Team Dignitas’ female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team was the first to go through the Philadelphia 76ers “boot camp,” a program designed to apply the same training, nutritional and marketing expertise that NBA rookies undergo to esports for the first time. Heather Garozzo, director of fan marketing at Team Dignitas, experienced that boot camp first-hand by spending time inside the Sixers’ Camden training facility the week before E3.
“In the past, we’d boot camp by getting together in a player’s house or studio apartment, so now we have access to the Sixers’ $82 million facility overlooking their beautiful practice court,” Garozzo said. “We’re mostly Los Angeles-based and we compete in Europe, so it’s a nice location to break that long trip in half and get some practice time, as well as access to the nutritionists, the sports psychologists, strength and conditioning coaches, physical therapists and all the tools that the professional athletes have access to.”
Garozzo has been playing competitive CS:GO since 1999 for teams like Evil Geniuses and Virtus Gaming and has a female world championship under her belt. Garazzo also spent time working at the FleischmanHillard PR agency on the Championship Gaming Series. She joined her current team in 2014 and was along for the ride as they were picked up by Team Dignitas, which was then acquired by the Sixers last year.
“The core of this team has been together now for three years and we’ve gone through a number of different organizations, but a lot of times, it was us ironing our names on the back of our jerseys and it was really hard to get those big sponsors at the time,” Garazzo explained. “Dignitas is a historic brand and now that they’re backed by the Philadelphia 76ers, another iconic brand. Everything is different.”
Before having the Sixers step in to sell sponsorships, the women’s team was attracting endemic brands like such HyperX and Dell. Now the team is also working with brands like Mountain Dew and Buffalo Wild Wings.
“We came from playing in small venues with endemic sponsors and now we’re doing things for some of the biggest brands in the world,” Garozzo said. “We hosted a fan meet-up at a Buffalo Wild Wings event to watch ELeague and 150 people showed up to meet us, get autographs and hang out. So, we’re excited to do more of those in the future.”
As more non-endemic brands enter esports, the Sixers are also looking to tap into brand new sponsorship opportunities that only a women’s team can attract.
“We sat in a room with 15 to 20 people from the Sixers marketing team and their jobs are to find us sponsors,” Garozzo said. “They asked us to list the things that we use and what products are important to us as players and as people. We’re really excited now that we have this entire team going out and trying to find products that we feel that we could market really well to our audience.”
Garozzo said the power in esports for brands is that fans are extremely loyal and they get to know players at a personal level through daily digital interactions across platforms.
“If we’re not competing at a tournament, we are streaming on Facebook or Twitch and interacting with our fans on Twitter,” Garozzo said. “There are a lot of opportunities to show off the brands that we love and the brands that we’re passionate about and there are a lot of females that have recently come into esports. It’s one of the fastest-growing audiences and we never had female role models growing up. Now we look at ourselves as the role models, the pioneers for female esports, so we feel like we can speak very passionately to and authentically to a lot of our big sponsors.”
The Sixers organization made a business decision earlier this year to expand beyond Twitch and have all of its esports teams also stream on Facebook, a platform many non-endemics are very familiar with.
“With Facebook, we essentially have 500 hundred million people that could potentially be our fans that maybe know a little about gaming or maybe know about sports and competition, and we want to welcome them to Dignitas,” Garozzo said. “Facebook is a great place to be as we’re working with non-endemics like the Buffalo Wild Wings and the Mountain Dews.”
Facebook may be the top social network in the world, but it wants to dominate the game video content (GVC) market, as well. Strategic partnerships have the network poised to draw eyes away from YouTube and Twitch, although it won’t be easy.
Facebook has already established itself as a place for gaming, at least in the casual market. The company reports that across web and mobile, an average of 445 million people play Facebook-connected games every month, and over 250 million people play directly on the platform itself.
Now that focus is shifting dramatically toward the competitive world of esports. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)developer Bluehole has partnered with Facebook to host a weekly, three-hour livestream show. The Bluehole team will showcase exclusive in-game content on the show and feature both community members and top online creators.
“This new initiative with Facebook will bring our passionate fan base closer to our development team,” Chang Han Kim, vice president and executive producer of Bluehole, said in a statement. “Livestreaming has been very important to the growth of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. We believe that featuring PUBG livestreamers on Facebook further strengthens our commitment to the community while extending the reach of our game to a global audience.”
Activision Blizzard partnered with the social media giant, allowing users to broadcast live gameplay from PC, mobile and console games directly to Facebook. Additionally, the rights to broadcast the collegiate Heroes of the Dorm tournament (featuring Heroes of the Storm) switched from ESPN to Facebook this year, and Facebook penned a deal with ESL to broadcast over 5,500 hours of esports content.
Why does Facebook want to dominate the video market, especially in gaming? According to research from IHS Markit, esports is expected to become a $1 billion advertising industry by 2021, with video driving a majority of revenues along with influencer marketing and sponsorship. GVC alone is expected to generate $4.6 billion in 2017, according to SuperData.
Last year, Facebook paid as much as $220,000 for top YouTube stars to produce exclusive content for Facebook Live. The initiative certainly helped get cameras rolling, as live broadcasts now make up 20 percent of Facebook video.
As with all marketing, a larger audience doesn’t necessarily equate to a quality one. Facebook may boast two billion monthly active users, but that doesn’t mean those two billion are video game fans. Over 20 million how-to gaming videos have been uploaded to YouTube, and 56 percent of gamers on the site say they go to YouTube to connect with their gaming communities.
Twitch may not have the massive user base of Facebook, but its audience is even more niche than YouTube when it comes to GVC. Twitch earns 37 percent of GVC revenue despite only having 16 percent of the viewers, according to SuperData, making it an attractive platform for esports leagues and marketers alike. This concentrated outlet for engaged gaming audiences earned Twitch an exclusive worldwide partnership with Blizzard that includes third-party livestreaming rights to select Blizzard esports content through 2018.
