Kingsman: The Golden Circle debuts in US theaters this weekend and if manners maketh man, then marketing maketh brand.
This star-studded sequel to the hit 2014 action spy comedy has the Kingsman members banding together with their American spy counterparts—Statesman, including Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges—to defeat a global threat. The film also features Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry and Sir Elton John.
The marketing team at 20th Century Fox wanted to draw audiences into its cinematic world of spies—including where they hang out and what they drink.
Expedia staged an interactive takeover of its VisitBritain site, allowing users to explore images from either the Statesman or Kingsman realms and be entered to win a trip to Britain. Kingsman: The Golden Circle was filmed across Britain and features iconic landmarks including Savile Row, Hyde Park and Eventim Apollo.
“The collaboration with 20th Century Fox and VisitBritain was built around the idea that films are powerful motivators for travel,” Andrew van der Feltz, senior director of Expedia Media Solutions told AListDaily. “Research by VisitBritain shows that more than one-third of all potential visitors to Britain want to visit places they have seen in movies or on TV, and leveraging the new Kingsman: The Golden Circle film was a natural fit. The film’s uniquely British style is a powerful opportunity to inspire US travelers to take a trip to Britain, and the campaign on Expedia’s points of sale helps VisitBritain reach a highly qualified travel audience.”
Another location used to film The Golden Circle is the GlenDronach distillery in Scotland. In honor of the film, GlenDronach has released a new GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 1991 scotch whisky. Only 240 bottles of the whisky will be made available to the US market, priced at around $600 each.
The Statesman got their own spirit—bourbon—courtesy of Brown-Forman.
“Our objective was to take what they’d used in the film, this fun, interesting creative bourbon storyline, and bring it to life,” Old Forester president Campbell Brown told Forbes. “So we’ve created an Old Forester Statesman product that is very different from the Old Forester that you would be buying today. It’s in an older sort of bottle, it’s a premium expression of what we make.”
For pop culture fans, spies and alcohol may remind you of the hit Fox show Archer. An animated crossover has Kingsman Eggsy dashing for his agency’s hideout when he runs into none other than “the world’s greatest spy.”
The team over at 20th Century Fox couldn’t ignore the obvious connections between its film title and another golden circle happening in the sky. But rather than simply promote around the solar eclipse, the marketing team took credit for it. Calling it the greatest movie promo ever, 20th Century Fox mocks itself with marketing tropes such as “millennials” and “low hanging fruit,” resulting in a humorous campaign that included a sponsored hashtag on the day of the eclipse.
The marketing brand message for Kingsman: The Golden Circle is simple: enjoy the finer things in life and don’t take the film too seriously. The sequel is expected to debut between $40-45 million, outpacing its predecessor.
When it comes to gaming peripherals, standing out isn’t just a matter of designing quality hardware or growing brand loyalty. Sometimes, it takes a little (or a lot) of flash to stand out on livestreams. That’s why Razer has been making its devices more attractive by working to bring Chroma lighting technology directly to popular games.
Razer Chroma lighting effects are built into a variety of products, including notebooks, keyboards, mice, headsets, gamepads and more. Users have tools to customize their lighting profiles with different colors and patterns to best suit their personalities, but Razer has also partnered with developers to create profiles specifically designed to enhance their games.
In addition to big-budget PC games such as Overwatch, Rise of the Tomb Raider,Diablo III and others that integrate Razer keyboard lighting by flashing different colors at key moments, Razer is also working with independent studios that are looking to push experiences to the next level with games like Move or Die.
“Move or Die is a very colorful game, so it was a natural fit with the Razer Chroma peripherals,” Nicolae Berbece, lead developer and founder of Those Awesome Guys, told AListDaily. “On top of that, it’s a four-player party game where everyone can play using a single keyboard, and that is a perfect opportunity to basically turn the keyboard into a rainbow. It’s a stupid thing to do, but who are we to stop that from happening?”
Move or Die is all about rules—or rather, constantly changing them. The game, which bills itself as “the four-player friendship ruining party game” changes its gameplay mechanics every 20 seconds. Furthermore, Twitch users can impact the game by using comments to distract players, choose game modes or otherwise throw random elements into the match. The quirky game has earned praise from both critics and users on Metacritic and Steam, and players have grown accustomed to—and perhaps even enjoy—the mocking humor in the game’s trailers, videos and blog updates.
