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Digital Future Trends Governance Sport Business | 4.10.17

4 Things We Learned at Esports Live

Trolls, outsiders, diversification and more.

Day two of Leaders Week saw two more sector-specific forums run back-to-back. The second, Esports Live, sought to get inside the emergent competitive gaming sector, revealing the opportunities and the obstacles for a broader sports industry audience. With the help of Leaders’ man on the ground Jeffrey Liang, we bring you some of the standout insights.

1. Levelling-up in sponsorship

What do you call it when 1+1+1 = 5?  If you answered with “synergy,” then business schools around the world are feeling proud.  Akshay Khanna, VP of Strategy at the Philadelphia 76ers, revealed one of his critical learnings from observing his organisation sell to sponsors across a variety of sports properties. Every esports title offers access to a different gaming audience, so expanding an esports team to compete across multiple titles offers brands a critical mass of “coverage” in the world of esports. The key to unlocking the next level of sponsorship may very well be in diversification. Jordi Roig, Chief Commercial Officer of the Astralis team, added that a second key pillar to growth will be further professionalisation of the teams. They’ll advance, he said, when they begin to learn how to talk data as well as industry speak. Here, again, business schools around the world are feeling proud.

2. Trolls will be trolls

Hewlett Packard’s Consumer Marketing Lead Yvonne Hobden reminded us to always speak authentically – lest the trolls on Twitch roast your brand alive. She shared how HP learned this lesson the hard way, by originally “putting too much product” in one of their campaigns. Today she advises brands looking to advertise in the space to design a campaign that also authentically pushes the esports agenda forward. Nicolai Sonderby Knudsen, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft, added his own nugget of insight: esports has value to brands beyond just reaching the hardcore gaming audience. Just look at Microsoft, who adeptly built a content piece around a family that bonded over esports, a message which resonated tremendously among mothers who yearn for a better understanding of “what their child is up to when he’s locked up in his room gaming.”  That’s the power of esports to unite!

3. Get the picture

Introducing someone to esports for the first time can be an uphill battle.  One of the most common questions outsiders ask is, “who would ever watch this stuff?”  Brendan Donohue, Managing Director of the new NBA 2K League, has a thought-provoking response to this question. Rewind ten years, he says, and who would have imagined that popular mainstream television in the coming decade would revolve around watching a regular couple browsing around a flea market or searching for their next rental property to flip?  Turns out expertise is a key ingredient to the types of content audiences find appealing. Esports is a goldmine for this kind of entertainment, with an added layer of competitiveness sprinkled on top to boot.

4. Whose responsibility is it anyway?

With an industry growing as fast as esports has, it’s important to ensure the proper governance and oversight is put in place. Major issues on the table for esports include PED’s, match-fixing, unpaid salaries, and publicised player misconduct. What’s the best solution?  The speakers from our fourth panel session all agreed – success in esports governance can only arise from a collaborative effort by publishers, leagues, tournaments, teams, and players collectively. Getting there will of course be rocky, but the talk, at least, is being talked.

Leaders Week New York

20 - 23 May 2019


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