Facebook may have a way to go before it outpaces its top competitors, but that won’t stop the social network from trying, especially in the lucrative esports market.
“Esports is an exciting space and continues to be a growing priority for us,” Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships said during its Digital Content NewFronts presentation. “With over [two billion] people on the platform and a growing suite of VOD and livestreaming products that partners can use to increase engagement, Facebook is uniquely positioned to help eSports fans connect around exciting moments and great esports content.”
Chief marketing officers have indicated major industry challenges when it comes to adapting and serving local audiences with timely, localized content and campaigns, and too few are investing in the necessary tools, teams and processes needed to deliver tailored quality creative.
According to a joint study from CMO Council and HH Global, a meager 33 percent of respondents said that their companies were advanced or doing well in adapting brand content for different markets, partners and geographies.
Thirty-four percent of respondents, however, said they were at least improving, and just 20 percent are satisfied with their creative delivery process and marketing supply chain effectiveness.
The report, titled “The Age of the Adaptive Marketer,” polled 150 senior marketing executives from global industries that demand an omnichannel presence in Q2.
“At a time when the customer has higher expectations than ever for relevance and personalization of content and brand interaction, marketing organizations will need to step up their game when it comes to brand content adaptation to address geographic, cultural, customer and other differences,” said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. “Past research has shown that adaptation of marketing strategies and content can be a major enabler of sales and brand success. Yet most companies have a long way to go in order to get it right.”
Executives who were surveyed also indicated the top five process challenges they face:
Shortening turnaround times
Ensuring quality and uniformity with brand guidelines
End-to-end workflow management
Delivering creative on time and measuring the creative appeal
Impact of content
“The findings—that marketers are struggling with finding efficient ways to adapt creative content for local markets at scale—expose a gap in the market that is quantitatively consistent with our qualitative experiences,” said Robert MacMillan, group CEO at HH Global. “We have seen marketers trying to expand into new regional markets with localized content, but, as demonstrated in the research, they have neither the time nor processes and tools to execute at scale.”
The study also found that brands are not taking the necessary steps to advance their capacity to adapt and modify branded content.
18 percent have completed a formal assessment of their creative delivery process and marketing supply chain effectiveness
24 percent say they have begun one
20 percent use online approval and proofing systems to accelerate modifications
49 percent of respondents say they spend less than 5 percent of their marketing budget for creative adaptation and cross-cultural localization
Twitch has hired Kate Jhaveri as their senior vice president of marketing, the social video platform announced Tuesday.
Jhaveri will report to CEO Emmett Shear and be tasked with leading global marketing and communications and grow the community with unique content experiences.
“Twitch has already done a great job leveraging owned and earned media, in-product messaging and of course with its own weekly show introducing new features and content to our community,” Jhaveri told AListDaily. “I’m looking forward to building on this great foundation and deepening our storytelling about the power and richness of our community across more platforms. . . . Twitch has grown exponentially over the last couple of years, and a key focus for us this year is to bring more visibility to new broadcasters and content categories that have emerged recently thanks to our deeply engaged community.”
Before joining Twitch, Jhaveri led global consumer marketing for Twitter, where she was responsible for end-to-end marketing, including brand and product marketing, paid acquisition and lifecycle, and all consumer touchpoints. Prior to Twitter, she led mobile marketing at Facebook and was responsible for launching and growing new mobile products. Jhaveri previously has worked at Microsoft for seven years as well, leading global consumer marketing and communications teams for products like Windows and Office.
“Having spent a good part of my career working with social platforms, I’m thrilled to be a part of the Twitch team and to bring the excitement and energy of this brand that is so beloved to a larger audience,” Jhaveri said.
Michael Mendenhall has been appointed CMO for IBM Watson and Cloud Platform.
Mendenhall, a former Hewlett-Packard and Disney marcom executive who most recently worked for electronics solutions company Flex, will be based in San Francisco and be tasked with global marketing, branding and communications.
Online loan marketplace company LendingTree named former Travelocity executive Brad Wilson as their new CMO to oversee brand strategy, marketing operations and consumer engagement.
“As we continue to improve our market position, expand into new categories and scale our business, it’s imperative to bolster our leadership team with executives of this caliber to support future growth,” said Doug Lebda, founder and CEO of LendingTree. “Brad’s unique leadership experience and strategic omni-channel marketing approach will undoubtedly support our growing portfolio of consumer-centric products and services.”
“I have always been inspired by the mission of the company and its pro-consumer focus,” said Wilson. “I am even more impressed with the culture that LendingTree has cultivated to support the company’s growth.”
Scott Hudler has been named CMO and senior vice president for Dick’s Sporting Goods to oversee the brand’s overall marketing and consumer engagement strategy and implementation. He will report to company president Lauren Hobart.
“Scott will play a pivotal role in driving our continued digital transformation across all consumer touch points and optimizing all of our marketing channels,” said Hobart. “His experience will make an immediate impact on our team, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the DICK’S family.”
For the last 11 years, Hudler worked at Dunkin’ Brands, most recently as senior vice president, chief digital officer. Previous to that, he was at Mars Inc., holding a variety of marketing roles in brand, sponsorship and marketing communications.
“I have always admired the Dick’s Sporting Goods brand as both a marketer and as a consumer. I am incredibly excited to align my personal and professional passions and lead the digital transformation for such a strong consumer brand,” said Hudler.
Warner Bros. Digital Networks is making moves within their management teams by naming Eric Besner, senior vice president, business development, Greg Salter, senior vice president, business, strategic planning; Katie Soo, senior vice president, marketing.
“We’re excited to be growing the Digital Networks team with the addition of Katie, Greg and Eric,” said Jay Levine, executive vice president of Warner Bros. “They each bring broad experience and a digital-native perspective to their respective areas of expertise and will be key in helping us ramp up our operations as we continue to grow both our digital short-form production and OTT offerings. Combined, these executives have worked at some of the industry’s most successful and respected digital innovators—including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Warner Bros., and Fullscreen—and I look forward to working with each of them.”
