‘Millionaire’s Run’ Promo Will Literally Turn Someone Into A Millionaire

In an effort to invigorate the “endless runner” genre—and prove that Nintendo’s Mario isn’t the only one who gets to run and jump to collect coins—Australian entrepreneurs Grant Moyle and Todd Wild came up with the idea for Millionaire’s Run while on a business trip in Kolkata, India. There, they were playing mobile games and began discussing what the ultimate prize for a mobile game should be. Five years later, Millionaire’s Run was created in partnership with Code Heroes studio.

The mobile game where players must dash, jump or ride a motorcycle through a massive coin vault while dodging the “Police-O-Lanche” begins its beta period Friday with an official launch for iOS and Android on July 13. Players have extra incentive to download the free-to-play game, as there is a cash prize competition that starts today to coincide with the game’s debut. Top-scoring players from around the world will have a chance at a $1,000 cash pot each week with a $1 million grand prize at the contest’s conclusion.


“The Millionaire’s Run global game competition will run for six months throughout 2017, with the ultimate winner announced on New Year’s Eve,” Grant Moyle, the co-creator and managing director of Millionaire’s Run, told AListDaily. “Our game promotions will predominantly be through social media, online press and promo, as well as a viral digital video campaign. We also feel Millionaire’s Run is the world’s first mobile game to offer a prize of this magnitude and will drive a lot of word-of-mouth.”

The game will sell in-game boosts, which essentially amounts to extra lives to help players that fall continue their runs. However, players are only allowed five of them per run to maintain competitive fairness. Moyle stated that if the game is successful, we could see a second round of the Millionaire’s Run contest.

Although cash prizes make for very good reasons to play, Moyle explained how there are other reasons players may stay engaged with the game.

“The game has a fun, addictive quality about it, which leads to a desire to want to achieve the high score. The second iteration of the game would look at developing the hero character, investigating 3D aspects and expanding storylines. That being said, the core offering of this game is the prize, and I would see that is always core to its future,” Moyle said.

Moyle also detailed how the million-dollar launch promotion came together.

“The idea was conceived fairly early on in regards to the app store generating mass appeal to the global market,” said Moyle. “It was clear to us that there were very few products that had that level of global reach within a single distribution model and limited cost base. We asked ourselves a simple question—’how do we encourage as many people as possible to download a game app with an experience they would want to keep going back to?’ The answer was simple—’give them a million dollars!’ Thus, we started the idea of Millionaire’s Run from there.”

The World’s Most Influential CMOs, And The Most Patriotic Brands In America

This week in marketing revelations, we salute the year’s most patriotic brands, millennials are confident in their financial futures and US gamers choose their preferred method of payment.

And The Most Influential CMOs Are . . .

Forbes, in partnership with Sprinklr and LinkedIn, released a report of The World’s Most Influential CMOs for 2017.

  1. Keith Weed; Unilever
  2. Antonio Lucio; HP
  3. Phil Schiller; Apple
  4. Linda Boff; GE
  5. Leslie Berland; Twitter
  6. Marc Mathieu; Samsung Electronics America
  7. Musa Tariq; Ford
  8. Jonathan Mildenhall; Airbnb
  9. Raja Rajamannar; Mastercard
  10. Karen Walker; Cisco

“This year’s top 50 CMOs reflect the growing diversity of the marketing world,” the report notes. “A third of the top 50 are women, including three out of the top ten spots, while another three of the top ten are men of color. There’s value in being in the right industry at the right time. Technology, telecommunications and internet companies dominate the list—accounting for 40 percent of the top 50—followed by financial services at 18 percent.”

“As marketing has shifted from being all about the brand to being all about the customer, the role of the CMO has completely changed,” said Ragy Thomas, Sprinklr CEO and Founder. “Leading CMOs must orchestrate more personalized, more holistic experiences for customers. They have to go from being the mouthpiece for the brand to being the eyes and ears.”

Patriotic Brands

As we head, flag held high, into the Fourth of July holiday, Brand Keys has revealed the most patriotic US brands as chosen by consumers. A national sample of 4,860 consumers, 16-to-65 years of age, balanced for political party affiliation, were asked to evaluate which of 280 brands included in the 2017 survey most resonated as patriotic. The results are:

  1. Jeep
  2. Levi Strauss
  3. Disney
  4. Coca-Cola
  5. Ford
  6. Hershey’s/Twitter
  7. Ralph Lauren
  8. Jack Daniel’s
  9. Sam Adams
  10. MSNBC

Social Influence

Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook’s community has reached two billion people on Tuesday. The social media giant holds a strong position within the marketing space with its wide array of advertising options and analytics tools.

Sixty-four percent of consumers say watching a marketing video on Facebook has influenced a purchase decision in the last month, according to Animoto. Sixty-seven percent of US marketers run video ads on Facebook, Animoto reports, while more than half (51 percent) do so on YouTube.

Facebook Live accounts for 45 percent of the digital video market share, according to Magid’s “Annual State of Digital Video” report. YouTube Live is a close second in the market share at 44 percent, followed by Instagram (28 percent), Twitter (19 percent), Snapchat (17 percent) and Twitch (12 percent).

More than 80 percent of Gen Z and 74 percent of millennials say social media influences their shopping, according to Yes Lifecycle Marketing. In comparison, 58 percent of Gen X and 41 percent of baby boomers said the same.

I Accept You . . . Now Go Away

According to a new study conducted by Defy Media’s Acumen Research and TMI Strategy, young consumers get annoyed by ads that interrupt their viewing or social media experience—but are receptive to ads or brands that respect their online space.

Of the more than 1,300 participants 13-to-25 years old, 80 percent understand that ads on the internet are a “regular part of life,” and 84 percent say they’re not willing to pay for an ad-free experience all of the time. Despite this sentiment, 66 percent use an ad blocker on at least one device.

Custom content seems to be the way to go, at least according to 17,000 consumers surveyed by Time, Inc. About 90 percent of respondents (including millennials, Gen Z and baby boomers) like the idea of custom content as a way for brands to engage with them, and 89 percent of people believe that type of content is a great way for brands to break through the rest of the clutter online.

Apple ‘Whoa’ And Marketing ‘Woe’

More than two thirds of the iPhones that Apple has sold in the past 10 years are still in use today, according to Newzoo’s Global Smartphone and Tablet Tracker. China is by far the iPhone’s largest market, accounting for almost one-third of all iPhones that were used in April. According to Apple’s financial statements, it had sold 1.08 billion iPhones till March.

Marketing video for mobile isn’t always a walk in the park, according to a study from YouAppi. Forty-four percent of participating marketers and agency pros confessed that developing compelling creative was a hurdle, and 28 percent named a lack of funds in their budget as a contributing factor. Meanwhile, 21 percent said they faced pressure to act too quickly before they had their strategy in order.

