For years, Honda has been a surprisingly major presence in the world of esports. The company was once the “exclusive automotive sponsor” of the League of Legends Championship Series, and remains the title sponsor of Team Liquid — one of the series’ most competitive teams. But while slapping a brand on athletes of the highest level might grant you entrance to a younger buyer’s evoked set, it isn’t always enough to make them enthusiastic about your product.
To make that leap, Honda is going straight for the entry level. The automaker has set up a series of open tournaments, across multiple games, to try and build its brand with a younger demographic. But the tournaments, and their prizes, don’t seem to speak to the car enthusiast crowd — Honda is targeting gamers, and gamers only.
Honda’s tournaments will run in three Xbox Game Pass games: NHL 22, Forza Horizon 5, and Tetris Effect. The Forza tie-in is natural, with a car brand running race tournaments in a car video game. NHL 22, while not as natural, at least captures the coveted sports gamer audience. Tetris Effect seems like the odd one of the bunch — but, as a game beloved by non-automotive gaming audiences, it can capture a market that would otherwise be wholly unrelated to the Big H.
Choosing Game Pass games makes sense for Honda, as it lowers the barrier to entry for new participants — the games are free, why not sign up? The prizes, despite not reaching the car-giveaway levels of Ford, are likely to appeal to a more gaming-centric audience: Honda is offering up an Xbox-themed minifridge and Civic Type R-styled controllers for top finishers.
For a pure enthusiast play, this effort from Honda would make little sense. It’s not offering anything that true Car Folks particularly want, and it lacks the automotive focus that draws many a driver to gaming. But for a company looking to promote its commuter cars broadly to younger consumers, it’s a shrewd effort — pairing the highest levels of esports with smaller, more accessible activations.