Twitter has tapped Ned Segal as chief financial officer. Segal most recently served as a senior finance executive at Intuit. He previously was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, too.
“Ned’s experience in financial operations as a public company and business unit CFO, along with his background serving technology companies and investors, are an ideal fit for Twitter as we work to extend our positive momentum, continue growing our audience and achieve greater operating efficiency,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement. “He brings a principled, engaging and rigorous approach to the CFO role, with a track record of driving profitable growth.”
Andrew Ip has joined Charter Communications as the company’s senior vice president of emerging technology and innovation. Ip will be tasked with “introducing, developing and commercializing new technology that will enable enhanced customer experiences and help the company expand into new marketplaces.” Ip most recently served as senior vice president and managing director at Madison Square Garden Ventures.
“We are very pleased to welcome Andrew to the engineering team at Charter,” said Jim Blackley, executive vice president, engineering and IT for Charter Communications. “Andrew brings a wealth of technical expertise and a unique vision that will enable Charter to further drive the adoption and roll-out of emerging technologies.”
Personalized photo products and services brand Shutterfly announced the hiring of Scott Arnold as president of Shutterfly Enterprise to oversee the organization’s emerging division.
“Scott’s proven track record and leadership experience make him the right leader to take on the important work of developing a long-term enterprise strategy and continuing to grow the division by leveraging our core technological and manufacturing capabilities,” said Christopher North, president and CEO of Shutterfly.
Legend 3D, a 3D conversion, VFX and VR studio, has made eight additions to their executive management team with the hirings of: Richard Baker (chief creative officer), Barry Stagg (CMO), Scott Willman (CIO), Crys Forsyth-Smith (vice president of production), Prasanna Kodipadi (vice president of international operations), Chris McClintock (senior producer), Lisa Sepp-Wilson (head of VFX production, Toronto) and Simon Kern (stereo supervisor)
“These key roles reflect Legend’s ongoing commitment to provide clients with the most experienced and accomplished professionals in our business,” said CEO Aidan Foley. “As an industry leader, Legend takes serious our obligation to engage world class talent in all facets of our operations. We’re very pleased to welcome these respected and skilled new members to the Legend family.”
Augie Renna is joining northeast vacation destination Foxwoods Resort Casino as vice president of national marketing. Renna recently was the president of national marketing for Tropicana Las Vegas and has over 30 years of casino marketing and leadership experience.
“[Augie] is an invaluable asset who will help drive the growth of our brand nationally while spearheading player development strategies and strengthening communication with the most important part of our business, our customers,” said Felix Rappaport, president and CEO of Foxwoods.
TriHealth has a new vice president of marketing communications in Rob Whitehouse.
The Las Vegas Golden Nights, the NHL’s latest expansion team, have parted ways with Nehme Abouzeid, their senior vice president and CMO.
Abouzeid, a Sin City marketing veteran with stops at Wynn Las Vegas and Las Vegas Sands Corp, announced his departure on Facebook. “Pro hockey effectively launched in Vegas. City excited. Team drafted. Brand rolled out. Flagship store opened. Fan base engaged and growing. Looking forward to the next journey helping other companies and brands do the same. Look for my own firm launching soon in Vegas.”
Jason VandenBerghe, formerly a Ubisoft Montreal creative director and widely known as the yelling Viking man behind the video game For Honor, is joining ArenaNet as its new director of design.
VandenBerghe, who also worked on such titles like Far Cry 3, Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Red Steel 2, released the following statement on his Facebook page.
“I won’t be making games directly any more – I’ll be studio level, shepherding teams and growing people. I’m… sort of thrilled about how difficult that sounds,” VandenBerghe said.
Jennifer Chasteen has been promoted to the newly created position of vice president of brand strategy and activation for Church’s Chicken.
“Jennifer has been instrumental in defining marketing strategies that amplify Church’s purpose of creating great chicken experiences that guests love,” said Hector Munoz, executive vice president and global CMO at Church’s. “Paired with her deep activation expertise, that vision will now carry all the way through to the local marketplace.”
J.C. Penney CFO Edward Record has stepped down from his position at the retailer.
“I’ve had a very rewarding experience at J.C. Penney, and am proud of the work we have undertaken to strengthen the company’s financial condition,” Record said. “J.C. Penney is well positioned for the future, and I will continue to follow the company closely as the team builds on the positive momentum it has experienced over the last few years.”
Univision ad-sales chief Keith Turnerwill retire from his post as president of ad sales and marketing at the end of the year. Prior to joining the Spanish-language broadcaster, Turner served as the senior vice president of media sales and sponsorship for the NFL, where he oversaw the NFL sponsorship business, as well as advertising sales for all NFL media platforms.
Norman Pearlstine, Time Inc.’s vice chairman, executive vice president and chief content officer, is retiring from the company.
Microsoft will cut 3,000-to-4,000 jobs in its sales and marketing divisions, which employs about 50,000 people worldwide. The move follows their recent announcement that the tech giant would be realigning the two divisions, moving the company’s focus toward cloud services, data analysis, artificial intelligence and digital business opportunities. The cuts will “enable [Microsoft] to align the right resources for the right customer at the right time,” said Judson Althoff, executive vice president for worldwide commercial business for Microsoft, perThe Wall Street Journal.
(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, July 14. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Activision Blizzard is modeling traditional sports with the formation of Overwatch League by awarding city-based teams to seven entrepreneurs, leaders and companies from traditional sports and esports.
Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots, owns the Boston franchise.
Jeff Wilpon, co-founder and partner of Sterling VC and COO of the New York Mets, runs the New York team.
Andy Miller, chairman and founder of NRG Esports and co-owner of the Sacramento Kings, runs the San Francisco team.
Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals, operates the Los Angeles team.
Ben Spoont, CEO and co-founder of Misfits Gaming, oversees the Miami-Orlando team.
