Christian Sørensen – North – On the rise

Christian Sørensen, North

The esports organisation North was formed little over one year ago. A joint creation from one of Denmark’s most successful football teams, FC Copenhagen, and entertainment company Nordisk Films, it entered esports in late January 2017. 

Going forward, the organisation has its sights set on a lot more than just CS:GO, the title in which it currently maintains a roster. We spoke to North CEO Christian Sørensen about his transition from the world of football, the plans for North, the GG.Bet sponsorship, and more.

Sørensen is speaking at our own ESI Super Forum at Stamford Bridge in London on March 22nd. The one day conference will feature 30 speakers across six panels and one round table, as well as an exhibition area, a tournament, and an official after party. You can find out more about the event, focused on the crossover of traditional sports and esports, by clicking here

Esports Insider: How was your personal transition from FC Copenhagen, one of Denmark’s top football clubs, to leading the charge for newly created CS:GO team North?

Christian Sørensen: To be quite honest, it has been something of an undertaking. I knew that esports was still a young industry, but I thought that it was more akin to football in its professionalism and structure. I do however feel that my background in football and business, has given me an outlook, which serves North, as an esports organisation, very well. I bring with me a core philosophy of putting professionalism first, every single day, and we have created a company culture where that is prevalent.

The football business is more about highs and lows over the course of a year, whereas in esports, we can swing back and forth between success and fiasco, several times over a single month. So on a personal and emotional level I have had to get used to that. For example I cannot sit still when we play official games, I am simply too nervous.

ESI: At launch, the release noted that the aim was for North to become a ‘leading multigaming organisation’. North is now around one year old. Are there plans for the org to enter other titles in the near future and how are these decisions made?

Christian: Over the last year we have been in serious conversations with title winning lineups in other games, but due to various reasons it never worked out. We are constantly evaluating the esports market, but right now there is a huge gap between the cost of entry and the return on investment in most games. In addition to that, it is important for us to be able to contribute to games, communities and teams in a meaningful way.

“When the time is right, I will not hesitate going multigame, but it has to be right, regarding both time and potential ROI”

We believe that creating the best possible support-structure for our CS:GO teams, will help us do the same for teams from additional titles. When the time is right, I will not hesitate going multigame, but it has to be right, regarding both time and potential ROI.

ESI: North recently unveiled a new major sponsorship deal with GG.Bet, which’ll see the team compete as North GG.Bet at ‘all applicable tournaments’. This re-naming is something that would never be accepted by most fans in the world of football for instance, were you concerned about its reception by your current fans and CS:GO fans more widely?

Christian: I want to make one thing clear: We are not renaming the team.

“As digital advertising space in game gets better for the teams, we will have better ways to display our sponsors, but as of right now I believe that our fans understand the move”

The team’s name in game will reflect our main sponsorship, and in my eyes that does not differ, much from teams playing football at Emirates or Allianz Arena. In addition to that, this form of sponsorship is as old as Counter-Strike itself. Currently we have Virtus.Pro and Natus Vincere using a title sponsorship, and Ninjas in Pyjamas are utilising their player names for sponsors without anyone creating a fuss. As digital advertising space in game gets better for the teams, we will have better ways to display our sponsors, but as of right now I believe that our fans understand the move.

ESI: How important is it for the growth of the ecosystem and for team funding in particular that regulated gambling operators become more accepted in esports at large? Moreover, how important are activations such as GG.Bet’s and the forthcoming docu-series following North, and Betway’s ongoing content creation with NiP?

Christian: The activations that Betway, and especially GG.Bet commit to, is a core part of creating value in our community.

The investment that GG.Bet is making in our team and organisation enable us to go all-in on following the team and creating a top tier product. One of the areas where esports continues to blow my mind is the content. It rivals the best that is made in the footballing world, even by the rights-holders, and all of it is free. That is only possible due to sponsors that genuinely care about the community, because without their funding it would not make sense for teams to invest so heavily in it. With that in mind, we are more than open to take this content creation outside the esports community and non-endemic brands in making their way into esports. The possibilities are endless.

“My primary goal is to give some context to how a football club can benefit from creating and running an esports team”

ESI: Why did you decide to speak at our Esports Insider Super Forum at Stamford Bridge in March, and what can attendees expect to hear about?

Christian: My primary goal is to give some context to how a football club can benefit from creating and running an esports team. I believe that there are many crossover effects, both amongst the audience and the business.

The attendees should expect to hear about why the esports audience is so important, what the biggest pitfalls are when entering esports and how we created a top 10 team in the world within 1½ years.

ESI: North recently signed a partnership with the talent agency Orlando John. What do they bring to the table for the org?

Christian: Part of North’s approach to esports is that we run a very lean organisation.

“We are currently looking for a fitness nutrition partner right now; because we believe that, the right food and nutrients are as important for an esports athlete as their in game practice”

We hire as we go, both long and short term, to suit the needs of the business. The partnership with Orlando John helps us approach potential partners on a broader scale than we could on our own. We see them not so much as an agency, but as partners and consultants that we can use, when we want to approach brands.

ESI: North now have three principle partners, in Twitch, SteelSeries and GG.Bet. What other type of partners are you on the lookout for, and what is the 2018 business roadmap looking like for the team?

Christian: Our philosophy is that partnerships with North has to make sense for both parties. That means we want all of our partners to feel that they contribute to the success of North. For instance, we are currently looking for a fitness nutrition partner right now; because we believe that, the right food and nutrients are as important for an esports athlete as their in game practice.

Our 2018 roadmap is about consolidating our presence and building on the platform that we established during our first year. We want to grow the organisation and the business in 2018 and we cannot wait to show you all the cool things we have in the pipeline. North is on the rise.