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Five months into the mandatory global shutdown caused by COVID-19, Team Liquid launched an innovative tech platform, Liquid+. The revolutionary platform provides a brand new way for fans to engage with their favorite pros and personalities, and they get rewarded for doing so. Think of Twitch’s Channel Points system, but with much more interactive and meaningful prizes.
Tangibly, the platform looks and feels like a mix between social media, your very own wiki profile and a Starbucks rewards membership. Except, instead of getting free coffee with every 14th latte purchase, you get to do exclusive activities with Team Liquid, and it’s all free.
Liquid+ rewards fans for interacting with any Liquid property. If you tweet at Team Liquid, if you watch any TL streams, if you watch their games or content online or interact in nearly any way, you receive points that are exchangeable for a variety of prizes.
“We call it our virtual space,” Liquid+ project manager Katie Cohen said. “Liquid+ is the place where our fans go to feel at home. It’s where they’re able to connect to other fans and find new games [that TL competes in]. It’s where they’re rewarded for their fandom.”
Team Liquid launched a limited Liquid+ beta in August, 2020 with a few months-long testing period before their full launch last January.
During the beta, they tested out the technology and got the platform ready for the eventual storm of fans who would join post-launch. The beta served as an introduction to the many ways fans could engage with their favorite players and personalities and the rewards they could receive.
Unfortunately for Team Liquid, however, COVID presented a severe issue for their planned “experiences,” the premier reward offered to the most committed of Liquid’s fans.
“Experiences are the real meat and potatoes,” CEO and co-founder of Team Liquid, Steve Arhancet, said. “They’re what you would redeem points for to get a memory with your favorite player or team.”
Since it’s tough to have a pizza party with Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma in a COVID-stricken world, they diversified their experience offerings.
Instead of gathering fans in a conference room for a Liquid+ exclusive smash tournament, over the past eighteen months, fans were able to play games online with their favorite TL streamers, get cameos in Team Liquid published content and more.
One fan even got Steve to record a spoof video firing his favorite streamer, Thomas “72 Hours” Mulligan, who watched it live on stream.
Regardless of the lack of the ideal experience, Liquid+ had a wildly successful beta period in the second half of 2020.
“84% of users said Liquid+ made them a bigger TL fan,” Liquid Vice President of Fan Engagement Bo Kryne said, referencing a Liquid+ end-of-year survey.
That satisfaction rating pushed their signups through the roof. Just one month after its official launch, there were more than 20,000 users on the platform, an ever-increasing number with nearly 10,000 signups per month.
One more trip around the sun later and, by its one-year anniversary on Jan. 20, Liquid+ has continued to grow and provide a wealth of information to the esports giant. And they’ve repurposed their original meat and potatoes into a stew of more accessible rewards for TL superfans.
TL started putting Liquid+ superfans’ names on the backs of their player jerseys last summer. At the end of the year, they even hosted The Assembly, a fireside chat program where Team Liquid executives spoke directly with Liquid+ members.
“We never really want to be focusing on programming that’s in person; it excludes people,” Cohen said. “We always want all of the cool things we do to be accessible to as many people as possible.”
Cohen went on to say the restrictions put on their Fan Engagement team due to COVID helped to bolster the platform’s offerings in the end and stay true to its original intentions: to connect with as many of their fans as possible.
A wealth of Data
With all of these users came a lot of data. All of a sudden, Liquid knew who all of their fans were in great detail.
They know their time zones, their gender, their social interaction venn diagrams, the time they’re most online, the times when they have low engagement, their favorite media platform and much more. Not only that, but Liquid+ includes survey data to help the Fan Engagement team better fit their product to their fans’ needs.
TL wants and needs to “use data to empower more customized experiences for our fans,” Steve explained. And while most companies in 2022 are trying to streamline user experience, Liquid+ is doing the opposite.
“We want you to write a paragraph about why you’re a fan of Team Liquid,” Steve explained, referencing the Liquid+ sign up process. “The percentage of people that do that, that don’t just click through, it’s so high, it’s crazy. They sit there for like 30 minutes and write a whole story.”