Kevin Chou, co-founder of Kabam, runs the Seoul team.
NetEase operates the Shanghai team.
“NRG Esports couldn’t be more honored to represent San Francisco and all of Northern California for the launch of the Overwatch League,” Miller told AListDaily.“As big believers in Overwatch, NRG has fielded one of the most popular teams in the world since the game’s release and can’t wait to bring a hometown team to the Bay Area.”
The Overwatch League, slated to begin later this year, is a unique opportunity for owners and players. As the first major esports league to feature a city-based structure, the league will drive development of local fan bases. For the first season of the league, regular-season matches will be played at an esports arena in the Los Angeles area, as teams develop their local venues for formal home-and-away play in future seasons. Matches will be played every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A full schedule, and information about ticket sales, will be announced closer to launch.
The league will create value for team owners through advertising, ticketing and broadcast rights revenues, with teams receiving an equal share of all league-wide net revenues. Teams will also keep all local revenues generated through their home territory and venue up to a set amount each year, which is unprecedented in esports.
Above the set amount, a percentage is sent to the league’s shared revenue pool. In addition, teams will have a license to operate and monetize up to five amateur events in their home territory each year, and to benefit from the sale of league-affiliated fan items in Overwatch, with half of the revenues going into the net shared revenue pool for all teams.
“Franchising is important for the future of esports,” said Miller. “The Overwatch League was most interesting to us because it sets up a permanent team and allows us to build a fan base from San Francisco to Oakland to Sacramento. The league also offers a permanence that ensures sponsors and players that we’ll stick around. It’s a great opportunity to invest in these teams and get involved in this organization whether you’re a fan or a sponsor. . . . The bigger part is it’s both global and local, so there’s a hometown team you can root for. That’s going to take it to the next level.”
While everything from team names to venues are still being worked out, Miller said these local teams will require facilities larger than the typical thousand-seat esports arenas that are emerging across the country. He’s looking at theaters and other venues in the Bay Area to establish a home court for his team.
“Riot Games sold out Staples Center for the championship game, and we hope that for the playoffs and finals, we may be able to host events at Madison Square Garden or Staples Center. But for the large number of regular season matches, we’re looking at smaller venues.
Having local teams also allows esports team owners to court new sponsors, following in the path of NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS teams across the United States.
“It should be similar to traditional sports with Bay Area sponsors coming on board,” Miller said. “We’re hoping to get some inaugural sponsors to represent brands based in the Bay Area. This league opens up opportunities for national level sponsors for the team as a whole, as well as local sponsors inside of our arena—when we get it going—and local activations.”
Miller, who previously served as vice president of mobile advertising for Apple from 2009 to 2011, also likes the international aspect of the Overwatch League.
“Just as the NBA does with preseason and promotional games in China and as NFL has experimented with regular games in London, Canada and Mexico, the Overwatch League has built in international teams,” Miller said. “I’m sure some European teams will be added at some point.”
“It’s been a great couple of years as far as the mainstreaming of something that was already mainstream,” Miller said. “More people are waking up to the size, scope and passion of this gaming audience. People realize now with NBA 2K and Madden and Premiere League teams and others getting involved, that esports is here to stay; it’s really large and a great demographic and base to get involved with compared to traditional sports leagues.”
Unlike traditional sports, Overwatch doesn’t require television. While Turner Broadcasting has aired Overwatch competition, in addition to CS:GO and Injustice 2 tournaments, digital remains the key platform for esports.
“There’s a role for TV for sure, but it’s not the key for this league to work,” Miller said. “A national TV deal is a great way to augment the streaming broadcast, and hopefully introduce this league to newer fans, and an older demographic.”
Miller said now that sports icons like Kraft and Wilpon are in the esports game, fans will see a more traditional sports structure, which is good for the game and for esports as a whole. NRG does have some advantages in the Overwatch League, and that comes in the form of co-owners like NBA Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal.
“Shaq is a recruiting machine,” Miller said. “There are over 50 good teams that have a player or two that could put us over the top, so recruiting is important to us, as is scouting and training. We also have [former MLB MVP] Jimmy Rollins. [Former Phillies star] Ryan Howard just came in, Shaq and [former MLB MVP] Alex Rodriquez are all actively involved in NRG. Entertainment and sports are celebrity-fueled today, so we’ll bring in people from the entertainment and music worlds to help bring this culture alive and build a community around it.”
With approximately 35 million monthly active players, Overwatch has a huge global fan base for these new teams to tap into. Miller said Blizzard has a great and very specific merchandizing plan that gives teams global distribution that fans all around the world will have interest in.
“There will also be in-game digital opportunities, where you’ll see our team prominently displayed in-game through skins and customization,” Miller said.
On Tuesday, peripheral maker Logitech announced the acquisition of the premium gaming headset and audio hardware company Astro Gaming in a deal worth $85 million in cash. The announcement came as a surprise for many, considering how Logitech already has a strong presence in the gaming and esports communities with the Logitech G brand, which includes its own line of gaming headsets.
“We’ve been fans of Astro for a while, and you could even call us ‘frenemies’ because we’ve been friends and enemies,” Ujesh Desai, vice president and general manager of Logitech G, told AListDaily while explaining what led to the acquisition. “They make headsets and we make headsets, but they don’t make keyboards and mice, so we’ve always given those things to them to use with streamers and at their booths. So, we’ve had a kind of partnership with them for a while even though we’ve competed with them.”
Altough the companies might seem like rivals , upon deeper inspection, the two brands ended up complementing each other. “[Astro] is primarily in the console space, even though their headsets are multiplatform and work on the PC as well,” said Desai. “Our PC headsets also work on consoles, but if you look at what we’ve done, Logitech G is mostly focused on PC gaming. Our headsets are very much targeted toward the PC gaming space, whereas Astro—first and foremost—has been focused on the console gaming space. So, we thought that was a nice synergy and when you look at the products, they didn’t really compete with us that much. They were actually very complementary.”
