By this point in the Overwatch League season, every team has discovered its social media niche. The Dallas Fuel account is now moonlighting as a motivational support counselor, the Hangzhou Spark shares its anime-flavored artwork, and the Shanghai Dragons barely have time to post anything that isn’t Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun highlight reels.
The Vancouver Titans? They have breadsticks.
What started as an innocent partnership with Pizza Hut Canada has—accidentally—turned into one of the most riveting storylines of the 2021 Overwatch League season.
Breadstick origin story
Shortly after the 2021 season kicked off in April, the Titans announced a partnership with Pizza Hut Canada that included a delicious offering for its social media followers. If the team could get to a map five scenario against its rival, the Toronto Defiant, fans in the Great North would earn free breadsticks at Pizza Hut. Since gamers are obsessed with getting that bread, it was a genius if not obvious reward.
Vancouver quickly lost to the Defiant, so the offer was repeated for all of the Titans’ games during the May Melee tournament cycle. Most viewers, and likely the team’s marketing department, expected Vancouver to meet the all-important map five breadstick metric within a matter of weeks.
Unfortunately for carb fans everywhere, those fifth maps never came. The Titans roster, built from previously underperforming players and feisty-but-unproven rookies, took single maps from opponents for two weeks before getting swept repeatedly by some of the top teams in the league.
After eight straight losses, the Vancouver Titans’ Pizza Hut specialists gave fans the opportunity to earn breadsticks if the team’s support players could score one environmental kill. That’s not a lofty goal, especially on maps like Lijiang Tower or Nepal, but the benchmark was still too high to hit for the struggling roster.
Then the Overwatch League broadcast started getting wind of the breadstick saga. They labeled a match against the Paris Eternal the “Bread Bowl” and the league’s talent team began giving fans critical breadstick updates during games. With delicious carbs on the line, the Vancouver Titans reportedly ended up being the fifth most popular team by average viewers during the June Joust tournament cycle.
By June 26, as the Summer Showdown tournament cycle kicked off, the Titans had apparently given up on the pursuit of map five happiness. In its place came an even better idea: breadstick bingo.
If the Vancouver roster could fill three of the bingo card’s squares, full of difficult but achievable in-game milestones, Canada would finally be fed. Beyond the obvious draw of breadsticks being closer than ever before, the bingo card offered fans a concrete reason to tune in and pay attention, even if the games were sometimes difficult to watch due to the brutality of the Titans’ losses.
This phenomenon was in full view during Vancouver’s final match of the Summer Showdown against the Houston Outlaws. Despite the fact that the Titans weren’t expected to win—or even take a map—Overwatch League fans were glued to the screen.
During the game, casters Mitch “UberShouts” Leslie and Matt “Mr. X” Morello gave regular updates complete with on-screen graphics as Vancouver racked up bingo squares. One D.Va Call Mech kill and a series of melee final blows set the Titans up for not one, not two, but four possible ways to earn that bread.
Fans across the world, even those in America and beyond who had no chance to earn Canadian breadsticks whatsoever, were riveted by the game. Everyone seemed to be cheering for the Vancouver Titans. Not to win the match, of course, but to finally achieve the admirable goal of garlic-flavored victory.
Unfortunately for fans, the Vancouver Titans lost the match 0-3 to the Houston Outlaws and also failed to complete the almighty bingo card. While the Titans have dropped out of the Summer Showdown and most likely the league’s postseason, Vancouver’s management and social media teams accidentally created one of the most compelling storylines this year.
Casters, analysts, and fans can’t mention Vancouver without immediately bringing up the breadstick promotion. Sunday’s Overwatch League social media event highlight was dubbed the “Battle for the Breadsticks.” Above all else, the lure of delicious carbohydrates brought positive attention to a team that would otherwise be forever marred by the presence of three winless tournament cycles.
While the bread was originally for the fans, the attention looks to have at least slightly motivated the Vancouver roster as well. The match against the Houston Outlaws was the most alive the Titans looked in weeks; their proximity to toasted bread may or may not have been a part of that.
The presence of such a promotion, especially the addictive and crowd-pleasing experience of the bingo card, gave the team another way to win in the eyes of fans that was not tied to gameplay. Technically, the Vancouver Titans will likely write this season off as an unsuccessful one, but they’ve at least created one of the few fully-positive storylines in Overwatch League history.