Malph Minns – Strive Sponsorship – Betting on Esports

Malph Minns is the Managing Director of Strive Sponsorship a consultancy involved in traditional sports, music, film and (most importantly) esports. Minns has worked with esports clients as well as having prior experience working with clients within the gambling space. He will join the Betting on Esports panel focused on brand ambassadors, and finding the right fit in esports. 
He will be joined by Adam Savinson, Scott Burton and Viktor Wanli on a fantastic panel. The panel will be moderated by Kirsty Endfield of SwipeRightPR. 

ESI: Why did you decide to speak at Betting on Esports? 

Malph: In my world of sport and entertainment sponsorship, betting companies traditionally makes a substantial contribution to the overall market. In sport, especially football, the market is saturat
Malph Minns
Malph Minns, Strive Sponsorship
ed and so betting companies are looking at emerging passion points as a way to attract new customers and differentiate themselves from the crowd. Esports is one of those areas being looked at and with Strive’s background in traditional sports, mixed with our growing reputation in esports and experience of working with betting companies in the past, we’re well placed to add value to the day’s discussion and help advise them on how objectives may be achieved.
ESI: Yourself and Strive have been involved in sponsorship not only across esports but also in several other industries. What’s been the biggest difference you’ve seen with esports projects?
Malph: The biggest difference is the structure, ecosystem and instability of esports. By that I mean it’s currently extremely fragmented and cluttered, making it difficult to comprehend for those within the industry, let alone those looking to invest from outside. In addition player movement and teams being founded and folding is far more fluid. There is more order in traditional sport, and independent bodies that control things, a result of being more mature as a commercial entity.

“Growing publisher influence will increasingly have an impact on all areas of esports as its role continues to change from being seen as a customer retention strategy, to a new revenue stream.”

Having said that, we’re already starting to see (at the top level of esports) structure starting to formulate, both with the LCS and Overwatch Leagues.  Which brings me on to another major difference, the influence of games publishers through IP ownership. No one owns football like Riot own League of Legends and growing publisher influence will increasingly have an impact on all areas of esports as its role continues to change from being seen as a customer retention strategy, to a new revenue stream.
 
Whether it’s what competitions teams compete in, governance rulings, participation agreements, control of acceptable sponsors etc. This level of control and influence doesn’t exist elsewhere. Anyone can set up a football competition and commercialise it, they just have a competition/game rule set to follow. That’s not the case in esports, and the constraints non-publisher businesses will need to work under, and the costs of doing this, will only increase going forward, especially at the top level of esports. That’s why we’re starting to see people developing propositions at a national, rather than international, level – it’s cheaper.
 
ESI: The esports demographic is touted as elusive, difficult to target and very particular about how they treat non-endemics that enter the space. Do you agree with the “stereotype”? 
 
Malph: I think there’s a mix of truths there. Unequivocally the so-called millennial audience media consumption habits are different to those of older generations (as each new generations have been as technology advances), with ’traditional media’ being less prevalent in where they spend their time and digital ‘new media’ being far more important. The consequence of this is a fragmented audience that are hard to reach at scale through only a few media owners. However various sources of research does point to a heavy concentration of a certain element of the millennial audience being deeply engaged by esports, offering scale and a mechanism for brands to connect in a meaningful way. Where more research needs to be done is around the interests, attitudes and consumption habits of this audience by territory, game title and rights holder. To say ‘an esports demographic’ is too broad a term to use. A deeper level of insight is needed to be meaningful.

“Unequivocally the so-called millennial audience media consumption habits are different to those of older generations”

I do think there is somewhat of a misnomer around non-endemics being treated differently to endemic brands in esports, that is any different to how this relationship works in any other passion point (e.g. sport, music, film etc). A non-endemic brand always has to do more to help people understand as to why it is sponsoring something that may not be immediately obvious. Relevance and understanding do go hand in hand though, and so it is more imperative for a non-endemic brand than an endemic one (which might feature in the ‘field of play/competitive environment), to make clear what the value is it is bringing to the fan. But good sponsorship anywhere is about adding value to the fan experience, or solving a problem. This level of emotional connection is largely what distinguishes it from advertising, it’s a richer engagement.
 
What I see a lot in esports is people referring to advertising as sponsorship, therefore their understanding of the audience and how they consume (and what they expect from) sponsorship is fundamentally flawed. Advertising interrupts what you’re interested in to try and grab your attention, like an ad break whilst you’re watching a programme. Millennials don’t like ad breaks and want a seamless experience, they don’t like this interruption and hence the prevalence of ad blockers amongst this generation (thought to be even higher amongst esports enthusiasts). However sponsorship is part of the fabric of what you’re interested in, and done well it adds value to your experience of this and so resonates on an emotional level with a strong power to influence when done well.

“But good sponsorship anywhere is about adding value to the fan experience, or solving a problem. This level of emotional connection is largely what distinguishes it from advertising, it’s a richer engagement.”

ESI: How do you see the sponsorship space progressing in esports?
 
Malph: From a brand side we’ll start to see non-endemics entering the space and the cost of association will accelerate as a consequence. I also think the level of sophistication around sponsorship activation will advance and quickly be on par with that we see in sports, adding value to the fan experience. Although it’s progressing, most UK activations I’m aware of are still incredibly simple and praise has been heaped on them simply because there is a level of engagement beyond branding and/or because it’s from the rights holder that has sold them the partnership.
 
From a rights holder perspective, I’d expect the professionalisation of commercial and brand strategy to improve (e.g. knowing their own specific audience better, and the impact and perception their brand and interaction has on this audience), how they articulate the opportunity to non-endemic brands (I.e. Recognising they are selling access to an audience, and who that is – it not all being about reach), how they go to market and how they effectively manage partnerships to both influence, and evaluate, return on investment.

I’m never a fan of panels that won’t admit that they don’t know an answer to a question, or aren’t happy to given a reasoned opinion, and instead just share information”

I think we’ll also see people from outside the esports industry entering the space from an employment point of view as rights holder recognise that for some jobs, being an avid gamer is not the key criteria and that this knowledge can be learned to the level required (or at least provided for elsewhere in the business).
 
ESI: What can attendees look forward to hearing from you on the Brand Ambassadors panel at Betting on Esports? 
 
Malph: I’ll not be afraid to give an informed opinion. People may not agree with it, but that is the catalyst to great conversation and learning. I may not know the answers to some of the questions, but I’m happy to give a perspective. UK esports has passed through the stage of purely providing information and now needs a point of view and application of a point of view via through testing, to really make strides. I’m never a fan of panels that won’t admit that they don’t know an answer to a question, or aren’t happy to given a reasoned opinion, and instead just share information. So I’ll do my best to offer perspective which hopefully has value to the audience.

Betting on Esports 2017 is taking place at the Olympia in London over September 13-15. It’ll have six esports panels with over 25 speakers and a dedicated esports exhibition zone. It’s a part of #boscon2017 which’ll have over 1,000 delegates in attendance.

Find out more about it here