Consumers are still on the lookout for the latest and greatest apps, according to AppAnnie, who reports that the app economy will be worth $6.3 trillion by 2021. Total time spent in mobile apps will exceed 3.5 trillion hours in 2021.

Tech Smarts

Smart speakers are changing the way consumers shop and discover products, but may also be putting radio back into American living rooms. According to a study by Edison Reseach presented at the RAIN Podcast Business Summit, 18 percent say smart speakers are the way that they most often listen to audio—just behind AM/FM radio (20 percent) and smartphone/tablet (28 percent).

Wearables aren’t out of style yet—far from it—according to a report by IDC. In fact, the wearables market is expected to nearly double in size by 2021.

Meanwhile, in the world of AR/VR, HTC Vive is the most popular VR platform to develop for, according to the Virtual Reality Developers Conference’s second annual VR/AR Innovation Report. So, what kind of experiences are being developed for this immersive technology? A majority (78 percent) of responses cited gaming and entertainment. Education and training made up 27 percent and 19 percent said they were working on branded experience. (A few respondents cited multiple projects.)

How Gamers Pay Up

Gamers are shying away from pre-paid cards and bank transactions for their purchases, according to findings by SuperData Research. A shrinking population of “unbanked” consumers is also contributing to the shift away from cash-based payment methods, the company explained.

More than half of all global digital gaming transaction value was powered by eWallets and credit and debit cards last year, with PayPal and Visa being the top eWallet and credit/debit card, respectively.

North America has the highest market share of eWallet and credit/debit card payments, SuperData reports. Credit/debit cards and eWallets account for a combined 76.8 percent of North American digital game transactions, compared to a global average of 55.4 percent.

Can’t Buy Me Love

Can money buy happiness? A little over half of US millennials think so, according to new research by Mintel. Fifty-three percent of millennial respondents agree that the more money you have, the happier you are, compared to 38 percent of Americans overall. Half (51 percent) of millennials are confident in their financial future, with only 24 percent considering saving for retirement to be a financial challenge.

Audi Swings Into ‘Spider-Man’ With Marketing Integrations

Sony Pictures’ newest Spider-Man reboot starring Tom Holland is getting rave reviews, which is good news for Audi. The luxury car company continues its Marvel product integration on the big screen with Spider-Man: Homecoming, opening July 7.

Movie fans worldwide will get an exclusive first look at the new Audi A8 in the film, which pits Spider-Man against super villain Vulture (played by Michael Keaton). The luxury sedan’s Audi AI technology has been integrated into the film.

Benny Lawrence, manager of media and branded integration at Audi of America, told AListDaily that from Iron Man to Captain America to Spider-Man, the Audi brand has been a key part of these stories through their marketing partnerships.

“These settings are ideal to showcase our high-level technology and performance capabilities to a global audience. Super heroes need super cars,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said that the not-yet-released luxury sedan’s Audi AI traffic jam pilot is featured in a scene with Holland (as Peter Parker) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau).

“It shows how under certain conditions, Audi AI traffic jam pilot will allow the A8 to take over the task of driving for short periods of time when the feature is activated,” Lawrence explained. “And of course Tony Stark drives his Audi R8 V10 Spyder. At one point we see Peter behind the wheel of an Audi TTS Roadster. Tom told us that he thinks that the TTS could outrun Spider-Man, except in New York traffic.”

Audi also enlisted Holland and comedian J.B. Smoove to star in a humorous video short called “Driver’s Test,” which follows Smoove and Parker during a driver’s test. While driving an Audi prototype, Peter notices a bank robbery in progress and uses Audi AI technology to help him fight crime, leaving the instructor none the wiser of Spidey’s quick exit.

Lawrence said at the heart of the Spider-Man character is a timeless, coming-of-age story about an everyday person with extraordinary powers.

“We tried to find the sweet spot where this character arc might intersect with the Audi brand,” Lawrence said. “Passing a driver’s test felt like the perfect milestone in a young person’s life.”

Audi of America’s social media agency of record (Muhtayzik Hoffer) developed the promotional campaign. The video was shot last month by film director Jody Hill, who is known for comedies like Eastbound and Down and Vice Principals. Lawrence said Audi has consistently used entertainment as part of the marketing strategy to tell stories about new vehicle launches and target individuals seeking progressive luxury.

Audi is targeting YouTube with this video, and the huge number of digital savvy consumers who watch and share video shorts.

“The largest generation in US history is known for their use of technology,” Lawrence said. “Showcasing Audi AI to a new generation is crucial. Audi AI represents future automated driving technology.”

Lawrence said the car brand has always looked at entertainment partnerships as an opportunity to communicate to an audience that cares about the latest and greatest in technology, design, and performance.

“Over the years, we’ve been able to work closely with casts and directors from our partners, bringing authenticity to anything we create,” Lawrence said. “From the Russo brothers directing an Audi short for Captain America to Tom in ‘Driver’s Test,’ we enter into any integration with the intent to create something that will excite the fans while sharing our latest models.”

Lawrence believes the brand has been able to create storytelling opportunities that connect with consumers.

“Whether it’s our trademark humor or making a statement, we find the right time and place to communicate something about what Audi stands for—in an entertaining way,” Lawrence said.


Under Armour Shoots For Apparel Advantage With New COO

Under Armour has named Patrik Frisk as COO and president of the athletic wear company. Frisk will oversee go-to-market strategy and long-term growth plans for Under Armour.

Frisk was previously the CEO of the Aldo Group, a footwear and accessories brand, and he has over 30 years of experience in the apparel industry.

“Patrik’s global experience in brand building, including a proven and disciplined record of driving growth, while enhancing profitability and efficiency, will be instrumental as we work to transform our business model to deliver long-term value for our consumers, customers and shareholders,” said Under Armour CEO and chairman Kevin Plank.

Frisk’s appointment will allow Under Armour to better leverage digital business and help with operational efficiency, which is needed after months of sluggish growth for the company.

In April, Under Armour reported its first ever quarterly loss since going public in 2006. The previous quarter, the company reported revenue growth of under 20 percent, the first time in over six years.

Under Armour also made two other executive moves by appointing Paul Fipps as chief technology officer and Colin Browne as chief supply chain officer.

“Today’s leadership appointments and the streamlining of our organizational structure are transformative steps focused on a sharper, consumer-led approach and go-to-market strategy through our category management lens,” said Plank. “With the stated goals of accelerating our innovation agenda, optimizing our product assortment and creating a merchandising center of excellence, this underscores our work toward evolving from a great brand with good operations—to a great brand with great operations.”

Pandora founder Tim Westergren has resigned as CEO and board member for the internet radio company. Chief financial officer Naveen Chopra will be interim CEO while Jason Hirschhorn will fill Westergren’s seat on the board.

