When Los Angeles gaming and lifestyle groundbreaker 100 Thieves announced a major deal with electronics giant JBL last week, the self-congratulatory back-slapping was predictable.
In case you missed it, JBL was revealed as the official gaming headset partner of 100 Thieves. That means JBL’s QuantumSOUND Signature line will be front and centre, on the heads of all associates and all-stars at the 100 Thieves Cash App Compound, as well as during televised eSports championship competitions in Call of Duty, League of Legends, and Fortnite.
From 100 Thieves founder and certifiable eSports legend Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag came gushing praise about the cutting-edge brilliance of JBL.
“At 100 Thieves, we all know how important audio is when it comes to wins,” Haag said in a joint press release. “Our teams thrive when equipped with the best gear, and JBL’s groundbreaking noise technology helps put us on the path to victory with every play.”
From JBL were glowing words about the formidable stature of 100 Thieves, which has established itself as an eSports juggernaut that’s taking gaming culture to a new level.
“Our partnership with 100 Thieves highlights our drive and commitment to launching the world’s best lineup of gaming headsets and speakers to date,” said Ralph Santana, chief marketing officer at JBL’s parent company, HARMAN. “These are some of the top competitive gamers in the industry, so we are proud to offer the JBL Quantum Range to help them reach countless more victories.”
But buried in the release was something interesting about 100 Thieves and the way it approaches promoting its brand. It was this: “The 100 Thieves player jerseys featuring JBL Quantum will be available to fans via a sweepstakes on JBL’s social media later this spring.”
Stop and think about that. “Sweepstakes” is another way of saying there will be a limited amount of special jerseys to celebrate the partnership—once they’re gone, they’re gone. That means an army of hopefuls on the outside looking in at a lucky few with instant collectors’ items.
And if that sounds familiar, then you’ve probably been frustrated in the past while trying to get in on the 100 Thieves merch game.
The upstart company has put a new spin on the old show-biz adage about always leaving the audience wanting more. There’s plenty of demand for 100 Thieves clothing and paraphernalia, and a craftily limited supply. Yes, culture-shifting disruption comes on many fronts.
For the past half-century merchandising was a pretty straightforward game.
At some point marketers realized that humans not only make pretty great walking billboards, but that they’ll pay to help increase brand awareness of their favourite businesses.
Think of that time you happily ponied up for that vintage-design Pabst Blue Ribbon baseball cap that you wear everywhere, including to Sunday-morning church. Playboy went from something your dad hid in his sock drawer to a pop-culture behemoth when its iconic bunny was licensed for everything from hoodies to G-strings.
Every time you pull on a Vancouver Canucks or Vancouver Titans jersey, you’re providing free advertising. And because that marketing is free, businesses normally make sure their merch stores are fully stocked and never closed.
What makes 100 Thieves so fascinating is its torpedoing of that traditional business model.
A few weeks back, the Los Angeles–based empire released an alternate jersey for 2020, with all proceeds going to COVID-19 relief. The drop had something in common with the previous ones for the 100 Thieves home-and-away jerseys for this season: seconds after being made available at 100thieves.com they were snapped up and sold out.
Presumably, that means the shelves at the recently opened 100 Thieves Cash App Compound store in Culver City, California, are currently emptier than the toilet paper aisle at Costco. Which likely hasn’t stopped you from dreaming of a pilgrimage to the 100 Thieves Cash App Compound to make sure.
For a while, there was a digital Web trace suggesting that such highly coveted jerseys existed. Initially, all three were marked as “sold out” on 100thieves.com.
Today, they’ve all been scrubbed from the site.
Try and click through 100 Thieves’ alternate jersey link on Google and you get a “404 PAGE NOT FOUND”. Use 100thieves.com/products as a springboard, and all that leads to is a series of past collections that click through to blank pages. Which explains the hyper-inflated prices for past 100 Thieves merch on secondary-seller sites like eBay.
If you’re screwed trying to get past offerings from 100 Thieves, there is a way to get in on the action moving forward.
100 Thieves suggests you get the drop on its drops by signing up for its newsletter, as well as checking Twitter and Instagram every 19 seconds, where future releases will be announced.
As a strategy, it’s nothing less than brilliant. Want to boost engagement? Give folks something to religiously watch for on multiple platforms.
Since its founding in 2017, 100 Thieves has been about a lifestyle as much as gaming.
The biggest perk of landing with the organization as a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or League of Legends player is that you get the keys to the 100 Thieves Cash App Compound.
Imagine spending your days in the streaming or training rooms with Drake (a company co-owner), flexing your creative muscles in the podcast studio, or coming up with here-today-gone-tomorrow jerseys in the apparel-design wing.
As a holy destination for gamers, the 100 Thieves Cash App Compound has the same mysterious pull that the Vatican does for Catholics.
And sadly, the reality is that you’ll probably never get beyond the storefront. But at least that storefront might have a sweatshirt that makes you feel like you’re part of a dream lifestyle every time you pull it on.
Exclusive? For sure, but the funny thing about exclusive clubs is that they make people obsessed with joining them.
The brilliance of 100 Thieves is that only a lucky few get to own pieces of the lifestyle it’s selling—and only if they put in an above-and-beyond effort.
Good luck getting that 100 Thieves/JBL sweepstakes jersey. You’re going to need it.