Desai also commented about how Astro Gaming grew out of Astro Design Studios, so there is a shared focus on design and gaming between the two companies. “They really understand gamers and they come from a design first approach,” explained Desai. “When you combine all those things—the synergy between console and PC, the love for gaming, and a shared focus on design—[the acquisition] made sense.”
With Astro’s strong presence in the US and Europe, Logitech plans on letting the company operate independently, leaving the brand, its signature packaging and website as they are. However, Desai explained how the two companies could leverage each other’s strengths.
“I think they’ve done a phenomenal job on social media building up a direct-to-consumer connection to sell products from their website,” said Desai. “That’s the kind of stuff I’d love to learn from them. On the flip side, Logitech G is unbelievably strong in places like Asia. But because Astro isn’t a huge company, it hasn’t had the time or energy to invest there, so I think that’s an area where we can help them.”
In Asia, it might make sense to expand the Astro brand to include Logitech. “Astro Gaming has a very strong brand in the US and Europe, so we’re not changing it there at all,” Desai clarified. “Maybe in Asia, I could see us doing ‘Astro by Logitech G,’ but we haven’t decided on anything yet. We’ve just started conversations with the team about what they want to do there.”
When asked whether the two brands might coordinate their marketing, Desai said, “I think that’s something that we’ll look at to see where it makes sense. Obviously, there are still a lot of things we have to do between signing and closing—but fast forward to next year and you could see both of us going to trade shows like PAX and we’d probably share one big booth, with half being Astro and half Logitech G. Fundamentally, what we want to do is have Astro continue to do all the things that they’re already doing right and help in areas where we can. We have large manufacturing operations and better worldwide distribution. If they can tap into that, then we want to help them with that. But otherwise, we’re not going to mess with them.”
The bigger question is which will be the featured brand for esports sponsorships. “Honestly, that depends on what the teams want,” Desai responded. “We’ve never tried to build an esports relationship where we force the team to use something because we’re the sponsor. We’ve tried to have genuine partnerships with teams like TSM (Team SoloMid) and Cloud9. Those players help us design the products and they get early access to prototypes that they give us feedback on so we can iterate. They’re part of that process and it’s not just, ‘here’s my check, now shove a G logo on your shirt.’ That’s not what we look for in a partnership. If we have teams that ask us whether they can use Astro headsets now that we’ve bought them, we’ll say, ‘sure, no problem.’”
Desai said that, judging from what he’s seen and heard so far, the reaction from Astro Gaming fans has been very positive, despite how some might cherish Astro’s independence as part of its brand. “They love Astro, their brand and the fact that they’re an independent company, but they also know that they’re going to get the support they need,” Desai explained. “Logitech has been around for 35 years, and Logitech G is a business unit that cares deeply about gaming. So, I think it’s been very positive and it’s a nice home for Astro to land. Logitech G and Astro together is just better.
“Hopefully, gamers will see this as a positive because now they have even more choice from us. We’re going to help make Astro better with the leverage and big infrastructure that Logitech G brings to the table and vice versa. If there are a bunch of Astro fans who want access to Logitech G keyboards and mice, now they can have it. It’s just better in general for gamers because we can share all of our ideas and IPs to come up with better products.”
That partnership might mean cross compatibility between Logitech G and Astro Gaming hardware, as Desai said that he could see the two companies sharing engineering IP both ways. With the signing done, the two brands will have to figure out the next steps for growing together.
“The ink hasn’t even dried yet, so our focus is on integration right now,” said Desai. “It’s nothing anyone will find very glamorous, but it’s stuff that we have to do, like making sure their ecommerce front end plugs into our backend and making sure all their part numbers are set up into our system. Really sucky and basic stuff.
“If you think about it, they were once owned by Skullcandy, but we didn’t take Skullcandy, we’re just taking Astro. One analogy is to imagine buying a house, but you’re only taking the bedroom and there’s no plumbing or anything that comes with it. We love the bedroom, but now we have to get it working with the plumbing in our house.”
A slew of sponsors outside of gaming want to get in on the esports action as part of all-embracing marketing strategies to reach highly engaged millennial males. Mark nutritionally complete, staple foods start-up Soylent to a mix that seemingly is growing every day.
Solyent—which somewhat serves as a grab-and-go liquified lifeforce—is leveraging its convenient meal-replacement product and is appropriately targeting gamers, whose days can be devoid of time and exercise as they ply away at their trades in front of PCs, mobile devices or consoles.
Gamers can play through marathon sessions without a meal, which makes Solyent’s entry and integrations with its quick, cheap and filling foods a natural fit for the space.
Soylent surfaced in 2014 after a crowdfunding campaign generated nearly $1.5 million in orders, and their brand positioning is simple: it contains all the nutrients humans need to survive.
They’ve since procured partnerships with the likes of ESL, MediaMation and Hammer Esports, offering support both as a sponsor—and a source of sustenance.
Conor Parker, Soylent’s brand marketing manager, and Abel Charrow, Soylent’s business development manager, joined AListDaily to share their mission for gaming audiences.
Why are gamers an important part of Soylent’s integrated marketing strategy?
Parker: Gamers, plain and simple, are the perfect use case and demographic fit. The core gaming community is predominately male and ages from 18-to-34. A tentpole event like E3 is an easy transition from our core engineering and tech user base to a broader audience. There is a great deal of overlap between the two groups already, which makes the marketing opportunities ideal. It can be a challenge to explain Soylent’s value proposition, but to gamers we’re offering them a mess-free, preparation-free, healthy alternative to the bulk of food products already in the space.