Not only have TL acquired many users, but they’ve also acquired engaged users, which is key in the current instant gratification climate of today’s digital world.
What does this mean for the brand
The LCS community makes its jokes about 100 Thieves being an apparel company, but when asked a similar question about what Liquid+ makes Team Liquid, Steve didn’t actually call his organization an esports company.
“I want to be in the experience business,” he said. “Eventually, Team Liquid will be the digital Disneyland.”
Steve also removed himself and Team Liquid from other teams by calling out their marketing strategies and overall business ventures.
“The representation of [other esports orgs] is primarily through their players,” Steve said. “We want Team Liquid’s brand to be experiences, memories, events and digital events.”
For Steve and for Liquid, their accomplishments are more than just the titles they’ve won and the titles they’re chasing.
“It’s not just having a player play in the LCS and repping Team Liquid as they play,” Steve said. “It’s about those people that watch [them play] and do something that we hosted and become part of our community.”
Steve also said he believes the very nature of esports is what allows TL to do this at all.
“[This type of platform] can almost only happen with gamers because we exhibit so much of our fandom through digital footprint,” Steve said.
However, upon further development, they also believe their platform could service other, similar industries as well.
“It’s a small leap to then adapt a little bit to also make it work for baseball, or basketball or what have you,” Kryne said, noting that they were open to white labeling the product in the future.
Regardless of other applications, for TL, this isn’t just some random fan service or half-hearted attempt to gain a few new followers — they said this is a long-term investment in their fans and in themselves. This platform is overtaking esports as the most important aspect of Team Liquid.
The Future of Liquid as an “experience business”
Team Liquid is well on their way to becoming an “experience business” one year after the official Liquid+ launch, but they’ve still got a lot left to do before Steve’s vision is fulfilled. But pioneering an entirely new product isn’t straightforward or easy.
“It’s a very new thing to have a loyalty program like this in esports,” Cohen said. “There’s literally no other team that’s doing it like this, where it’s not pay-to-win. If you’re a Dodgers fan, and you see that there’s a loyalty program, that makes sense. But there just isn’t that frame of reference for esports; it’s a whole different world.”
Despite the hurdles, the team accomplished a major milestone just before the end of their first year, announcing a four-year partnership with Coinbase and launching their mobile app last November, which helps them reach a wider audience and disseminate more information around everything Team Liquid.
Their next big milestone is launching the platform in Brazilian Portuguese, with hopes to have that fully supported by the end of Q2. TL has been ingrained in the Brazilian esports scene for many years, especially with their Rainbow Six team, and they’re hoping to use their platform to connect further.
“They are such an incredible fan base,” Cohen said. “They’re often a group of fans who can be excluded because of language barriers and location.”
They will also host a first-person shooter scouting combine to find potential esports pros to join their FPS teams. The entire event is set to be organized on Liquid+, with prospective pros able to participate in the combine exclusively through the platform. The program is so important to their future plans, TL is going to start recruiting through it.
Even when faced with a difficult choice about two potential futures for the company, Cohen didn’t hesitate to answer. When asked about whether it’d be better for their esports teams to do great while Liquid+ stagnates or vice-versa, she said it’d be better for TL if the platform boomed this year, not the teams.
“It’s like short term versus long term,” Cohen said. “The point of Liquid+ — and why we’ve invested so much into this — is that it’s about long-term fandom.”
She continued, explaining how their goal with Liquid+ is to build a “community that makes people stick around because they see how much Liquid cares.”
Otherwise, they’re just continuing to look for other ways to stay at the forefront of innovation among their peers, expand their user base and do big, exciting things.
For example, in 2022, Steve wants to hold “a handful of marquee events, or experiences, that generate significant heart share for the brand, and/or our players.”
He and the team are looking for the next big event, the thing that will top sending Blue, their stuffed horse mascot, to space at the Liquid+ launch event in January. They want to continue pushing the boundaries and make Team Liquid a place where fans feel close to everything going on at the organization.
League of Legends esports reporter and photographer for half a decade. Sometimes I try to touch grass.