In corresponding moves, Pandora announced that president Mike Herring and CMO Nick Bartle were leaving the company.

“I am incredibly proud of the company we have built,” said Westergren. “We invented a whole new way of enjoying and discovering music and in doing so, forever changed the listening experience for millions . . . I believe Pandora is perfectly poised for its next chapter.”

Westergren took over as CEO last March. His departure adds to the company’s already turbulent year. Pandora’s share price dropped by more than a third since the beginning of the year, following Westergren introduction of Pandora Premium, a premium service akin to competitors Spotify and Apple Music.

In June, the company announced it sold Ticketfly for $200 million to Eventbrite—Pandora paid $335 million for the ticketing service company in 2015.

Twitter has hired Candi Castleberry-Singleton as vice president of inclusion and diversity, replacing Jeffrey Siminoff, who stepped down in February. Previously, she was vice president of global inclusion and diversity at Motorola.

Twitter took criticism in 2015 for the lack of diversity in high-ranking positions, and the hiring of Castleberry-Singleton aims to make Twitter a better reflection of its users’ demographics.

E! Entertainment has promoted Jen Neal to executive producer of live events, making her responsible for E!’s featured franchise “Live from the Red Carpet” as well as “People’s Choice Awards.” Neal will also continue to serve as the entertainment company’s executive vice president of marketing.

“Live events have been the heart of the E! brand for over two decades, and with Jen’s appointment we are continuing to bolster our strategy to supercharge E!‘s unparalleled red carpet coverage and re-imagine People’s Choice Awards for the next generation,” said E! president Adam Stotsky. “Jen is a dynamic executive who has helped propel the network, and I’m thrilled that she will bring her creative vision and innovative approach to this new post as Executive Producer of Live Events.”

Former BitTorrent marketing executive Brian Davi is now CMO for GameMine. Davi will oversee the development of marketing initiatives and company growth strategies for the US-based mobile game publisher.

“Brian holds the exact blend of professional expertise needed for GameMine’s CMO position,” said GameMine CEO Daniel Starr. “As GameMine’s global reach continues to develop, we have been searching for a talented marketer with strong breadth and depth of experiential knowledge of subscription-based mobile markets, with a specific focus on mobile gaming. Brian’s skillset is exactly what we’ve been looking for and we feel he is the perfect fit for GameMine.”

Comedy Central hired Whitney Baxter as vice president of strategy and business development. Baxter previously worked for Goldman Sachs, with his focus on the banking firm’s entertainment, media and internet clients.

“We’ve leaned upon Goldman Sachs’ long-standing reputation for having the best sense of humor in the financial sector and have hired one of its best and brightest,” said Comedy Central general manager Tanya Giles. “Whitney brings valuable experience in our evolving industry and a keen strategic mind to Comedy Central, and we’re very excited to have him join the team.”

The Player’s Tribune, the sports publishing platform founded by New York Yankees great Derek Jeter, has its first CEO in Jeff Levick. Levick was formally the chief revenue officer at Spotify and has also worked in sales at AOL and Google. At The Player’s Tribune, he will be tasked with creating new revenue strategies for the startup such as international expansion and subscription services.

Topps, known for their sports trading cards and confectionery treats, promoted Deniz Gezgin to vice president and general manager of digital. Gezgin will focus on the digital apps division of the company. He was previously the director of user acquisition and marketing for Topps Digital since last March.

“Deniz has advanced Topps Digital’s product strategy by applying years of industry knowledge and valuable user base experience,” said Topps president and CEO Michael Brandstaedter. “We’re committed to shaping the digital apps category through quality, creativity and innovation with Deniz at the helm.”

IGN host Naomi Kyle is now on the roster for Everyday Influencers (EI), an agency representing talent in the esports, music and lifestyle industries. Kyle was previously the writer, producer and host for IGN’s Daily Fix show. She will now work on The IGN Show for EI.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have our team represent her on all fronts,” said Darren Yan, EI’s head of talent. “As an established personality in the gaming and digital space, we can’t wait to put our efforts and resources behind her to continue to expand her career and brand.”

Live! Casino & Hotel promoted Jennifer Kearns to executive director of relationship marketing. She is now responsible for enhancing the VIP guest experience at the Live! Hotel, which is set to open in 2018. Kearns previously worked at SugarHouse Casino in VIP guest services and casino host management.

Arkane Studios, the company responsible for games like Prey and Dishonored, announced president and co-founder Raphael Colantonio is stepping down. Harvey Smith, the director of Dishonored 2, will take over the Austin, Texas-based Arkane team.

Nokia Technologies has appointed Gregory Lee as president and as a member of the group leadership team. Lee joins Nokia after 13 years serving as president and CEO of Samsung Electronics, North America.

Kate Edwards is stepping down as executive director of The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) after almost five years in the position. Trent Oster, who is chair of the board of directors and CEO of Beamdog, will serve as the interim executive director until a replacement is found.

(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, June 30. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.com.)

Job Vacancies 

Director, Digital Programs, Martech & Personalization Starbucks Seattle, WA
Director, Strategic Partnership Marketing NBC Universal Universal City, CA
New Balance Boston, MA
Director, Brand Management Warner Music Group Nashville, TN
Director, Marketing Sony Music Entertainment New York, NY
Chief Marketing Officer Gibson Brands, Inc. Nashville, TN
Vice President of Marketing Feed the Children Oklahoma City, OK
NATPE Los Angeles, CA

Make sure to check back for updates on our Jobs Page.

Building The Perfect VR Promotion

Legend 3D launched its VR division over two years ago and has worked with numerous brands such as Mastercard, Patrón and Stubhub on different projects. Additionally, the company has made VR experiences for movies, including Suicide Squad, Crimson Peak and Kong: Skull Island. On the video game side, Legend 3D created the Rift Walk VR experience for Riot Games’ League of Legends, filmed during the 2016 League of Legends Worlds match in New York City, giving fans a tour through the game world. In short, the company knows how to put together high-quality VR experiences.

Will Maurer, VP of VR & VFX at Legend 3D

“The universal question we ask, no matter what space they’re in, is: why VR?” said Will Maurer, VP of VR & VFX at Legend 3D, talking with AListDaily. “You’d be surprised at the blank stares you usually get when you ask that question. Or they’ll say, ‘we need to do something in VR, so that’s why,’ instead of considering what’s important about the medium that lends itself to capturing an experience for the brand.

“The other question we ask is: what are the goals and initiatives of the experience or campaign? Once we have those, we work with the brands to fine-tune the experience. Sometimes it will be pre-rendered 360-degree video, so someone can just sit back and immerse themselves in a story made around the brand. Or it could be more interactive, such as picking up a can of Pepsi off a shelf. But it all starts with why they want to do something in VR.”

So, we turned the question back to Maurer and asked why brands should consider VR for its promotions.

