When Damian Estrada requested to make the transition from 1UP Studios to Staff Liquid’s artistic director for the 2019 aggressive esports season, he set particular targets for his new place. He described pitching these concepts to Staff Liquid founder, co-owner and co-CEO Victor “Nazgul” Goossens as nerve-wracking however hopeful. When Goossens was silent for many of Estrada’s pitch, Estrada’s hopes fell. “I assumed I used to be doomed,” he wrote within the weblog submit asserting his new place within the firm.
But Goossens was on board and gave Estrada the inexperienced mild to imagine the title of artistic director alongside making a unifying imaginative and prescient for Staff Liquid. Earlier than he took on the position, Staff Liquid’s branding diversified relying on esport. The League of Legends crew alone had already gone by means of a number of iterations, with the one unifying model idea the memetic “Paid for by Steve” phrase, referencing Staff Liquid co-owner and co-CEO Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet. Regardless of being a longtime model in content material, notably the Staff Liquid sequence of internet sites, and robust roots in Starcraft and Dota 2, the group lacked a transparent branding path.
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“The preliminary purpose with transitioning from artistic director of 1UP Studios to artistic director of Staff Liquid was to assist convey the model collectively,” Estrada stated. “We would have liked to construct a brand new division that centered on growing model continuity and a single visible path and aesthetic.”
Estrada’s imaginative and prescient for the place the Staff Liquid model and merchandise growth would go finally took him down the street of childhood nostalgia. Rising up watching the X-Males and Spider-Man animated sequence, Estrada was nonetheless an enormous comedian e-book fan by the point he began his esports profession.
“As I grew into my teenagers I hung out studying comics and taking part in the [trading card game] ‘Vs’ which extremely featured Marvel characters,” Estrada stated. “My fandom deepened when the primary [Marvel Cinematic Universe] movie ‘Iron Man’ was launched. I used to be already invested within the Marvel model, however seeing Robert Downey Jr. convey Tony Stark to life was unbelievable.”
Exterior of Staff Liquid, the Marvel prolonged universe was the one model to which Estrada paid shut consideration, consuming a wide range of content material from the comics and movies themselves to movie evaluation and narrative theories. When tasked with arising with the “craziest factor they might do for the subsequent yr” on the finish of 2018, Estrada instantly turned to Marvel.
“I spent most of that yr desirous about the best way to make us related to the comic-con viewers. I saved asking myself, ‘If I used to be not into esports in a deep manner, what would make me go all-in with a crew?’ Then the apparent hit me! We would have liked to construct a relationship with Marvel that was greater than an advert purchase or film evaluate,” Estrada stated. “So, we threw collectively some actually tough visuals and pitched it!”
The 2 largest duties forward for Estrada and his crew have been arising with one thing that Marvel would additionally wish to be part of, and marrying the 2 manufacturers in a manner that made narrative sense.
“We knew the extra clearly hero-inspired jerseys would seize consideration,” Staff Liquid productions and logistics supervisor Logan Leavitt stated. “If we win a event wanting like Captain America, for instance, it is nearly unattainable to not discuss in regards to the collaboration. On this manner the model mixture was Staff Liquid aggressive prowess with a Marvel paint job. The result’s our gamers turning into heroes in their very own proper.”
Estrada stated the earlier branding iterations of Staff Liquid have been extra buttoned-up and severe, which did not painting an attention-grabbing model or a constant imaginative and prescient outdoors of the truth that Staff Liquid owned skilled groups who took esports significantly. Any pitch to Marvel and eventual collaboration must be bolder, louder and say one thing about Staff Liquid general. As an alternative of wanting outward, he once more drew on his personal graphics abilities to design a number of mock jerseys round Staff Liquid and Quantum Realm, Captain America and Iron Man.
“Evidently, they appeared tremendous wonky,” Estrada stated. “There was no class when it got here to how items specified by the primary rounds. After 60-plus hours in Photoshop and three to 4 bodily samples, I unlocked part of my mind that understood what would and what wouldn’t look good on a human physique. We went with the Captain America jersey because the lead design.”
The jersey ideas went to Staff Liquid COO Mike Milanov, Arhancet, and Goossens. They have been then proven to aXiomatic CEO Bruce Stein, who helped get them in entrance of Marvel. The Liquid x Marvel collaboration was underway.
“Marvel could be very keen to simply accept pitches and ideas. The primary factor they have been occupied with was seeing our gamers as heroes on stage, lifting trophies — in movies,” Estrada stated. “The main target was on the gamers as a result of to some followers they’re larger-than-life heroes. It’s a part of what impressed the on-the-nose customized type path of the Yr 1 jerseys.”
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In the course of the journey from idea to the bodily launch of the primary assortment items, Estrada harassed that an important focus was guaranteeing that the 2 manufacturers made sense collectively. There are explanation why Captain America matches conceptually and Wolverine does not.
“Among the most flattering suggestions we acquired was that the collab ‘made sense,'” Leavitt added. “For lots of people their first response was to show their head, however after pondering for a bit they understood. This was the why that we pushed by means of our advertising and the best way we positioned the collab. It was all born of ardour and real fandom, so it felt nice when that clicked and we acquired reward.”
The fan response was instant and constructive. What shocked Estrada and his crew extra was how receptive gamers have been to the collaboration as effectively. By partnering with a beloved IP whose recognition transcended many boundaries, Staff Liquid had discovered one thing that excited its gamers greater than regular. Though Staff Liquid was identified for successful onstage, Leavitt remarked that the Marvel collaboration unified groups and gamers inside the group offstage.
“Let’s be trustworthy with ourselves. Most gamers solely care deeply in regards to the video games they’re taking part in professionally,” Estrada stated. “Shockingly, a lot of our gamers have been actually enthusiastic about our collaboration. One which stands out in my reminiscence was the CS:GO crew was surprisingly actually about it. [Jacky] “Stewie” [Yip] requested to be Spider-Man, [Russel] “Twistzz” [Van Dulken] talked about many instances that his favourite was Hawkeye and [Nicholas] “nitr0″ [Cannella] was very occupied with representing Captain America.”
As Staff Liquid continues to develop and evolve on- and offstage, the problem for Estrada, Leavitt and your complete merchandising and branding crew shall be persevering with this success and utilizing the suggestions they acquired for the remainder of 2020. Extra just lately, that meant a brand new Black Widow collaboration as a part of the Marvel x Staff Liquid branding. Estrada described it as a strategy to set expectations for future capsules and collections.