With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that the developer is more than willing to try out new enhancements.
“Razer approached us showing interest in having Chroma features added to Move or Die, and we basically said, ‘FUCK YEAH!’” said Berbece.
That enthusiasm showed with the Chroma implementation, which supports multiple Razer devices. The keyboard highlights the individual controls for each of the four players while headphones pulse in rhythm with the soundtrack. During the course of a match, Razer Chroma keyboards, mice and illuminated mouse pads will flash different colors at key moments such as player deaths, wins and when items are unlocked—all underscoring the party game’s fast-paced action.
Those Awesome Guys continue to engage its community through regular game updates, which sometimes add new modes for fans to get angry over, or include features like letting AI chatbots troll the human players using the in-game chat box. Other promotional partnerships include having the characters from the Adult Swim (Cartoon Network) Rick and Morty television show in the game.
Rob Pardo spent 17 years creating games at Blizzard Entertainment before the former chief creative officer left three years ago to explore new opportunities. Last year, Pardo raised $25 million and co-founded Bonfire Studios, an Irvine-based startup that’s working on an unannounced original game. He is also making his first public speaking appearance since launching his new studio at the View Conference, which takes place in Turin, Italy on October 23-27.
Pardo talks to AListDaily about the lessons he learned in game development, the opportunities new technology has opened up for small teams and how Hollywood and the video game industry have helped push storytelling forward in this exclusive interview.
What made you decide to speak at the View Conference and what will you be discussing in your keynote?
It started with Maria Elena (View Conference director) reaching out the last couple of years. I generally resist doing much international travel, but the conference has always been on my radar. I spoke with a fellow entrepreneur up in Silicon Valley, Maureen Fan (Baobab Studios) and she loved the experience she had at View. Even though I’m a homebody, I do like to go out and see what the different communities are like out there in the US or internationally. I’ve spoken at conferences in France and Australia in the past. [At View] I’ll look back at my time at Blizzard and be reflective of my time there. I’ll tease out some of the lessons learned along the way. It’s essentially a love letter to Blizzard because it was a special time in my career. Hopefully, some of those things will help other people and inspire them to do great things.
What has it been like starting up again with Bonfire Studios?
It’s been awesome. I’m sure if you fast forward five years there will be some war stories, but right now we’re in the early honeymoon phase. We’ve been operating for a year now and I’m learning a lot again. While I was fortunate to be at Blizzard when it really grew and scaled, I never got to be there from 0 to 50 employees, but at Bonfire I’m learning how to do new things every day. There’s a whole adventure to it again and it’s been great working with a small group again. Blizzard has a lot of phenomenal people across the company, but I wouldn’t get to work with them except for occasionally in small group settings. It’s great to be making games again instead of making new departments.
What new opportunities are there for Bonfire Studios in the gaming space?
We’re in a new golden age in the game industry because there’s so much great technology that enables small teams to build games. Whether it’s using game engines or creating assets or using Amazon web services to host a game, it allows us to build a small team out to make a great game experience. We just hit 12 employees total and we’re all in the same room. We just hired a new illustrator and artist and have some concept stuff up on the website.
When will you be talking about your first project?
I learned lessons in the old days that it’s better to wait until we’re far along in the development process before talking.
What did you learn about Hollywood movie-making through working on the Warcraft film with Legendary Entertainment?
There are a lot of challenges when adapting a game into a film. I was a co-producer on the Warcraft movie. Fundamentally, most games that turn into movies are based on a non-linear story narrative or an IP or universe, not an actual three-act structured story. One analogy for Warcraft was that there’s not one story with one group of characters. Warcraft is like the Marvel Universe with its own chronology, different characters and heroes. The question was where do you shine the spotlight and what two-hour story do you create out of it? That’s extremely challenging. I’m really proud of what we were able to get onto the screen. The movie looks like a Warcraft movie. That’s one of the first challenges you have in adapting a game.
How did director Duncan Jones being a gamer help with this adaptation?