“One reason is the engagement with the customer,” Maurer replied. “What typically happens with traditional advertisements is that there are a million distractions around you. You could check your phone, talk to somebody, or just look away. Most people will do something else once an advertisement comes on, but that’s impossible to do when in a VR headset. You’re fully engaged—there are no distractions—and that means a higher level of engagement with the potential consumer. Then it comes down to making it interesting and compelling for users to be part of that experience.”

Acting, along with sound and camera cues, will help draw the user’s attention to specific objects or areas featuring the brand. But Maurer explained that the most important thing to keep in mind is creating an experience that won’t make people sick, which was at the forefront of their minds when making The Art of Patrón, which features the perspective of a bee flying through fields and a production facility. “I liken it to the 3D boom 10 years ago, where a lot of people had bad experiences putting on glasses gave up on it,” said Maurer. “I see that happening a lot in VR, where people will try it say it’s not fun.”

He went on to say that location-based experiences being created by companies such as IMAX or The Void, which guarantee high-quality experiences, are a key part of further elevating VR technology. Maurer also stated that there’s longer engagement with experiences that involve some kind interaction compared to more passive video experiences

That being the case, we asked Maurer what separated a promotional VR experience from a video game. “Those lines are becoming more blurred because it’s not traditional content,” he said. “You’re not telling a story all the time—you’re placing them in the middle of an experience. That experience can be narrative driven, product driven, game based or it can be a mix of all three.”

With that in mind, what went into creating the League of Legends Rift Walk experience? “The first Rift Walk was at New York’s Penn Station during the League of Legends semifinals,” Maurer explained, “and Riot wanted to experiment with 360 video to give fans all over the world a chance to go through it. A quick turnaround was important, so they chose time over having everything stitched perfectly. We had to give the experience to fans a week after filming it.”

We then asked Maurer how Rift Walk compared to making virtual reality movie promotions. “League of Legends was more experiential,” said Maurer. “They wanted users to engage with other players in the game. With Kong: Skull Island, it was to sell tickets for a movie. At its core—whether it’s for a game, a product like Patrón, or a movie—it comes down to using VR as a vehicle to drive engagement to the core product. But the way you craft an experience for each of those is different.”

With so many VR movie promotions appearing in recent months, we asked Maurer if they were becoming more sophisticated with the way they were engaging audiences.

“For movie tie-ins, I’ve been a proponent of creating less of a promotional advertising piece and more of the writers, actors and producers involved early on to create VR side stories,” he replied. “For example, in if there’s a scene in a Star Wars movie where one ship is firing on another, the VR experience could put users in the opposite perspective. So, it’s not just promotional—it actually ties in so that audiences will want to experience what it was like to be in that scene after watching the movie. With a lot of movie promotions right now, we do something that’s after the fact, but I think things are headed for more cross-platform story tie-ins.”

Although it seems like the overall enthusiasm for virtual reality has quieted down, Maurer believes that there is still a strong future for the technology as it continues to progress, leading to richer experiences and more realistic immersion. “With the technology continuing to evolve, I think it will lead to different types of content, all the way up to what The Void is doing by letting people walk through entire buildings with a headset on,” said Maurer. “That will change the way content is created.”

Maurer then explained how the prevalence of low-quality content was one of the big challenges VR had to overcome.

“The market has been flooded with poor quality content and headsets like Cardboard, which aren’t the best,” said Maurer. “Imagine watching YouTube content on a phone from five years ago that has no production quality or standards. That’s where the industry is at right now. The poor quality content is scaring off consumers and brands. Brands don’t have a lot of analytics to track how long people are staying inside the headset, so things can get complicated if you’re not working with an experienced company like Legend to guide you through the process. But that is changing with technology and as more content creators that understand the medium jump in. Also, brands are getting more educated in working with VR, instead of saying ‘we need to do something in VR’ and spending money haphazardly.

“Our goal and passion is to make sure that any money spent on VR experiences are kept on the screen and will showcase the brand or IP at the highest level.”

So, what goes into making a memorable VR experience? “The key to a memorable experience is using the medium for what it’s good for: empathy and engagement,” said Maurer. “If you get someone to empathize with your brand or product, then that’s the best form of engagement. That’s what VR is great for—putting someone in a different world, environment or somebody else’s shoes.”

When asked what brands should keep in mind as they enter the VR space, Maurer emphasized how they should look to work with experienced companies. “There are a lot of traditional companies jumping in now to offer VR services to brands they’ve worked with in the past, but that doesn’t mean that they understand the complexities and nuances that are inherent with this type of content creation,” said Maurer. “This is not traditional media, there are a lot of differences, and you shouldn’t look at it from a traditional viewpoint.”

Inside Intel’s Approach To Virtual Reality And Gaming

The month of June backed one particular notion for Intel—that a brand must be anchored on a product truth. The multinational tech corporation did just that in the verticals of virtual reality and gaming.

Over the course of the calendar month, Intel signed on as a worldwide Olympics sponsor through 2024 and promised to bring technical prowess by infusing its VR, 360-degree, 5G and 3D content development platforms, artificial intelligence platforms and drones to enhance the winter and summer games.

The mission is multifold, yet simple for Intel—they want to “accelerate the adoption of technology for the future of sports on the world’s largest athletic stage.”

On a domestic level, they partnered with MLB to deliver live and on-demand VR experiences to baseball fans, including an “Intel True VR Game of the Week” that will allow fans to personalize VR experiences with camera angles, postgame highlights, on-demand content and statistics for free on the Intel True VR.

As for gaming, they were front and center at E3 in Los Angeles doubling down on their investments in the space to launch the VR Challenger League, an esports gaming series in VR for The Unspoken and Echo Arena. They also expanded their ongoing relationship with ESL for Intel Extreme Masters (IEM).

AListDaily sat down with Frank Soqui, Intel’s general manager of VR and gaming, to learn more about Intel’s strategy in both of the respective spaces.

On Intel’s methodology to gaming and VR . . .

When we think of VR and gaming at Intel, there’s a lot to it—where they align, and where they can be separate. It’s tempting to think about them as separate segments in separate industries. Take the context of gaming. Clearly gaming is a very immersive type of activity. A lot of gamers want to be drawn more into gaming. VR is a great addition on top of that gaming experience already. As a matter of fact, not just on top of existing games, but new games, and I think we’re going to bring players and new users into gaming because of what VR is going to do. Where VR is separate from gaming is that there is a commercial and enterprise-type application, like collaborating around a design. It could be a whole building, or a car’s design, things where I’m actually doing activities that relate more to business-to-consumer applications, like trying to sell travel experiences or even medical research. We’ve done things with Surgical Theater that showcases what’s possible, and what’s really been done to improve a patient’s life.

On forming partnerships that deliver value . . .

