Since their inception, esport organizations have been focused on building an exciting reputation and compelling brand. For a long time, the way this was achieved was attracting top talent and winning various events.
The world of esports is changing and evolving almost daily, it looks vastly different today than it did 10 years ago. Like in traditional sports, winning is still the number one method for any competitive organization to really establish itself. But the evolution of technology has drastically changed the esports landscape…and continues to.
Esports organizations can connect and engage with fans on social media in every corner of the world, esports competitions are streamed live on websites like Twitch, and the individual is more empowered than ever before. There was a time when the traditional sports model had its applicability in the world of esports – athletes needed a place to play, and organizations provided that platform – but that isn’t the case anymore.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at how esports organizations should be moving forward in the ever-changing esports landscape.
Don’t Use IP, Create IP
Historically, esports organizations have been centred around creating and fielding the best possible rosters for any given game or esport. By having their athletes compete in various tournaments, these organizations were able to raise their profile and build their brand. The problem esports organizations are having in today’s ecosystem, however, is that Game Developers are more inclined to hang on to and control the use of their IP more than ever before. On top of this, athletes and streamers have more tools at their disposal than they have ever had, including the ability to independently stream on Twitch, gain a following and create various revenue streams for themselves. As a result, athletes and streamers now have the ability to create their own IP.
Now, not every athlete or streamer will be able to profit off of their stream the way say, a person like Tfue could, but every athlete and streamer has the ability to create and generate monetary value for themselves from streaming. And, particularly since the Tfue lawsuit, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the relationship between streamers and athletes, their respective esports organization, and how these parties can mutually benefit from partnering with one another.
Streaming is however, a viable option for many esports athletes as a way of supplementing their income and creating a sustainable career. And, it is becoming more clear for esports organizations like FaZe Clan that taking a cut of a streamers revenue and limiting their sponsorship and revenue opportunities in order to push the organizational brand is not a sustainable business model. Streamers, like Tfue and Cloakzy, now have all the tools and platforms necessary to completely by-pass the platform that esports organizations have historically been able to provide.
Instead of these organizations trying to generate revenue from someone else’s IP (i.e. the Athlete), esports organizations should be focusing on creating and pushing their own IP.
These organizations need to be thinking about developing new verticals to add to their business model that are ‘independent’ of the revenue being generated from the streamers and athletes they have signed.
‘Engagement is the new currency of marketing…’
As an exciting, new form of entertainment, it’s well-documented that the esports industry has the eyes and ears of millennials and Generation Z’ers across the globe. It’s an audience that marketers and brands have the hardest time engaging and yet esports organizations hold their attention. With that in mind, esports organizations should be focusing on creating original content that their existing community can engage with and new fans can embrace. Instead of taking a portion of the revenue an athlete or streamer generates themselves, organizations can use these individuals as the subject matter of original content. Show fans the ‘behind the scenes’ of one of their teams ahead of a big match, or a ‘day in the life’ of a streamer or athlete. The possibilities are endless, all that’s needed is some creativity.
Team Liquid is often considered one of the world’s most pre-eminent esport organizations. Some of their recent moves exemplify the focus on engagement and originality that other esports organizations should be seeing, studying and trying to emulate.
Partnership with Marvel
At the end of June, Team Liquid partnered with Marvel to turn Team Liquid athletes into Avengers by rebranding their athletic jerseys. Now, all this partnership amounts to is another set of jerseys to be sold and additional merchandise revenue. Team Liquid is not creating a ‘new’ revenue stream so to speak but this partnership is a great example of an esports organization harnessing the platform it has created.
They used the power of their fanbase and brand to drive revenue through a partnership with a non-endemic esports brand that was looking to connect with the millennial/Generation Z audience in a unique way. It’s also a fantastic example how organizations can include athletes and streamers without limiting the individual sources of revenue they can generate independently.
Producing Original Content
In 2018, Team Liquid opened the doors to their Alienware-branded training facility. It’s a building where, among other things, Team Liquid’s athletes can connect, train, go over past performances, and prepare for future competitions. It’s also the location for 1UP Studios, Team Liquid’s in-house production company that focuses on creating original content that provides an inside look at how their teams compete, and the personality of their athletes. By creating the space, and focusing on original content, Team Liquid is setting themselves up to become a community engagement-focused organization, and create new revenue opportunities that do not involve the use of the Developer or athlete’s IP.
The Bottom Line
Creating original content can take a variety of forms – it doesn’t all have to be in the exact structure or framework as what Team Liquid has done. Again, to quote Ari Segal,
‘Something (Immortals Gaming Club) really like about esports as an industry is that there’s room for different success models.’
Esports organizations have a unique position within the esports landscape and a unique audience and fanbase and their focus ought to be building connection and engagement with that fanbase. But, regardless of how an esport organization goes about it, the fact remains that these organizations need to create their own IP rather than use someone else’s if they want to develop a truly sustainable business.
Esports has garnered an audience that every single company in the world is trying to attract and engage with. They are in a strategic position and have the ability to leverage that position and influence in ways that can set them up for continued and increasing success. The first step ought to be understanding the importance of creating their own IP instead of using someone else’s.
Thanks for reading my blog. The above content is not legal advice but observation about the vast esports field. If you have any questions or comments or would like to schedule me to speak at your event, head over to my website www.ecesports.gg