Charrow: I think the long-time popular misconception about gaming was that it was a hobby done in isolation. What livestreaming and esports have successfully demonstrated to marketers is that gaming is a social activity, and gamers are a big and passionate community. I’m not a gamer myself, but the concept of community is sacred and universal. That this community has embraced our brand is incredibly special to us, so of course we want to place more energy in growing and maintaining that relationship. A couple years ago, Buzzfeed published an article titled, “Soylent wants to be the Red Bull of video gaming.” While that’s an ambitious goal, I don’t think it is an accurate comparison. For one thing, Red Bull is already the Red Bull of gaming. Our approach, on the other hand, has been very grassroots. For the past year, it has literally just been Conor, up all night, tweeting with streamers, surprising fans with swag, and sending free cases of Soylent to LAN gaming centers and weekend tournaments. A more appropriate comparison would be that Soylent wants to be to esports what orange slices are to soccer games. If in 10 years, someone grabs a Soylent and is immediately taken back to the excitement of a tournament, or the camaraderie of playing against friends, then that’s when I’ll say our strategy has been a success.
How are you looking at gaming and esports sponsorships? What are your points of entry?
Charrow: Conor can speak to this in more detail, but short the answer is “absolutely.” For now, we’re quite excited about our partnership with Hollywood Esports and the Hollywood Hammers. We partnered with them and MediaMation at E3 last month to present the super-fun MX4D booth. Free Soylent will also be available at their upcoming events at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre. Our first major sponsorship was ESL One in late 2015. We haven’t done an event of that magnitude since simply because large events require a large chunk of our resources. Right now, we’re focusing on smaller, local events, but big events are certainly in our sights for the future. In the meantime, if you’re hosting a gaming event and want some Soylent, hit us up!
Parker: We’re looking at gaming events and esports broadly. We’re open to sponsoring new and up-and-coming teams. The bulk of our event support is aimed at the grassroots and smaller tournament levels. We’ve jumped into larger events in the past with ESL One, and while they have given us some great brand awareness, we’ve found spreading ourselves out to a wide variety of smaller tournaments in smaller communities gives us more meaningful touchpoints. That’s not to say large events are not important, but rather they don’t represent the core of our strategy.
How do Soylent’s experiential marketing missions keep evolving?
Charrow: We place more and more emphasis on “experiential” and less and less on “marketing.” When considering an event, we gut check with a shortlist of questions, like: “what is Soylent’s relevance to this event? Can Soylent offer something here that no other brand can offer?” And most importantly, “will Soylent improve the overall experience for attendees of the event?” For example, a burgers-and-beer fest was seeking a Soylent activation recently. I explained, “I love burgers, I love beer, I love your event. But if someone drinks a bottle of Soylent here, they won’t have room for burgers. We’d ruin your event!” [For our E3 activation this year it was] on the other end of the spectrum. There’s so much to see and do and only so much time before the halls close. The lines are long, both for exhibits and food. By providing free bottles of Soylent, we hopefully made the choice for some attendees between standing in line for lunch and standing in line for Fallout 4 a whole lot easier.
How are you leveraging your line of products to better connect with consumers?
Parker: Many of our connections in the gaming community can be traced back to smaller tournaments we funded, such as the Dota 2 BEAT Invitational tournament series. I’ve been actively engaging in conversations online about Soylent as well as connecting to groups that host in-kind and small-prize-pool events to get the product in the hands of gamers. Being a brand at a smaller event, in my opinion, endears you to the community more, because you are the one supporting their grassroots efforts. These are events the non-pro players get to touch and participate in. Larger events tend to generally be invite only, and while it’s great to see the pros play, it can be more meaningful to help support the non-professional group. We’ve made some key influencer relationships, two of these being our partnership with Kibler and Hafu, two prominent Hearthstone streamers, and many key brand associations and discussions can draw a line back to these two.
Charrow: I can only make assumptions about why Soylent has resonated so well with gamers. It may have a lot to do with our origin story in Silicon Valley, since the Venn diagram of gamers and techies has a pretty large overlap. The same could be said for the interests of our early employees. It may have a lot to with the rise of streaming, as professional gamers recognized the practical benefit of a food that was easy and discreet and wouldn’t interrupt their gameplay. But I think a lot of it also has to do with Conor, who interacts with our customers on reddit, Facebook and Twitter every day. By being both a passionate gamer and a passionate brand ambassador, he’s organically and earnestly kept Soylent relevant and ubiquitous in the realm of gaming. That’s how we hope to connect with consumers in other realms as well. We’re not going to focus on selling them product—we’re going to focus on fueling their passions.
Whales are the most active spenders in the mobile gaming space, and while there are few of them, this group of consumers are the driving force behind free-to-play business models. But who are they really, and how do you get them to pour their trust funds into your new farm simulator? Today, we are examining the myths and revealing the truth behind this elusive demographic.
Myth 1: There Is Only One Kind Of Whale
Optimove, a company that specializes in customer retention, recently tracked 235 social gamers over 18 months and found that only 10 percent of players bring in 75 percent of a social game’s revenue, and just one percent—the biggest whales—bring in 30 percent.
That means that while active spenders typically bring in the most consistent income for a freemium business model, there is a group within a group that spends even more.
Myth 2: Whales Always Spend A Lot Of Money
“One of the common misconceptions about [whales] is that they are indiscriminate spenders who can afford anything offered to them,” says deltaDNA, an analytics and marketing company.
Tracking one million high spenders who have spent more than $100 in mobile free-to-play games since July 2015, deltaDNA found that whales aren’t dropping a hundred dollars at a time. In fact, over half (54 percent) have never made an individual purchase worth more than $50.
“Across all in-app purchases made by whales, the typical transaction size is $20,” deltaDNA noted in its findings. “Whales are, on average, purchasing modest bundles.”
Myth 3: You Should Focus All Marketing On Whales
App monetization platform Tapjoy found that the top 10 percent of an app’s spenders drive 70 percent of its in-app purchase (IAP) revenue. In addition, this group drives nearly 60 percent of its total revenue. While this may inspire a barrage of offers, Tapjoy recommends customized advertising to match the spending habits of each spender type.