What comes to mind is “how do brands work together and collaborate together to deliver experiences?” Fundamentally, a brand must be anchored on a product truth. You can’t just throw your name on top of something and call it VR. I’ve seen plenty of companies go out there do that. I’m not sure what it means anymore. So your brand has to authentically connect to real product truths—you have to be delivering value in the products and services that you sell for you to want to have your brand associated with it. We’re looking to actually add real value to the products and experiences delivered to the end user, whether it’s gamers, entertainment or a valued proposition to a corporate partnership. You have to deliver something that has value and is measurable. We partner to deliver that message and value. Those are the kinds of things we want to associate our brand and our partners with. A lot of what we’re focusing on is delivering an immersive experience with the people who are doing the development and the creation of content. So it’s really important to us that we find good partnerships in this area that we can expose the value of what our platform delivers.

On how VR can reach mainstream adoption . . .

We work very closely with the software and film industries, looking for the right people who’re on the cutting edge of being able to demonstrate much more immersive capabilities. On the performance side of things, it’s becoming crazily immersive—it requires a lot of performance. I think there’s a lot of things we have to think about as we look at everyone’s desire to move from the performance side and actually scaling to mainstream. It’s very tempting to think about price as the first problem. Price is never a problem when you’re delivering value. So the question is “how do we deliver a habit-forming piece of content you would want to experience every day?” It’s hard to find those. A lot of people are coming up with snack-type applications, but it’s not an application that I have to do every day. We’re interested in looking for that “I need to have it” type usage, whether it’s in gaming, entertainment or building and enhancing corporate abilities to collaborate and solve problems.

On how influencers can amplify the message for the gaming and VR industries . . .

What we see happening in gaming today, especially in the context of VR, is that a lot of gamers, professionals and enthusiasts tend to be early adopters. They’re also hypercritical of the early types of technologies. Although you can get them to buy it and try it, they’re very critical about what’s valuable. Gamers and professionals however are seeing something here that’s pretty compelling. What we want to do is translate those compelling usages, because they have to get it first, and want to do it every day. They’re also a very strong voice of authenticity that influence others. They talk about what’s useful and compelling for them and that translates into what’s compelling for communities. So when I see influencers trying out new products and capabilities—whether it’s a new gaming platform, or a high-end CPU with graphics—we don’t actually have to help them talk about it in an authentic way.

On Intel’s approach with influencers and communities . . .

What we need to do is make sure we’re amplifying their voice. What you want to do with online communities, which are a great place for their voice to be heard, is make sure you’re helping amplify what they’re saying—and not get all corporate, or else they’ll get all defensive and ditch your product. That kind of communication goes very well. Gamers love communities. As soon as they lose their trust, that’s the day it doesn’t work anymore. Always knowing that helps make your product better. They can be a great influencer, or point-of-influence. Help them do the things that they already love to do, and they’ll love to speak about what you do all day long.

On the marketing challenges being presented . . . 

First of all, the experiences need to be compelling content. It really comes down to that. Yes, price is important and plays a role. We have to make sure we’re building awareness in what the value is. There are things we’re doing in the industry that are bringing some scale to the price points. So you need some scale to drive price points down. We’re investing in headset technologies like RealSense to make that usage more mainstream. We’re introducing more cores with our processor technologies—things that require the core count today are the ones that we’ll be delivering for the mainstream tomorrow.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

‘Futurama’ Nurtures Show Universe With Mobile Game

In a media environment saturated with TV shows becoming games, this increasingly common move may actually be the most on-brand for a property like Futurama. Thursday’s release of Worlds of Tomorrow to the App Store and Google Play is an episodic adventure targeted to all ages—especially catering to diehard fans of the show—and timed to fill a Netflix-sized hole when seasons 1-6 are removed from the streaming network on July 1. It’s a strategy meant for a media world of tomorrow and game creators are going for long-term engagement, extending gameplay and releasing new storylines in weeks to come as they would for a TV show.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – JUNE 20: Josh Yguado (L) and Chris DeWolfe attend Futurama Worlds of Tomorrow Event in Hollywood at Avalon on June 20, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Jam City)

The release has been promoted with the fans in mind, with a livestreamed table reading event which featured the original cast and a Reddit AMA featuring Matt Groening and series creator David X. Cohen.

The story of the game lives comfortably in the Futurama universe: It’s mating season for Hypnotoad, the wildly popular mind-control amphibian. Due to the creature’s sizable powers, this tender time has ripped the prophylactic membrane of the universe, throwing the characters into interdimensional turmoil. Your job is to rescue them and reassemble the characters of the crew through a series of RPG and choose-your-own-adventure scenarios.

For those not invested in either game genre—or not even that into gaming, really—the open world map of New New York has enough nuance from the Futurama world to keep fans entertained. Developers Jam City and TinyCo worked closely with Cohen, staff writers and animators from the show, and the original voiceover talent to make this happen. Both writers and developers had to sign off on storylines, arcs and dialogue, and animations were spot-checked all the way down to considering if a character moved in the game like it would on the show.

“We really wanted to make sure whatever game we designed did justice to what a deep storyline and set of characters Futurama represents,” said Josh Yguado, COO and president of Jam City. “We wanted mechanics that were not straightforward—we wanted something that was a mashup on a lot of different angles. Something that was complex and interesting and fit in with the story.”

True to being the sort of brand that lives in the future, Futurama creators feel the show universe can live on and even grow solely as a game, whether or not the show would ever come back.

Actor John DiMaggio, who plays the voice of Bender, sees the potential for maintaining the nuanced show universe with the way Futurama’s writers work, and even sees characters being able to evolve. “These guys would argue three hours about a math joke that would appear on screen for like a second or two,” he said. “They’re the most brilliant, over-educated writing staff in the history of television. I’m not joking.”

It’s also more advantageous for the show to live in this format, as far as current mobile consumption habits go. “People don’t have the time or scheduling wiggle room to be able to consume something that is 22 minutes or 30 minutes or, God forbid, comes on at a certain time or you have to be there, whether or not you’re doing something else,” said Sara McPherson, associate director of user experience at TinyCo. “People want to be part of this universe that they love whenever it’s convenient for them, and that’s why a game makes so much sense.”

Yguado also sees the move as a leveling up for the brand, with deeper interactivity and more time spent with the characters. “You get to make decisions and be a part of the stories,” Yguado said. “This is what it’s all about. This is a continuation for fans of what Futurama is.”

The Sixers Strategy For Attracting Brands To Team Dignitas

Since the Philadelphia Sixers acquired Team Dignitas, the esports powerhouse has been forging partnerships with non-endemic brands like Mountain Dew and expanding its relationships with longstanding partners such as Dell. In fact, according to Team Dignitas CEO Jonathan Kemp, Dell has been a sponsor for 10 of Dignitas’ 13 years in existence.

