Next up in our ‘Kings of the Merch’ series which looks at the merchandising and apparel opportunity in esports right now is Benoit Pagotto is the Head of Marketing at Fnatic.
Esports Insider: Benoit tell us how did you become Fnatic’s Head of Marketing, and what does your day to day look like?
Benoit Pagotto: I got in touch with Fnatic because I was interested in developing retail experiences with them. Being a huge gaming and esports geek, with past experience in retail experience and design for luxury and fashion brands, I thought that Fnatic, as brand, could be the one that was best placed to innovate in that space.
Working with Wouter [CEO] and Sam [Founder] for a time as a consultant, they then asked if I could join as Head of Marketing. I didn’t hesitate and now here I am!
“Honestly, it’s the best job in the world. It’s more than a job, it’s a dream we’re making happen everyday”
My day to day is pretty hectic, ranging from meetings with cool collaborators and explaining to them how they can use Fnatic as a platform for their talent, workshops with our players to help then develop their personal brand, defining a new apparel range, working with community members to develop virtual content… honestly it’s the best job in the world.
Our brand, teams and company culture are all amazing, and Fnatic is the best platform for me to leverage my skills and past experiences. We’re focused on creating the best for our brand, our fans and push the industry forward. It’s more than a job, it’s a dream we’re making happen everyday.
ESI: Do you think esports teams are better placed than any other type of sports team to capitalise on generating income and building a brand via merch?
Benoit: Esports teams, and especially Fnatic, are exceptionally well positioned to develop merchandise.
This is because we’re in a fan business, in one of the most exciting and probably game changing industries, in history.
Esports is all about the passion, the excitement, the pride of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Merch is a bit part of that; it’s naturally big at events but it’s important outside of them too.
“Esports teams, and especially Fnatic, are exceptionally well positioned to develop merchandise”
The huge advantage we have compared to traditional sports is the fact that what we create doesn’t have to be physical either; there’s a huge opportunity in virtual content for all of us, on top of the numerous traditional merch avenues.
We are constantly challenging ourselves on how we can create cool products, apparel and experiences for our fans that they’ll be proud to wear and use on a daily basis, whether that’s in real life or in-game.
We have some cool stuff coming in that regards…you’ll have to wait and see!
ESI: Fnatic are one of the world leaders in esports in terms of building a brand. How key a role does merchandise play in this and in your marketing role, how do you deliver the message?
Benoit: Merchandising is important in the sense that’s it’s one very concrete and direct way to connect with our fans, and put our brand out there, outside of the esports realms.
I’m very much involved in the apparel and product side of our business, coming from a fashion and luxury background. I’ve been working hard with the team to bring our merch quality and strategy to next level in the past year.
To deliver the message, we’re now working with our best ambassadors, our players, and now influencers, such as Mojo on PC [super cool guy] combining Fnatic and our players’ reach with new related audiences. Events are also a big channel for us, with our booths and on site activations, it’s the best place to meet with our fans and get their feedback.
We’ve started doing event exclusive merch to give something special to our hardcore fans following our teams around the world.
ESI: Fnatic have ample clothing ranges which move away from the only option being a team jersey…are you aiming to become a lifestyle brand? Are there certain designers you’d like to work with and are there any collaborations on the agenda?
Benoit: Becoming a lifestyle brand is something that’s happening to us organically, thanks to the power of our brand, our fans and the boom of the industry.
We’re very keen to collaborate with different actors and industries. From the collabs we’ve done so far, with Ferry Gouw for example, who is mostly known for his work with Major Lazer and Stussy, it’s been great!
“Becoming a lifestyle brand is something that’s happening to us organically”
There are a bunch of great artists and creators out there, who might not be coming from esports, but who are immediately hooked up when we reach out to them. They understand the passion and opportunities to work with us as a way to express their art with a super young and dynamic audience. We’re preparing new collabs with great guys, and I’ve been amazed by the feedback so far, simply by sending all these cool artists I love an instagram DM.
“We’re impatient to see the day they (Instagram) start to develop their own native ecommerce product offering”
The funny thing is that a few of them are actually Fnatic fans already, from CS 1.6 days no less! Stay tuned as that’s an area we’ve got a lot of cool stuff currently in the works.
ESI: What are your thoughts on using social channels to promote and sell Fnatic products? Is Instagram key, and will you be utilising the Facebook store option?
Benoit: Social channels are key for us, and honestly, they are for any brand in the world these days.
They all have their pros and cons, and we’re constantly testing and trying new approaches. Instagram is a channel we’re now putting more effort in, and we’re impatient to see the day they start to develop their own native ecommerce product offering.
ESI: You’ve a permanent Bunkr shop and venue space in Shoreditch. How much of your merchandise is sold via this outlet? What sells the best? And what’s the current status of opening up new Bunkrs elsewhere?
Benoit: The Bunkr was supposed to be a pop up shop, with a six week lifespan.
“We think of this Bunkr as space to discover and interact with esports and Fnatic, and for us to connect with our fans. We are looking into opening new ones in other countries.”
We’ve now had it for over 8 months but I wouldn’t call it permanent quite yet. We initiated it as a test, to see how we would do an esports concept store, and the response has been great. Its main purpose has never been to generate a high dollars spent per square foot, but it’s doing well.
Our best selling items are some of our lifestyle collections, bought both by esports fans and curious passers-by and tourists in Shoreditch. We think of this Bunkr as space to discover and interact with esports and Fnatic, and for us to connect with our fans.
Our offices are just behind the shop so it’s great for us to always stay connected to our customers and fans. We are looking into opening new ones in other countries, we just need to find the right opportunity and time to actually make it, as we’re all very busy!