The agency 2Basics approached Riot Games to launch an esports campaign in LoL (League of Legends) to promote blood donation. Its creators, Ziggy Tabacznik, a former student of Johan Cruyff Academy, and Kevin Loos tell us about their success story
Creative marketing agency 2Basics, a specialist in the world of esports, will never forget 2018. For a Dutch company founded in 2004 with the firm purpose of creating an impact on society through sport, being chosen to develop a nationwide blood donation campaign was not only unprecedented, but also the recognition of more than 15 years focused on social causes and the start of a really promising future. It all started in the Netherlands, commissioned by the Sanquin blood bank, and led to the attention of other countries, including the United States, who wanted to replicate the model. Ziggy Tabacznik, alumnus of Johan Cruyff Academy and co-founder of 2Basics, and Kevin Loos, client lead at The Invaders, 2Basics’ creative gaming agency, tell us all about the making of an esports campaign aimed at blood donation and specifically targeted at the gaming community.
Ziggy Tabacznik combined his career as a professional judoka with his sport marketing degree at Johan Cruyff Academy, where he graduated in 2004. He is co-founder of 2Basics, a marketing agency that specializes in the world of esports. “We founded the company in 2004, right around the time I graduated, and over the past 17 years we have focused more and more on creating social impact,” explains Ziggy. “Eight years ago, we started our journey into the world of esports. At that time, Asia was a powerhouse, but in Europe it was very new, only a few isolated events were organized. We were pioneers in organizing a League of Legends university competition, we learned a lot about esports, we met a lot of people and we started to investigate until we realized that esports is not just a channel. It is segmented by games and very diverse target groups, people with different motivations and connected to social causes such as health or the environment. This opened up a world of possibilities for us.”
Kevin Loos is the client lead at The Invaders, 2Basics’s creative agency in esports and gaming. Since 2015, The Invaders has been working with more than 25 brands, both in the Netherlands and abroad. Kevin is the mind behind the development of concepts and strategy for marketing campaigns.
Sanquin approached 2Basics with a very clear objective: to raise awareness among young people about the importance of blood donation and to find the best vehicle to reach them. In 2018, the Dutch blood bank had 321,000 donors in its database, 72% of whom were women with an average age of 43. “Traditionally, platforms such as Instagram or Facebook have been used to attract the attention of young people, but we were clear from the start: esports was the channel and the gamer community was the perfect target for Sanquin,” says Kevin.
“Traditionally, platforms such as Instagram or Facebook have been used to attract the attention of young people, but we were clear from the start: esports was the channel and the gamer community was the perfect target for Sanquin”
2Basics started the research and the results proved them right: the League of Legends gaming community in the Netherlands has now reached 300,000–400,000 gamers, of whom 70% are male between 18 and 35 years old, and they are very involved in social causes. “These results had nothing to do with Sanquin’s donor profile and were exactly what we were looking for. We chose League of Legends because, of all the gaming communities we analyzed, it is the one with the most educated gamers and the most involved in social causes.”
“We chose League of Legends because, of all the gaming communities we analyzed, it is the one with the most educated gamers and the most involved in social causes”
In the creative process, all the connections started to come together. “In League of Legends you can score a ‘first blood’; it’s like the first goal in a football match. So, we thought why not push the boundaries and not just get the ‘first blood’ in-game, but donate blood in real life and save lives,” explains Kevin.
They approached Riot Games, the developer and publisher of League of Legends, to make Sanquin an official partner of the League of Legends European Championships. “It’s not just the Champions League of esports where the best teams in Europe compete for the title, but a competition followed by millions of people around the world. During the campaign, when the first player got their ‘first blood’, a Sanquin banner appeared with the slogan ‘A first blood could save lives’, inviting players and spectators to go to a center to donate blood.”
“During the campaign, when the first player got their ‘first blood’, a Sanquin banner appeared with the slogan ‘A first blood could save lives’, inviting players and spectators to go to a center to donate blood”
For the pre-competition awareness-raising advertising campaign, they had the collaboration of Sjokz, influencer and presenter of the League of Legends European Championships. This action put Sanquin on the map of the gamer community. “She was the one who launched the campaign and it was a huge success. The whole gamer community in the Netherlands really noticed Sanquin as a League of Legends partner. During the competition, all players who signed up for ‘#myfirstblood’, received a code redeemable for a skin of the game. It was very exciting because Riot Games had never done such an action with a partner before.”