“We’re on a new path and a new trajectory with the Sixers acquisition, so it’s great to have Dell alongside us with this next stage in our journey,” Kemp said. “Dell and the Dignitas brand together makes sense. That Dell brand now has such a wide range of products that have a broad appeal, from the high-end competitive gamers at one end, all the way through to novice gamers at the other end.”

The approach Dignitas is taking with Dell parallels what the esports team is doing with the Sixers. Dignitas expanded its livestreaming outreach beyond Twitch to reach Facebook gamers. “We have so many different new things that we’re bringing to the team and to esports that we are appealing to a really wide demographic of fans, not just the hardcore, and that is reflected by what Dell is doing with their range of computers as well,” Kemp said.

A week before E3, Dell was integrated into a boot camp for Dignitas’ all-women Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team. Sixers players competed against the pro gamers at the Dell Mobile Gaming Station. The pros were also featured in video packages using Dell gaming hardware.

As Dell expands its gaming footprint—something seen in a television campaign featuring new Spider-Man: Homecoming actor Tom Holland—its brand is now featured on the Dignitas jerseys, replacing Alienware.


The CS:GO team also spent time at the Dell booth during E3 to do media interviews and autograph signings for the fans who attended the show. While the focus in these first four months has been getting its CS:GO team prepared for competition, Kemp acknowledged that these pro gamers open up new opportunities for brands and sponsors. As part of the Philadelphia boot camp, the team talked to Sixers executives about products and brands they use in everyday life.

“The primary focus right now is about getting the best out of the team and enabling them to be as successful as they can be in the tournaments that they attend,” Kemp said. “The commercial opportunities will no doubt follow as we move forward.”

A recent report from PwC researchers found that 22 percent of women are involved with esports, compared to 18 percent of men. The report also found that women watch esports for enjoyment and the social aspect, while men are more interested in the actual competition.

Dignitas’ women’s team played at the Intel Extreme Masters Finals in Katowice, Poland earlier this year as part of Intel’s commitment to women in games.

“We have a women’s team because we want to support women in gaming,” said Kemp. “We think that’s a really important thing. The fact that we are able to give them the same opportunities as all of our other teams gives them a chance to push on and be the best team in the world, and that’s what we’re all aiming for here for every single one of our teams.”

Dignitas has one of the top League of Legends teams in the world today, so Riot Games’ shift next season to a franchise structure is something Kemp believes will help his organization stabilize its business. “It gives us an opportunity to invest in our players, which gives us more certain rosters so we can commit to games for longer periods of time,” Kemp said.”That allows us to build our fan bases and engage more with them. Franchising is hugely empowering not just for us as a team, but for player stability and fan engagement.”

Kemp has no doubt that more publishers will look at Riot as a model to see how they can make their games fit into it. “People will look at franchising and find it interesting, but to come out and say you’re going to develop an esports game is a tough challenge,” Kemp added. “That happens organically. Gamers are looking to play the best game they can. And if fans like to watch them play, there’s the potential for that title to become an esport.”

The Sixers, along with the Miami Heat (owners of Misfits), are in a unique position for 2018 when the NBA and 2K Sports launch NBA 2K ELeague. Kemp said things are still being worked out regarding whether the Sixers brand or the Dignitas brand will be used on the pro gamers’ jerseys. “There’s no fixed decision yet on what the branding piece is going to look like, but we as Dignitas being owned by the Sixers will have a role to play there,” Kemp explained. “We have 13 years’ experience in managing and running esports teams and understanding how that dynamic works. Clearly, that’s a skill set that the Sixers and Dignitas will leverage to make sure that we can be successful.”

How Beauty Brands Are Tapping Influencers On Instagram

Beauty brands are all about “the look,” so marketing on Instagram is the perfect match. After all, why describe what a product looks like when you can just show it?

According to Fashion/Beauty Monitor, 57 percent of beauty and fashion companies use influencers to market their products. The Instagram influencer market could reach $2 billion by 2019, according to a study by Mediakix.

Brands like Covergirl and Maybelline combine influencers and hashtags on Instagram to encourage audience participation, such as #ProjectPDA (Public Display of Application), which invites users to post pictures of themselves applying make-up in public.


Twenty-eight percent of Internet users between the ages of 18-and-29 use Instagram, Pew Research reports. These consumers come to Facebook’s photosharing platform to keep up with the latest trends, watch videos and get how-to instructions.

Contests offer incentives for sharing Instagram posts about a brand or product. Hair product line Got2b invited fans to show off their hairstyles for a chance to be the face of the next campaign. The company frequently reposts striking hair photos from its followers and offers giveaways through its channel.

Taking advantage of Facebook’s family of analytics tools, beauty brands are sharing campaigns across social media platforms. Video and carousel ads across Instagram and Facebook earned Too Faced Cosmetics 58 percent more engagement. “We learned how effective Instagram was for brand awareness,” Krysta Brown, senior manager of digital marketing at Too Faced Cosmetics, said on Facebook’s blog.

Studies have shown that more than half of consumers research purchases online before committing—since make-up cannot be returned to a store, seeing the product in action before a purchase helps build confidence toward that path.

Instagram is currently testing the ability to make purchases directly from the app with companies such as J. Crew, Warby Parker and Kate Spade.

“It’s been a little frustrating to us in the past to not be able to have people purchase on Instagram,” said Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s president and creative director, per Bloomberg. “Not only has it become a place for people to get influenced by their friends, but they’re walking into our stores with their phones and saying, ‘do you have this?’”

Podcast: Super League Gaming CEO Ann Hand Explains How Communities Impact Esports

Super League Gaming is an interactive operation that taps into fervent esports fan bases by hosting competitions in movie theaters across the Unites States.

Since its formation in 2014, the company has secured more than $28 million in investments. It’s most recent backing came Monday with a $15 million Series C funding from companies like Nickelodeon, DMG Entertainment, Toba Capital and owners of aXiomatic, and Jeffrey Vinik, owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. The initiative is to expand Super League Gaming into the Middle Kingdom, as well as bolster its footprint in US metropolises.

Ann Hand, the chairman and CEO of Super League Gaming, joined AListDaily senior brands editor Manouk Akopyan for our second podcast episode to explain how their grassroots-level esports operation has evolved to produce over 1,500 live events across 12 cities. Below is the transcription of the entire conversation.

Akopyan: Ann Hand of Super League Gaming is here to discuss a more interesting element to esports, which is building competitive gaming events at movie theaters around the country. Ann, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being here and taking the time.

Hand: My pleasure. Thank you.

Akopyan: For listeners who are not familiar with Super League Gaming, what’s the elevator pitch that you generally introduce them with?