For whales, Tapjoy advises not to bother with advertising offers. “Instead, focus on making them aware of valuable, useful or just plain cool virtual items that they’d be interested in buying. If they have a tendency to pay for high-end items, promote those—but they may be just as likely to take part in a currency bundle in order to stretch the value of their dollar.”
Optimove urges publishers to make sure their active spenders know they’re VIPs through exclusive rewards. “Players are well aware that they are VIPs,” the company said. “They should get limited edition/special games access, event invites, special gifts and a personal touch.”
DeltaDNA says, “Very expensive individual items or bundles will not make an impact. Focus on building better long-term engagement and creating a rewarding experience for all spenders as an effective strategy to maximize the potential of whales.”
Whales aren’t always who you think. They may spend a lot over time as opposed to one massive purchase. A player who doesn’t usually spend may splurge and change that in one session. Before you go all “Ahab,” knowing your audience could mean the difference between rocky seas and a lucky catch.
Cloud gaming platform LiquidSky has released its all-new Android app, which allows mobile users to access and play their favorite PC games from anywhere. Not everyone can afford the PC rig of their dreams, so LiquidSky offers both free and pay-as-you-go access to a virtual computer that’s decked out with all the bells and whistles.
Jason Kirby, LiquidSky’s chief revenue officer joined AlistDaily to explain how combining two gaming platforms changes everything for marketing.
“We are working with advertisers to largely target the young adult gaming market in a new and creative way across multiple devices,” said Kirby. “As most advertisers know, this can be very difficult to do. Because our app is downloaded and works across multiple devices, we give advertisers that relatively elusive opportunity.
“A simple example might be that traditionally, it made less sense to target mobile devices with advertising focused on Windows PC titles because it was presumed that mobile gamers didn’t necessarily play PC games. That’s now no longer the case.”
On LiquidSky, gamers rent time on a “sky computer” with SkyCredits, which can be purchased or earned through rewarded ads—a business model Kirby feels will benefit both marketers and customers alike.
“From a customer experience perspective, our focus is the delivery of highly engaging, opt-in experiences that also reward our customers,” he explained. “To do so, we’ve designed a model where our customers will never be interrupted during their gameplay—but can top off their SkyCredits as needed, and then continue gaming.”
At $41 billion, mobile games were by far the most lucrative form of interactive entertainment in 2016, followed by PC games at $34 billion. LiquidSky hopes to tap into these top gaming revenue streams by raising the bar for what’s possible on mobile.
“Until [now], mobile gaming typically meant compromise, with games that often lacked the breadth and scope of their big-screen cousins,” Kirby said. “With LiquidSky’s technology, gamers are no longer tethered to their desktops or consoles to play the best games. Instead, they can do so pretty much anytime and anywhere—and don’t even need to own expensive or specialized gaming hardware.”
LiquidSky’s Android beta means an entirely new direction for marketing the service.
“We have now turned our core focus to mobile,” said Kirby. “Delivering enhanced PC gaming capabilities to Windows PC devices that were not initially designed or powerful enough for high-quality gaming is one thing. Empowering gamers previously limited to much simpler mobile games on their Android devices and providing them instant access to the entire PC gaming catalog is a much bigger deal. We think that’s the beginning of a major paradigm shift where platform matters very little in terms of the games one can enjoy (or when and where they can be enjoyed).
“Something that makes LiquidSky truly unique is the experience we deliver on Android devices. Our current focus is to emphasize this in our marketing efforts, as gamers can now choose where and when to enjoy their favorite games—no longer held back by whether they have the latest desktop hardware or a gaming laptop.
“You will see most of our advertising targeting Android users, letting them know that it’s perfectly okay to expect to be able to enjoy AAA PC gaming content wherever and whenever they want—and mobile devices are a huge factor in that universal accessibility.”
Users with a LiquidSky account can access their PC libraries through Origin, Blizzard, Chrome or Steam, which means they can compete against friends anywhere with the Android app . . . although for best results, they recommend using a controller.
LiquidSky is still in beta but continues on its journey for a PC experience that can be played across more platforms.
“As mobile is a key focus for us, we do plan to support iOS, but it’s on the longer-term road map at this time. The current near-term priority is to complete work on the Mac OS X client next, then to add support for Android TV.”
Cinema operators will soon be woven into the fabric of the competitive gaming business model, where audiences can experience esports tournament play with a wide range of 4D motion and special effects.
The TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, one of the most famous cinema complexes in the world that has been in operation since 1927 on the historic Walk of Fame, is stepping into esports by partnering with MediaMation to launch an immersive cinema that will double as both a functioning MX4D Motion EFX movie theater and serve as a spectator infrastructure for gaming fans.
MediaMation also has partnered with TCL Chinese Theatre and Hammers Esports, a successful esports franchise featuring Overwatch, Vainglory and Clash Royale teams, to form the subsidiary Hollywood Esports, a managing network that will provide theaters across the Unites States and China, as well as tournament organizers and game publishers a consistent network to host global events.
Subsequently, “Hollywood Hammers,” an organization that looks to lead the trend of esports teams being more accessible and connected to local fans, has been formed, too.
Daniel Jamele, CEO, co-founder and chief systems designer of MediaMation, will be bringing his company’s MX4D systems that are programmed to move in sync with the movie-and-esports action along with offering air and water blasts, leg and neck ticklers, seat and back pokers and rumblers, fog and other special effects.
Jamele joined AListDaily to discuss how esports can be the next big thing for theaters.
How do you introduce MediaMation as a company to those who are unfamiliar with the brand?
MediaMation has been around for 27 years now. We started in the attractions and theme park industry providing control systems for motion simulators—like dinosaurs for movies such as Jurassic Park and animatronics for The Terminator, as well as interactive show-control systems for fountain shows in museums and more throughout the industry. We were one of the first companies to do digital 3D motion simulator rides in Las Vegas back when HD and digital were unknown, and people were still using film. We come from that background, and about 12 years ago, we started manufacturing our own line of motion seats called MX4D Motion Seats. They’ve been selling throughout the world at different attractions and industries. About six years ago, we moved into the cinema market, and that’s done really well for us. We work with roughly 200 theaters worldwide that show blockbuster movies with our technology. We program all of the motion now for movies like Alien and The Mummy.
