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Product launches are going virtual in these pandemic times. So, when it came time for Honda to debut the prototype of its new 11th generation Honda Civic, the brand went all-in with digital on Twitch—a destination where younger, first-time car buyers spend a lot of their time.
Converging its esports strategy and music platform for the first time, Honda launched the new model exclusively on its branded Twitch gaming channel, Head2Head, which has been in existence since 2018. The brand dropped the prototype live on Tuesday, Nov. 17, in a special edition episode that included a live performance from Grammy-nominated rapper Cordae and a Fortnite competition between four top-ranked players and four Twitch streamers. The brand also used Twitter and Reddit to amplify the launch by directly those gaming communities to Twitch.
Launching the new model on Twitch for gamers was a way to connect with the Millennial and Gen Z viewers on the platform and to provide something exclusive just for them, according to Phil Hruska, Manager of Media Strategy for American Honda. “We want to make sure that we show up in an authentic way and give something to the fans,” Hruska says. “We worked hard to create contextually relevant spots. We feature esports talent and different esports personalities, and this helps to add value for the fans when they see us using the actual IP and the athletes in our commercials.”
The brand also threw in some Easter eggs that only gamers would recognize. “As a non-endemic, we feel like we have to work harder to create this connection, and we just don’t want to throw a logo on it and call it a day,” Hruska says. “Gaming fans are not going to appreciate that.”
Twitch’s average daily visitors have reached 17.5 million, and—most importantly—67 percent of Twitch viewers are under the age of 35. That’s the Civic’s core audience: younger, first-time, multicultural buyers. To reach these younger viewers, Honda has taken a three-pronged approach. Over the course of its esports involvement the brand has partnered with a team (Team Liquid), a league (Riot Games’ League of Legends Championship Series) and media amplification partners such as Twitch, Reddit and Twitter. “That is where a non-endemic partner like us can have conversations with the fans and talk about all the things that we’re providing. That becomes really important,” Hruska says.
The launch also represents the first time that Honda has integrated music and gaming. Its music platform, Honda Stages, has targeted younger car buyers through music for two decades, beginning with the Civic Tour in 2001. It also has a documentary series, Honda Backstage, which features aspects of artists’ careers and lives.
Honda sees further integration of the two platforms in the future. “We see them melding together. Twitch is making a big move in the music space by having more and more artists do things on their platform. They’re trying to grow their music audience. For us, that’s a real opportunity because we have this equity in music and we’ve been building this equity in gaming. It’s just a natural fit.”