KFC upgraded Colonel KI from an AI persona into the hottest influencer of the eSports world, reinforcing KFC's value with gamers, driving sales and increasing purchase frequency.
Over the last decade, eSports has become China’s hottest pastime.
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.
As one of the most sponsored industries, China’s 480M eSports gamers (which make up c.30% 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, and it sought to do this by upgrading Colonel KI from an AI persona into its official KOL mascot of the eSports world, creating the ultimate social schedule, as well as a host of deals to entice gamers and demonstrate value.
Insights and Idea
As COVID-19 hit in 2020, China’s eSports witnessed a massive boom, with an 83% YOY increase in gaming content watched (Twitch), spurred on by the pandemic forcing people to stay home. This only further energised brands looking to win over gamers.
Back in 2018, KFC identified an unsolved need from gamers.
eSports games have many more numbers 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 general gut feel 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.
Enter Colonel KI (KFC-AI) – KFC’s AI persona in-game for predicting League of Legend winners. The algorithm in the form of Colonel KI was capable of giving 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 went crazy for 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, and it sought to do this by upgrading Colonel KI from an AI persona into its official KOL mascot of the eSports world, creating the ultimate social schedule, as well as a host of deals to entice gamers and demonstrate value.
Partnering with Unreal4 Engine, the team firstly upgraded the Colonel’s look – premiering it during the start of League of Legend’s 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 – from the Colonel visiting the League of Legend’s European Championship club G2 in Germany to create exclusive interview content for gamers, to launching Chinese fashion label R39.
But KFC didn’t stop at creating engaging content for gamers.
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 Chinese national League of Legend’s team. So, when the Chinese National Team won the tournament, members went in the draw 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!
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.
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 KOL!
As a result, KFC was able to reinforce its value with gamers, driving sales and limited-edition Colonel KI memberships, especially amongst first-time KFC members, increasing purchase frequency!
By creating a unique mechanism that tied the benefits of the membership card to the tournament results, KFC remained top of mind amongst 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 a double digit increase in Gross Merchandise Volume when compared to pre-offer sales.