HyperX, a division of Kingston Technology Company, has added NBA player Gordon Hayward to its roster of champion athletes. The Utah Jazz forward is the first athlete from traditional sports to promote HyperX headphones. Gordon will exclusively use HyperX gaming headsets, will be featured in marketing campaigns, regularly stream gaming sessions, conduct giveaways and make appearances for the brand starting today.
But the former Butler star isn’t a typical NBA star. He’s a huge gamer, having previously played Starcraft II professionally in the IGN Pro League when the NBA players were locked out in 2011, and Halo in pro tournaments prior to attending college.
HyperX currently sponsors hundreds of professional eSports players through its more than 30 organizational partnerships (including Intel Extreme Masters), but Gordon is the beginning of a new expansion for the company—one that echoes eSports’ growth overall—into a more mainstream audience.
Daniel Kelley, director of corporate marketing at HyperX, explains how this new strategy ties into the bigger convergence that’s going on between eSports and traditional sports in this exclusive interview.
Why did you decide to partner with Gordon Hayward?
We’re trying to go to wider audiences. We look at our core DNA in eSports and PC gaming—our lineup of products, from memory to SSDs—and they all work with that customer base.
At E3, the CloudX is our first officially licensed Xbox product, which opens up our audience to console gaming, but is still very rooted in eSports. We’re exploring ways to get into the competitive scene with Gears of War tournaments and talking to eSports teams with console-focused teams.
How do professional athletes tie into the eSports and gaming audience?
More and more people will see eSports over the coming months and years through deals like Turner broadcasting games on TBS. We work with MLG, ESL, and other leagues. As more professional athletes get involved in eSports, we see HyperX as being a crossover company. We see opportunity for traditional sports fans to fall in love with eSports. Gordon represents the ideal personality. He’s a pro basketball player, but he has a history of passionate gaming with League of Legends streams and playing games like Overwatch, Halo, and Call of Duty.
Approximately 90 percent of NBA players are gamers. What separates Gordon from the crowd?
A lot of professional athletes are gamers; some are casual and are some are more into it. Gordon has a unique story in that he was competing in Halo tournaments in high school and had to make sure his basketball coaches at Butler, where he won a scholarship, gave him permission to play. He’s a regular proponent and advocate for eSports and gaming. He has a great personality and likability. And he had some fun with LeBron James a few years ago with his “I’m the best in the world” at League of Legends Tweet and blog post. He’s the epitome of who we’re looking for. He has the respect of the NBA scene and the eSports scene, and a passion for eSports overall.
— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) October 14, 2014
How do you see former NBA pros like Rick Fox and Shaq and NBA team owners like Andy Miller and Mark Cuban impacting eSports through their teams?
It’s all connected. A lot of the moves we’re making are seeing that bigger picture. We’re the official headset sponsor of Echo Fox and we like what Rick Fox is doing. He’s a strong personality in traditional sports, and he’s doing all the right things in eSports and taking care of young players. His team is coming in May 31st to a boot camp here.
Andy Miller’s NRG is another team we sponsor and they’ll be creating content with us in the next few weeks.
Is this deal with Gordon similar to LeBron James wearing Beats by Dre before an NBA game?
It’s similar to the traditional headphone maker sponsoring an athlete. Our unique take is he’s a professional basketball player and our headsets are versatile and you can take the mic off and use them in your everyday life. He’ll be doing some stuff on social media for us. We’ll be working with him to come to select events to sign autographs and do streaming sessions. We’ll be doing giveaways and contests. We’ll do some cool video content with him. His fans are from traditional sports teams, and he’ll allow us to introduce those fans to what we stand for in terms of quality and focus and dedication to the gaming customer.
How long is the deal?
It’s a year to start. It’s new territory for both of us. We’re looking at it as a long-term engagement, but will explore how to grow the partnership beyond the initial year.
Will the types of promotions we see with Gordon be similar to how you work with pro gamers?
We’ll do a lot of the same stuff we’d do for an eSports athlete, but with Gordon we’re hoping different customers will see this. Hopefully, eSports fans will also enjoy it and respect it and help share it.
Will Gordon be at E3?
He has a crazy schedule right now, so he won’t be able to make it. But there are a lot of events, like PAX and DreamHack, so there will be opportunities for him to appear during the summer and interact with fans and do content stuff.
Which headphones will we see him wearing?
He’ll eventually wear all of our headphones and gravitate to the ones he likes most. We have a lot of launches coming up and things we want to try. There’s the Cloud Revolver and the E3 launch of Cloud X. Those are the two primary ones he’ll wear to games and day-in and day-out. Those headphones have the same comfort and shape and quality of the Cloud 2. They all work across PC and mobile and console. As we introduce new headsets—and we have quite a few launching over the rest of the year—he’ll wear others.
Will Gordon be involved in offering insight for future headphones like you typically work with pro gamers on?
We want to make the best quality headset at a reasonable price for gamers. We’ve had success to date because we care about these professional athletes’ opinions. We have them test everything in the pipeline, so they can tweak things. I see Gordon falling into that same atmosphere. He’ll have opinions on what we send him and that all falls into the R&D pool. Any gamer spending so many hours a day gaming has valuable information. We keep that core focus on comfort and sound quality.
How will you look at future pro athlete endorsements for products?
We’re not just looking to sign any and all pro athletes. We really want to find those that do have an understanding or appreciation or passion in gaming as a prerequisite. We know that our headsets are comfortable for everyday use. We know that if we can satisfy the quality of a pro athlete, that can transfer to mainstream appeal. But traditional athletes need to have that passion and appreciation for what gaming is.
What role will traditional sports play for HyperX moving forward?
ESports is a bit of the tipping point of going mainstream. We’ve been active in the scene for a long time. Our roots and DNA are in eSports. As it catches the eye of traditional sports and more investors and teams and broadcast channels, we want to be in the thick of it. HyperX is an authentic brand for gamers.