KFC upgraded its Colonel KI (KFC-AI) AI persona into its official mascot of the esports world, creating the ultimate social schedule, as well as a host of deals to entice gamers and demonstrate value.
As a pioneer in China's esports world, KFC needed to transform itself from a sponsor into an organic stakeholder in this world, driving business via the creation of lifetime value consumers.
As one of the most sponsored industries, China's 480 million esports gamers (which make up about 30 percent of all esports gamers globally) are all too aware of the fierce rivalry between brands looking to get in on the action and take advantage of the booming esports world. However, gamers don't just accept anyone. They only want to interact with brands who deliver genuine value or interesting content and are tired of brands who simply want their money with nothing in return.
KFC knew it needed to transform itself into an organic stakeholder. The brand sought to do this by transforming its Colonel KI (KFC-AI) AI persona into its official mascot of the esports world, creating the ultimate social schedule, as well as a host of deals to entice gamers and demonstrate value.
As COVID-19 hit in 2020, China's esports witnessed a massive boom, with an 83 percent year-over-year increase in gaming content watched on Twitch, spurred on by the pandemic forcing people to stay home. This only further energized brands looking to win over gamers.
Back in 2018, KFC identified an unsolved need from gamers. Esports games have many more statistics than a typical game of football or basketball. But with all these numbers churned out in real time, fans and sports commentators often still rely on gut reaction and sheer excitement to anticipate who will win a match. No fan has the time to do predictive probability calculations while watching a game which has four or five things happening all at the same time.
Colonel KI (KFC-AI) was KFC's AI persona in-game for predicting League of Legends winners. The algorithm in the form of Colonel KI could give out real-time predictions on who would win a match based on game stats. The AI predictor proved to be so highly accurate that fans embraced it and it became League of Legends' "Paul the Octopus."
As Season 10 of League of Legends approached in 2020, KFC knew it needed to transform itself into an organic stakeholder. It sought to do this by upgrading Colonel KI from an AI persona into its official mascot of the esports world, creating the ultimate social schedule, as well as a host of deals to entice gamers and demonstrate value.
Over the last decade, esports has become China's hottest pastime.
Overall Campaign Execution:
KFC adopted a two-pronged approach: Fan engagement via benefits and content.
Linking the Colonel's content to KFC's digital ecosystem to drive lifetime value consumers, KFC created limited-edition Colonel KI membership cards (the first such membership card to feature League of Legends IP), targeted to gamers. Valid originally for 90 days, members could benefit from daily coupons, massive discounts, and free delivery.
To make this card more appealing to gamers, KFC bet the benefit of membership on the success of the Chinese National League of Legends team. So, when the Chinese National Team won the tournament, members entered a sweepstakes to win limited-edition Razor gaming hardware, as well as exclusive official League of Legends merchandise, ensuring fans celebrated the win together with the Colonel.
Partnering with Unreal4 Engine, the team upgraded the Colonel's look, premiering it during the start of League of Legends' Season 10's livestream on Bilibili, one of China's leading social platforms, which instantly attracted viral buzz and commentary from esports fans.
With his new look in check, the team created the ultimate social agenda for Colonel KI, normally reserved for A-list celebrities. This included the Colonel visiting the League of Legends European Championship club G2 in Germany, creating exclusive interview content for gamers, and launching Chinese fashion label R39.
Finally, to ensure gamers could get their KFC cravings at lightning speed, KFC partnered with one of China's leading delivery groups, Meituan, to launch a host of special discount offers during the tournament.
As a pioneer in China's esports world, KFC needed to transform itself from a sponsor into an organic stakeholder in this world, driving business via the creation of life-time value consumers.
With significantly less budget than competing sponsors of League of Legends, KFC successfully managed to upgrade Colonel KI into the tournament's hottest and busiest key opinion leader (KOL). As a result, KFC was able to reinforce its value with gamers, driving sales.
KFC sold over 100,000 limited-edition Colonel KI memberships (of which over 50 percent were first-time KFC members), increasing purchase frequency threefold. By creating a unique mechanism that tied the benefits of the membership card to the tournament results, KFC remained top of mind among the gamer community while building long-term habitual purchase habits.
During the tournament, KFC's partnership with Meituan resulted in the highest peak of KFC orders within the last 30 days, driving an increase of 75 percent gross merchandise volume when compared to pre-offer sales.