How did you identify esports as a new business vertical?
The thing was, “where do we go next with what we have?” We have this great network of theaters around the world, we have this great, interactive and immersive experience. The obvious move for us was esports because there isn’t a complete network of esports arenas for people to go watch, view and play. We ideated on how to turn a movie theater into not just a movie theater playing a video game, but actually an esports arena. Our plan was for players and audiences to have a consistent, comfortable, standardized place to play with high-powered computers.
How are you engaging consumers?
We’re trying to create a place where everyone can follow a schedule and go on a Tuesday night for Overwatch, Wednesday for Call of Duty or League of Legends, or whatever it is. They know they can go hang out with people, and have a social experience that they can’t get at home. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. With effects and motion, it’s different. On the audience side, we drop in side screens so we can have all the player information presented. Shoutcasters are in the back to keep the whole thing going. Spectators are not just watching, they’re getting exciting arena action with effects, fog, smoke and everything else we do. They’re getting full motion to track people on screen. They’re immersed in the action. So we feel we have a fantastic way of getting this around, and with our network of theaters that keeps growing, to about 250 by the end of the year, we’re really anticipating this to be not just a local phenomenon, but a phenomenon that’s marketed in a world-wide setting.
Since MediaMation’s expertise is not in esports, how are you forming the right partnerships?
We formed a new company called Hollywood Esports, whose job is to feed content, create shows, work with organizers to book tournaments, book theaters and keep everything rolling so that we deliver premium experiences to cinemas. Hollywood Esports consists of MediaMation, TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and Hammer Esports, owners of several esports teams who also have experience producing tournaments. They understand the whole ecosystem within the gaming community, which we don’t have expertise in. For instance, they provide casters, and input on how the game stations have to be set up, or how the game should be going.
Why does TCL Chinese Theatre want to be at the forefront of this potential movement? What’s their strategy going into the space?
Believe it not, TCL Chinese Theatre has always been at the forefront of technology. They have the largest IMAX screen in the world. They were the first to put in laser projectors. As they’re working toward expansion, one of the obvious things for them was to incorporate our MX40 and become a flagship; Robert K. Laity, the CEO of TCL Chinese Theatre, was very excited about it and wanted to be the first. With the branding they have as one of the most noticeable theaters in the whole world, it’s been a great start. We couldn’t get a better branding experience and partnership than with TCL Chinese Theatre. They also own huge digital billboards on Hollywood Blvd., where every month, whether it’s tourists or locals, 15 million people walk by them. After seeing the marketing, they start to understand. The buzz within the community of suppliers and sponsors is very high. . . . MediaMation is not three guys sitting in some trendy office building in Santa Monica. We understand the real world. We’ve been around, we’ve done it and we have all the gravitas. TCL Chinese Theatre knows how to put on events, and they know the Hollywood crowd, celebrities and bringing in people of influence.
Gaming is obviously a huge global market. How is your strategy tapping into it going to be different?
Rather than being just movie centers, the cinema space is looking to turn into entertainment centers. They’re vying to do anything different so that they can bring people out of the home, and into their venue. They have great audio and video, concessions, parking and access. They have this great space in prime locations world-wide. Yet, they’re dead from Monday-to-Friday night. They’re maybe at 10 percent occupancy. Friday night it kicks in and after Sunday they’re dead again. They have this great unused space, so we’re thinking this is the perfect opportunity to utilize it on off hours, and probably throughout the weekend, too. It’s a perfect win-win for them, it’s a win-win for the gaming communities and it’s a win-win for MediaMation. There already is a customer base, so we’re looking to expand on it.
When can we expect the grand opening to take place at the Chinese Theatre?
We’re on track, but unfortunately the city of Hollywood does not move at the kind of speed we normally move at when it comes to approvals of their building permits. So we’re probably pushing it more toward September. We have a network of theaters around the world that we work with already and they’re already clamoring to get this in there. They really want to know what they need to do so they can integrate it into theirs.
What is your marketing strategy looking like?
We’re looking to leverage the network of Hammer Esports. They’re like a marketing team themselves with their communities. We have our standard, traditional and social media marketing mixes, too, of course. We’ll handle our end, they’ll handle the esports side.
How have you worked with Soylent as a sponsor?
Soylent is Hollywood Esports’ first tier-one partner that we decided to expand and grow with. Our secondary partner is DX Racer, the official seat of Hollywood Esports now. Soylent also sponsored our E3 after party in June. They wanted to align their marketing strategy with gaming-related activations, which I think is smart because their grab-and-go product is great for gamers. It’s the perfect demographic for that type of food.
How do you envision the space developing with these types of experiences?
One of the things that we’re also doing at TCL Chinese Theatre during the roll out is the first VR-ready motion cinema. We see that studios are creating VR experiences, but they have no place to screen and showcase it—and then we add the elements of motion to it. Each one of our seats has the infrastructure built in. We see great potential in what’s going on with that. The trick with VR is that nobody can figure out a really good business model for it because it’s expensive. The best business model so far has been PlayStation VR and some of the others that are designed for single-home users. The out-of-home entertainment market is a challenge.
How do you plan on scaling?
We’re proud of how this all came together. We think the differentiator of what we’re doing and what other people are doing is that we’re less concerned about being our own league. Maybe we’ll be a league, who knows. But we want to work with the leagues and grow the ecosystem. That’s extremely important to us. When you look at esports, it’s big, but it’s still so raw right now. We think that having differentiators from an experience standpoint, complemented with operational expertise and a network of theaters, is going to be a winning combination.
Thank you for your continued support and readership.
-The AList Team
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