Hand: Our founders loved the fact that their kids enjoyed video gaming, especially around Minecraft, which at that time was what they were spending a lot of time with. And yet, they were struggling to get their sons excited to go to their soccer game or little league game. And so, the notion kind of sprang that “why don’t we try to create a little league-like structure around games,” and bring kids physically together, with all of the good things you learn from traditional sports like sportsmanship, teamwork and collaboration. What better place to do that than physical movie theaters that are often empty a lot of the days, and equally provide a really good [audio-visual] experience and allow us to project something on the big screen that’s really unique. So, we’ve been at this now for two years. We run over 1,500 live events. We now run events with both Minecraft and League of Legends, and they’re meant to be recreational all the way up to pretty heightened competitive leagues that allow us to find the best amateur players and give them a venue to compete in a tournament-like structure.

Akopyan: With the title of CEO, there comes a multitude of responsibilities. Can you take us through your day-to-day as far as some of overarching strategies that you focus on

Hand: Yeah, absolutely. So, in the early days, a lot of the focus, because we managed to sign up some great movie theater partners right out of the gate and we really wanted to understand the live-event component of the business, we really immersed ourselves in those events. Just understanding and fine-tuning what happens in those experiences in the theater, what’s on the big screen, what’s a compelling league structure that would make people want to sign up again and again and track their progress and vie to be the winning team in North America. And then, there was a big shift about a year ago where we knew that we had the live events piece somewhat under our belt, and then it became about how do we have Super League have a reach beyond just our theater footprint. We have about 100 theaters in North America and north of 40 major metros. But the idea of the company was always to create a social home base for a wide, diverse group of social gamers across different ages, levels of play and different games. And so, that means that we need a Super League offer for everyone. So a pretty significant breakthrough, and where I’m spending more of my time today, is an announcement that we started last November and have continued to supplement over the last few months—the introduction of city club teams. So we now have 12 city clubs established across North America. Those are branded city clubs that create a unifying banner for all amateur gamers to affiliate with. For example, in LA, it’s the LA Shockwaves. What I’m spending more time thinking about now is live events; [it’s] one piece of an offer that we bring to those social gamers. What are the other things we can do to make the experience of being a member of the LA Shockwaves go beyond just what happens in the physical theaters? What we love about it is those city clubs start to allow us to have people really identify and feel that they’re representing or rooting for their hometown in a way that we think esports is lacking today. So, that community and local connection is a pretty big idea.


Akopyan: Putting myself into the seat of the fans, if I’m a fan of Minecraft or League of Legends, how can I get involved? How can I learn more about it? Can you take us through the process of how you’re reaching out to the consumers? What is your marketing strategy to get people excited about taking a part in this new, live program?

Hand: In the early days, a lot of it was very grassroots and local. It was our theater partners doing a good job of putting up posters, running trailers and really kind of promoting it in local theaters. We did some school outreach with the Minecraft product. You know, did some geo-targeted placement on Facebook and on other relevant social channels, really trying to get the word out because the marketing challenge in the early days is tough—it’s a completely new category of gaming. It’s play-space gaming, so almost we’re more akin to a modern-day version of the arcade because everyone coming in our theaters are coming in with their devices, and they’re all playing together and seeing their gameplay in a unique perspective on the big screen. So, you’re trying to educate an audience that it’s not coming to watch someone else play in the theater, it’s actually you coming to play yourself and be a member of that team. We’ve been fortunate now that the game publishers that we work with have now offered to do more of that communication to their own community directly. So, the marketing challenge has . . . I don’t ever want to say it’s easy when you’re launching something very new in a new space. But certainly with the game publishers like Riot Games behind us saying “hey community, this is something that you’ve been asking for, and we think this is a neat way for you to experience something that only enhances your love of the League of Legends product.”

Akopyan: Super League Gaming is all about community, which is a very big component to esports as well and how it got here in the first place. The community is what brought it here. A lot of brands are trying to reach out to these communities and trying to garner their attention and their dollars as well at the same time. What is your advice to the partners that you work with? What are those conversations like when you’re talking about reaching out to these consumers?

Hand: In the early days, it’d be very easy to get excited about the brand integration opportunity from a dollars and cents point of view. I give credit to our partner Riot Games for really forcing us to continue to think about making sure we’re giving fantastic experiences to the players firs, and that all good things will fall from that. So I’d say, what I think now about the role of other brands with Super League, it’s much more thoughtful. We’re creating these unique city teams, and I think that there’s an opportunity over time for local brands to get behind these gamming communities and really just be another stakeholder, just like the players themselves, that’s trying to create the rich fabric of “what does it mean to be a gamer in LA?” So, where my head is at right now is the notion of trying to first identify what is the LA-gamer lifestyle about, and how is that different from the Chicago-gamer lifestyle. That will tell us what are the right partners that really should come to play in that space whether with Super League holistically, or maybe by geography. We’ve definitely been, as an early-stage company, stepping in very cautiously because we do want to first understand our customers really well.

Akopyan: You already have partnerships with Riot Games, like you mentioned. With you being a player in the space as well, how are you leveraging relationships to continue building the Super League brand? How can esports start-ups identify key players in the space and tag-team along for the ride?

Hand: In a way, I think we do look at it a little differently. We looked for games and game partners that were hugely relevant, that are fantastic games, top-tier games and also games that actually would work very well in a tournament-like system. They function and design well in that space. We were very fortunate that our office is just a few blocks away from Riot Games. We were able to very quickly build a lot of trust, prove the fact that we’d be very thoughtful with their community and with the fact that they’re giving us this beautiful brand that they’ve created. So, I would say, in a way right now, we’ve been given a bit of a gift and we don’t look at it so much yet as trying to leverage things off of it. We just take it quite seriously that they’ve given us an opportunity to construct leagues for their recreational and amateur players. So I guess my advice to people would be to really go . . . game publishers do something very wonderful. They hold their community very dear and close, and they have a lot of the answers. If you listen to them, I think they’ll guide you down a direction that’s really true to what their community needs.

Akopyan: So it’s safe to say to always be the 1B, and not try to be the 1A?

Hand: Yeah.

Akopyan: There are a lot of conversations today about the difference between esports and competitive gaming, and how those are two different audiences. I’m curious as to what you think about some of the opportunities competitive gaming presents, and how esports can fit into that as well?

Hand: It’s such an early space that we’re all trying to sort out the nomenclature. For us we do believe that we offer recreational competitive gaming. We are clearly not trying to go after the kind of 0.001 percent of esports elite and what is traditionally labeled as esports and the professionals, just because we think there’s such an underserved large market of the amateurs underneath of it. And we like the fact that we’re offering something that’s highly complementary to what the publishers already have established. So instead of fighting what is out there, feed a separate need that tethers nicely to those things.

Akopyan: You recently were speaking at the alist summit, as you were a featured speaker there. When you’re in front of a room of marketers, a room full of industry executives who are not necessarily in the gaming space but are looking at entry points into esports, the non-endemic brands as we like to call them—what do you tell them?