An estimated 7,400 new donors from the League of Legends community were the result of the activation in the Netherlands
After the first match, 300 new donors came to a center to donate blood and the media picked up on it. Being on prime-time news caused the effect to multiply, with new donors all over the country. They received international media attention, the international gaming community started talking about the campaign, and an estimated 7,400 new donors from the League of Legends community were the result of the activation, with more than 21 million impressions in the Dutch media (108 times more than the total exposure Sanquin gets on World Blood Donor Day). The 2Basics marketing campaign won seven different awards, and the success spread like wildfire. Other blood donation centers were interested in replicating the model in their country.
And one day, on the other end of the phone, it was Blood Centers of America (BCA), calling from its New York branch, who asked for help with exactly the same challenge as Sanquin in the Netherlands: to reach out to young donors between 18 and 35 years old to secure future donations.
More than 50% of blood donation in the United States comes from Blood Centers of America, a national organization comprised of more than 50 independent centers that meet the needs of communities of all sizes. Fascinated by the success of Sanquin Blood Bank’s #myfirstblood campaign, they turned to 2Basics to design a specific campaign for the USA.
Fascinated by the success of Sanquin Blood Bank’s #myfirstblood campaign, Blood Centers of America turned to 2Basics to design a specific campaign for the USA
The American challenge
The activation of the campaign had to be different as both the logistics and the gamer community were much more developed in the US. “In the Netherlands, you can only donate blood by going to a blood bank, whereas in the United States they have a network of hundreds of buses accessible to citizens and the gamer community at your fingertips is much larger because esports is more established as an industry. We had this in mind when activating the Blood Centers of America campaign, encouraging young people was much easier than in Europe, but it was fascinating for a Dutch company like ours to be able to develop a nationwide campaign in a country like the US,” says Kevin.
It was necessary to think about how to get results for Blood Centers of America and 2Basics hit the nail on the head again: two years (2019 and 2020) of sponsorship of Team Liquid, the largest professional esports team in the United States through the ‘Heal for real’ campaign, and official sponsor of the League Championship Series, the largest esports league in the United States, in 2021.
Steve Arhancet, co-owner of Team Liquid, was the face of the campaign on this occasion, encouraging his fans and esports fans to join the BCA cause. “Steve announced the partnership with BCA with a specific appeal: a free Team Liquid limited edition T-shirt for everyone who went to donate blood at a BCA center on June 14, World Blood Donor Day.”
The owner of Team Liquid announced the partnership with BCA with a specific appeal: a free Team Liquid limited edition T-shirt for everyone who went to donate blood at a BCA center on June 14, World Blood Donor Day”
In parallel, the 2Basics team organized other activities, such as branding buses with the image of the campaign to approach university centers to receive donations or changing the characteristic blue Team Liquid kit for the red of the campaign in one of the tournaments.
“You have different targets in esports and in the US you can impact very diverse communities through Team Liquid because as a brand they have different professional teams. This union gave us the possibility to carry out activations throughout the year, not just at a specific event. Also, due to Covid, there was a great need for plasma in 2021 and the campaign was a success. Riot Games, in a big TV production for Twitch and YouTube, opened their League of Legends series with more emphasis on the donation than the series itself. It wasn’t just about putting the BCA logo on all the games, but more importantly about explaining the collaboration between the two brands for a good cause and providing the url of our streaming campaign. It was great that Riot Games helped us to spread the word as much as possible, and we were joined by the championship analysts of the League Championship Series. The brands felt that this partnership was not about getting their name out there in the esports environment and making business out of it, but really about raising awareness together with young people and increasing the number of donors in specific countries.”
“Due to Covid, there was a great need for plasma in 2021 and the campaign was a success. Riot Games, in a big TV production for Twitch and YouTube, opened their League of Legends series with more emphasis on the donation than the series itself”
The adventure for 2Basics is not over yet. They are already excitedly preparing the next chapter of their fruitful relationship with BCA for 2022. They couldn’t give away any spoilers in the webinar we did with them. We’ll have to wait for more details, but would anyone dare to bet a skin against the success of their next move? Surely not.
Here is the recording of the webinar in which Ziggy Tabacznik and Kevin Loos explained their campaigns.