Bob Ruhland is VP of Marketing for Buffalo Wild Wings. The restaurant chain, which started life in Ohio in 1982 and now boasts over 1,200 locations in the States and abroad, signed its first esports partnership in October with Philadelphia 76ers backed Team Dignitas. The agreement will see branding on Dignitas streams and there’ll also be plenty of events held at Buffalo Wild Wing eateries.
We spoke to Bob Ruhland, VP of Marketing at Wild Wings to hear his thoughts on esports, their plans and why they got involved in the way that they did.
Esports Insider: What made Buffalo Wild Wings want to enter the esports space?
Bob Ruhland: Sports is our business, and we are always seeking new ways to celebrate competition in our restaurants. The size of the esports audience is growing exponentially, so as a marketer, you need to understand what motivates your audiences and provide them with unique experiences and opportunities to get them closer to their passions.
ESI: There’s already a huge culture around traditional sports with eating, drinking and socialising in this way but esports hasn’t quite made it in that regard – with most still watching at home. Do you see that changing in the future?
Bob: Through our previous engagements, we’ve learned that the community is actually looking for a more social and communal environment to enjoy esports.
“Through our partnership with Team Dignitas, we’ll create tailored programs for esports fans online, across social channels and in our restaurants”
We believe that Buffalo Wild Wings is uniquely positioned to create an environment where the esports community can gather, cheer and watch streams together.
ESI: Why did Team Dignitas make sense for Buffalo Wild Wings?
Bob: Buffalo Wild Wings and Team Dignitas are two iconic, internationally recognized brands that have a shared passion for supporting and encouraging fans’ passion for competition, which made this partnership a natural fit for both parties.
ESI: Was there a certain aspect which made you feel that esports was a good fit for Buffalo Wild Wings?
Bob: Our desire to provide unique experiences for fans of all sports was a driving force in our decision to enter into esports. Buffalo Wild Wings fans and esports fans alike are highly connected and always looking for ways to gather and enjoy their favorite games and teams. Through our partnership with Team Dignitas, we’ll create tailored programs for esports fans online, across social channels and in our restaurants.
“We watch all of the endemic and non-endemic brands supporting esports – I think we are all learning from each other”
ESI: How has the reception been from the community thus far?
Bob: We have seen positive results from our efforts in the esports space to date. We’ve learned that the esports community has an incredible passion for their favorite games, teams and tournaments, and they are looking for a place to watch streams together, which provides a great opportunity for Buffalo Wild Wings to fill that void.
ESI: Who do you look to in terms of brands entering esports well? We’ve seen Mercedes and Pringles come up with some cool plays at ESL One Hamburg for instance.
Bob: We watch all of the endemic and non-endemic brands supporting esports – I think we are all learning from each other. Our goal is to provide the most authentic and entertaining experience for our fans wherever they engage with our brand, whether that’s online, on social media or in our restaurants.
ESI: Do you think we’ll see competitors make similar moves in the near future? Is this potentially the first of many partnerships from Buffalo Wild Wings?
Bob: As esports continues to grow rapidly and more and more traditional sports ownership groups invest heavily in the space, I’d guess we’ll see the competitor set grow within the space as well. As for Buffalo Wild Wings, we’ll continue to evaluate opportunities within the esports category that can enhance the in-restaurant experience for our fans, while creating authentic engagements across channels including online and social.