy Richie. Then there is the BMW art car program which has existed for decades and successfully crossed markets between car enthusiasts and the artistic community.

Like most effective strategies, BMW realizes that it is prudent to keep changing things up. The automaker has started dipping its toes into the rapidly growing esports audience in the last few years. Esports has grown exponentially within the last 10 years, and brands have taken notice. It is common for esports teams and athletes to have sponsorships and endorsement deals that rival those seen with athletes in traditional “stick and ball” sports.

BMW backing several esports teams

BMW "rivalworks" esports arena with three large display screens behind a stage and a full audience in front of the stage
BMW rivalworks esports arena | BMW

BMW is mostly known for their high-end cars like the 5-series, 7-series, and performance cars like the M3 and M4. Those cars tend to have positive reviews, but they are also expensive. Furthermore, there is much more to BMW’s lineup than high-dollar luxury cars, performance sedans, and coupes. There are “entry-level” cars like the 3-series and the eco-friendly i3. While neither of those models is “cheap,” they are less expensive and much more accessible.

To reach out to the millennial and “gen z” crowd, BMW is partnering with some of the biggest, most successful teams in esports. Teams like Cloud 9, FNATIC, FunPlus Phoenix, G2 Esports, and T1 are all running BMW’s logo on their gear. While those names all sound like AIM instant messenger tags from the 1990s, each of those teams are multi-million dollar operations with just as many fans all over the world. Fans that BMW can leverage into future customers.

BMW creates a Japanese Manga

When an iconic German brand engages a Japanese touchstone as part of a brand new marketing effort, it is hard to resist the urge to raise an eyebrow. For the uninitiated, “manga” is essentially a Japanese comic book. Manga is the nexus of Japanese animation or “anime,” as most popular anime is based on successful manga books. Since the teams that BMW sponsors are effectively rivals, the brand has elected to create their own manga telling the tale of the competition between the teams.

The manga is called “Heroes of Rivalry,” which also happens to be BMW’s name to all the teams as a group. BMW released a stylized live-action trailer intercut with manga-style special effects to announce the upcoming manga story. The trailer also features a BMW X3 and BMW 330i both decked out with manga-style liveries.

“The superheroes in our manga not only develop great power in their adventure, but they also inspire the imagination of every single person,” said Stefan Ponikva, Vice President Brand Experience BMW. “There is something magical about manga; it touches peoples’ hearts. That is the crux of the matter. Manga follows our goal of wrapping brand messages in emotions – with great finesse for images, language and symbols – and entertaining people. In pop culture like the Esports scene, this is far more effective than another display ad. Through manga, we are communicating on the same wavelength with a target group that does not actually respond positively to advertising, and we are there, where they are – on their mobile devices.”

It certainly seems like a fun endeavor for BMW and esports fans. But, will it result in future sales? That remains to be seen.