That’s always positive, and you have a couple different challenges. You have to make a great movie, but you also need to make something that connects with the fans and does justice to the universe. You have to be part of the game community to understand that universe and that connection.
How have you seen the video game and movie industries push new technologies forward, like with performance capture, which is now a staple of most big games?
There are gaming companies with a more mo-cap focus, and some Hollywood studios with a more traditional computer animation focus. But they’re all very interlinked with character performance. As a game developer, you’re always looking at the film effects and what they’re doing with characters. And as games have gotten more advanced, more visual effects companies are looking at what the top game companies are doing.
Phil Spencer has ascended further in the Microsoft hierarchy, assuming the position of vice president of gaming, and joining the company’s senior leadership team.
Spencer has been with Microsoft since 1988, and has led the brand’s Xbox team for the launches of the Xbox One S and X. He has previously headed Microsoft Studios and Microsoft Game Studios as well.
Josh Greenstein, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Sony Pictures has renewed his contract for another three years. He has assisted in turning the company around, ending the company’s string of cinema missteps with his work on Spider-Man: Homecoming and Baby Driver.
“Not only has he shown extraordinary skill at the head of our campaigns, he has also been an outstanding leader in restructuring our marketing and distribution teams around the world to better align with a constantly-evolving marketplace,” Tom Rothman, Sony Pictures chairman said. “The studio is in a stronger position now than when Josh arrived in 2014, and his brilliant work has been integral to that growth. He kicks my butt on the golf course, but is otherwise a tremendous partner.”
Evan Langweiler has been promoted to senior vice president of global communications at NBC Universal, continuing his ten-year career at the company. In his expanded role, he will work with the conglomerate’s television divisions as well as continue overseeing the film marketing efforts.
Paramount Pictures has announced leadership changes in its international marketing division, as Nic Crawley, its president of international theatrical marketing, is leaving for a job as CEO at newly founded film distributor H Collective. Replacing him is Mary Daily, formerly chief marketing officer for 20th Century Fox.
“Mary’s creative business approach coupled with her campaign expertise will be integral as we expand Paramount’s content on digital and streaming platforms, on demand, Blu-Ray, DVD and the newest distribution channels,” said Andrew Gumpert, Paramount’s marketing and distribution head.
Before joining Paramount, Crawley served as Walt Disney Company’s senior vice president of international marketing.
Sanjay Sharma is leaving All Def Digital, after holding the position of CEO at the youth media startup for the past three years. Osman Eralp will assume control as interim CEO while the company searches for Sharma’s permanent replacement, though he will remain on All Def Digital’s board of directors and serve as a senior adviser.
Sharma departs the company to found his own digital media company, though no further details are currently available.
Mitú has lost its founding CEO Roy Burstin, who is resigning to make way for Herb Scannell. Co-founder and president Beatriz Acevedo will take on expanded responsibilities, leading all content production, talent development and social media strategy.
Scannell has consulted for the Latino media company for over a year, and has been a member of its board of directors since this spring.
FuboTV has brought onYale Wang as vice president and head of North American marketing. Most recently, Wang worked at Warner Bros. Digital Networks as vice president and head of marketing.
Nick Allen has been named as the Madison Square Garden (MSG) Company’s vice president of esports, where he will lead the venue’s efforts to expand its presence in the market, focusing on Counter Logic Gaming, their recently acquired professional gaming fashion.
“Nick brings with him an extensive knowledge of esports and a deep set of relationships developed through overseeing some of the industry’s most popular events, and he has created initiatives that have continued to grow the gaming community,” Jordan Solomon, executive vice president of MSG sports.
Previously, Allen served as vice president of esports at Twitch, and beforehand led esports operations for Riot Games, developers of League of Legends.
The Indiana Pacers announced the hiring Robert “Cody” Parrent as director of esports operations for the franchise, heading their NBA 2K League team.
“Cody brings solid competitive gaming experience in many esports titles such as Halo, CS:GO, FIFA, and NBA 2K,” said Kelly Krauskopf, senior vice president for the Pacers. “He has built numerous connections in the NBA 2K community through his background in developing the 2KLab which focuses on analyzing data from the 2K video game franchise in order to give players an edge over the competition.”
Parrent has worked at Berry Plastics Corp as a business analyst and more recently as co-owner at Blue Commerce.