Hand: I’ve sat in previous roles on their side. So one thing I say often is “we’re all learning as we go in this space, and the numbers don’t lie.” I think it’s important that these people looking at the space take time to really get their heads wrapped around the numbers and to trust that, even if this is something that you can’t personally relate to, it’s something that’s a very real space. Another way to validate that is to just look at the number of other very credible brands and partners that are jumping into the space as validation. What I would encourage people to do is, just like I would say for all good brand marketing decisions, be willing to [invest] a bit of money to really try talking to new audiences and to make your brand a little bit more relevant to millennials. Trust the process that the numbers are proving this is a very important way for you to have a conversation with millennials and be willing to do a little trial and error. If you look at [esports] it’s almost like a tsunami, and sometimes if there’s a tsunami coming after you and you’re trying to apply traditional CPM metrics, you kind of won’t see the forest through the trees. I do take heed in the fact that the number of avid gamers is real and meaningful and that brands need to find a very different way to talk to them.

Akopyan: Everyone likes to also use the metaphor that we’re in the wild west of esports. And of course, during the wild west there was a gold rush. Do you think sometimes there are opportunities that are fool’s gold? Are all the numbers out there kind of fooling companies to jump in [esports] when they really shouldn’t?

Hand: It’s a great question because the numbers are huge, but I think if you then compare it to the amount of dollars coming in as far as revenue being generated from professional esports or branded-integration dollars, you’ll still see it’s a fraction versus the market size. That balance hasn’t swung the wrong way, where there’s over investment relative to the number of gamers out there and the potential revenue streams. I would say it hasn’t gone the wrong way. It’s actually a very smart time to jump in and really get smart now with a little trial and error because it’s going to quickly get defined here in the next three years. There will be some people who got in early and got smarter faster, and I think they will have the bigger benefits on the back end.

Akopyan: So if anyone is listening right now and is unsure as to which door to enter in, what would you say is the right entry path as a sponsor, a marketer, or even as an investor?

Hand: Look, I’m biased. I think we’re going after a very beautiful, large and serviceable market that gives a very real, local, intimate conversation with everyday gamers. There’s not a lot of ways to talk to everyday gamers today outside of the games themselves, and so we think that’s a really differentiated position. So certainly when we’re talking to potential investors or brand partners, we amplify what we think makes us unique and special. It’s probably more important than trying to spend time jumping too fast against professional and amateur—it’s good for a brand to do some reflection on themselves. What are they really trying to achieve? And especially for the non-endemics—this isn’t a NASCAR race, and I don’t mean that disrespectfully to NASCAR, but it’s a very different audience that you just can’t put a logo on something for the sake of it. So be true to your brand enough that you know what places in the esports ecosystem actually genuinely make sense for you to be a part of. It’s a segment that your brand talks to but equally is a segment inside esports, and also being okay with the fact that there’s certain segments you may choise not to talk to because it’s just not authentic to your brand.


Akopyan: What are some of the brands Super League has worked with?

Hand: Well we’ve worked with a lot of great brands. In the early days, we started out with our product that was geared more toward kids ages six-to-14-years-old. We had a lot of parents coming to our events. So, certain kind of brands like Logitech, who already are endemics but actually very generously gave us a lot of prizes so that we could create a lot more excitement to the experience. But in truth, we have had a lot of brand conversations and very few activations because we have made a decision strategically as a company that we want to walk before we run in that space.

Akopyan: With you being at the helm of the company, I’m sure not everything is smooth sailing on a daily basis. What are lessons you’ve learned along the way that have impacted your strategy and eventually made you better?

Hand: When you’re an early-stage company, there’s so much trial and error. Every day is trial and error, and you’re pivoting your strategy almost weekly, which can kind of make you feel bad about yourself, but equally, you realize that’s what comes with defining a new category of gaming. Early on, we had a lot of influencers out there trying to promote our product. Wonderful people, but we didn’t have enough of a product developed to know how to get the messaging right and even “who are the right influencers based on our targets?” So those were kind of some early marketing lessons that we learned. We didn’t have a defined enough brand and marketing strategy to know how to use that channel of influencers as well as we could have. But it’s just part of our learning curve. Certainly too, we now are much more selective about what events we run, which theaters are right for the gaming audience we’re trying to attract based on the game that we have. We just know a lot more demographically about those locations and how to really bundle the right programming based on the demographics of those different cities that we’re in. So just a lot smarter on the theater footprint, the types of programs we run and also the different marketing channels we use to drive great attendance and great satisfaction.

Akopyan: Before we close, one of the big driving notions of esports is the daily diet of surveys, studies and reports that hit our mailboxes and predict nice, flowery depictions of money, audiences and social engagement. I’m very curious about both sides to the coin. What are some things you’re truly concerned about in the esports industry and competitive gaming? And frankly, what are you most excited about?

Hand: It’s shifted over the last couple of year for me. In the early days I was concerned about the negative attributes people attach to gaming, and that starting to amplify over time. So much of why we exist is we want to bring even better attributes to it. We know it helps people with their computer literacy and other aspects of how it’s leading into a lot of jobs that don’t even exist yet. But what Super League is doing is bringing all of those great attributes that come when you put people together physically to play. I was concerned that the negative would outweigh our opportunity to prove that we could make video gaming even more permissible and more positive. Thankfully, because I think the esports explosion is so large and vast, I feel I spend less time worrying about that today. If anything, it’s just helping people realize this isn’t a fad. As we earlier, the numbers are material, and some very smart people out there have some bold predictions about how esports will eclipse traditional sports. I’m seeing a tipping point where more people are seeing the positives of gaming itself, and the positive direction the size of this market can go.

Akopyan: We look forward to seeing Super League Gaming at the epicenter of the entire industry and again, I’ll let you remind the listeners how they can get involved in Super League, and some of the cities that you’re located in as well as we close.

Hand: Absolutely. We currently run events in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Dallas. And, more importantly, we’ve just launched events in Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, Boston and New York. We’re really encouraging people to do join those teams because those city clubs are a way for all social gamers to unite. So, right now we’re running Minecraft and League of Legends leagues, but we encourage you to join those teams as a fan and follow through SuperLeague.com and our different social channels. What we’ll be doing over time is finding more and more ways for those local city teams to really connect in a meaningful way that goes beyond the physical theater events. I often say a 28-year old League of Legends player walks down a street. He passes a 10-year-old Minecraft-playing kid and they can’t identify with each other—that they have one thing very much in common, which is their love of gaming. With both being members of the LA Shockwaves, it’s a way for those two very different audiences to find that they do have a real connection with each other. And really, at the end of the day, we are trying to create local, social gaming communities.

Akopyan: There you have it ladies and gentlemen. Ann Hand, CEO of Super League Gaming, thank you very much for your time. Looking forward to continuing the conversation again down the road.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan