The first panel that kicked off the Betting on Esports Conference was on the topic of brand ambassadors.
The full title of the session was “Brand Ambassadors – How to find a good fit” and featured members from a range of companies involved in esports; Scott Burton from ESP, Viktor Wanli of Kinguin, Malph Minns of Strive Sponsorship and Adam Savinson from Win Technologies – Betway Group. The panel was moderated by Kirsty Endfield of Swipe Right PR.
A part of the wider Betting on Sports conference at the Kensington Olympia, the panel was followed up by a discussion on bringing regulation to esports gambling, and was one of six esports focused panels over two days.
The panel got straight into the nitty-gritty of who the fabled esport consumer is. Savinson dropped in key insight, stating: “There is no ‘esports consumer’. It’s much wider than that, with there being CS:GO consumers, DOTA consumers and so on. You need to know to cater for their own communities, with esports being different to how traditional sports are treated. They’re used to having dedicated news portals, unlike football fans who’d look on the BBC where it’s listed alongside basketball”. The panel agreed on this, then moved onto esports ambassadors and how they are different to those in traditional sports.
“There is no ‘esports consumer’. It’s much wider than that”
“There are some people we wouldn’t touch” inserted Burton. “You need to do research to determine who’s right for your brand before just jumping in based on follower numbers. I don’t see much difference between esports and traditional sports ambassadors though”. Wanli offered up a slight disagreement with the last point: “We look to see how we can work with their audience after a sponsorship, with constant community engagement”.
The panel shifted onto the growth of esports as a global phenomena and whether or not it’s better to sponsor a team or brand or go straight in with starting their own organisation. Minns, who worked with cycling’s Team Sky, added his thoughts: “With Team Sky, it was difficult to for some brands to understand how they might get cut through in a relationship with us, having a media owner and big brand like Sky also sponsoring the team.
“We worked hard to show how this could be done and how they would actually benefit from this relationship, not hinder their return on investment and we were keen for brands to be involved, not just for the sponsorship income, but for their related activations to help grow the media footprint and profile of the team – thus increasing value further.”
Wanli, whose company Kinguin runs their own team, said it was cheaper for them than sponsoring another team. “We see it better to run our own brand, as the community connect better that way” he added.
With sponsorship the topic up in the air, the panel segwayed over to how the relationship with publishers work. With the recent reminder of Riot Games’ dislike of gambling hanging over the panel, Burton stated it’s just a matter of time before attitudes change: “Ambassadors are interested in the money gambling can bring in. Personally, I’ve seen no issues with teams working with us. Soon we’ll see a point where the teams dictate what games are popular and then publishers will need to listen”. Wanli chimed in with his relationship with games publishers, adding: “By investing in the community we keep them happy and onside, which helps to relieve issues we have with the publishers, as they’re usually not happy with our marketplace.”
“Throwing money at esports is bad. You need to develop what works and what doesn’t”
The panel finished up discussing the risks of sponsoring esports affiliates and what companies coming into the space want to avoid. Savinson stated: “Throwing money at esports is bad. You need to develop what works and what doesn’t, and that includes working with communities to come in”.
Minns built on this point with his experience of cycling, where some brands entered the sport having not done their due diligence or having sought informed advice. “Lots of money came in to cycling after Team Sky’s success and the resultant growth of the sport in the UK, but a number of companies made poor sponsorship decisions on the basis of not understanding the sport and audience, not getting great advice and some rights holders not having the right experience in place to service them adequately. Their pull out came alongside a ‘Cycling doesn’t work’ tag when in fact a confluence of failures was to blame.
“Esports rights holders need to take time to properly understand non-endemics requirements and what success looks like, as well as have the team capable of delivering this, to ensure something similar doesn’t occur.”
Some questions from the audience followed before the session was brought to a close. The remaining panels at Betting on Esports focused on regulation, integrity, data and the opportunity in Las Vegas.