Groupon has hiredJennifer Carr-Smith to the position of senior vice president and general manager of North America Local.
“[Carr-Smith] is a proven leader with a strong background in growing and scaling businesses, and she’ll bring a valuable and unique perspective and an expansive e-commerce background that will help us continue to build Groupon into a daily habit,” said Aaron Cooper, Groupon’s North American president.
Previously, Carr-Smith was president of Peapod, and before that oversaw global online business for J. Crew.
Chinese search engine Baidu has appointedHerman Yu as chief financial officer, replacing Jennifer Li. Yu has previously held the same position at Weibo since 2015, and SINA from 2007 to 2015.
(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, September 22. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Tapas Media and Tencent Animation and Comics (Tencent AC) are looking to reach English-speaking consumers by bringing a library of popular Asian franchises into the North American market.
The indie book and digital comic platform is partnering with Tencent AC to take advantage of the United States’ $1.08 billion comics market and $28 billion book market by distributing a series of comics with crossover appeal and potential, including titles like Fox Spirit Matchmaker, Book of Yaoguai, Cupid’s Chocolate-ing, Jack Of All Trades and Zombie Brother.
Chang Kim, CEO of Tapas Media, told AListDaily the North American market is starving for unique stories and content that will resonate with them.
“One only needs to look at the current content war being waged by some of the largest companies in the US to see how true that is. Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google—they’re all focusing significant resources and effort toward either creating or acquiring new and original content, and they’re doing it at a blistering pace and cost,” Kim said. “Fortunately for Tapas, most of the focus in those battles are centered around video. We play the game much closer to where the seeds of the next generation of great stories will actually come from—and that is with indie and professional writers and comic creators.”
Kim says his San Francisco-based brand partnered with Tencent AC because of its wide reach in games, films, music, social networks, esports and of course, animation and comics. The global content powerhouse is deemed as a reliable partner because of its significant resources and global vision.
“We work closely with many different global content partners and we value each and every one of those relationships,” Kim continued. “However, it’s natural that some partners will have more resources to devote to international expansion than others. So, with that in mind, one of our goals with Tapas is to act as a gateway through which international content creators can connect to Western readers. Once we bring partners through that gateway, we will work closely with them to provide opportunities where they can build their brand and increase their market share in the West.”
Zou Zhengyu, general manager of animation and comics for Tencent AC, said that Tapas Media is one of the conglomerate’s most important overseas partnerships, and that the deal will be “key in helping to connect the global marketplace to the freshest and most popular comic IP from China’s growing content industry.”
The titles, officially rolling out this month through the Tapas App, were chosen as ideal flagship candidates after both parties closely reviewed Tencent AC’s comic library and considered comics with crossover potential that had great art, a universal theme and story arc that would translate well across borders, in addition to already being a hit in China.
Furthermore, Tapas, which has over two million users who have read over two billion pages of content since being founded in 2012, also has plans to expand from self-publishing comics to more premium content.
“While it may seem like Tapas is only more recently expanding into premium content, it’s actually something that has been core to what we’ve set out to achieve since day one. Our vision is ultimately about bringing those two sources together under one platform,” Kim says. “On one hand, we will always stay true to providing a stage that can lead to financial support for indie creators, and on the other, we will continually search the globe for the best premium stories we can find, whether they come from a small studio in Malaysia or a top US publisher. That’s our vision.”
To date, Tapas has published more than 23,000 creators. Kim says it was the perfect time for the global comics platform to localize and distribute the franchises.
“There is major disruption taking place in how content for Western audiences is being created and distributed,” Kim explained. “Relatively new media companies are allocating billions of dollars for the creation of content because the traditional channels are crumbling under their own weight of risk aversion and antiquated production methodologies.”
Netflix, for one, is spending $6 billion on original content with no stop in sight and straddling the strategy with $1 billion in marketing. Kim says consumer tastes are moving too fast for the traditional channels to keep up.
“The minute they think they have something, something new is already taking its place,” he says. “But again, most of this taking place in the realm of video, such as video-on-demand services. For novels and comics, Tapas is really the only truly disruptive force. So, whether or not the industry is ready for it, we do think the readers are. And at the end of the day, that’s what really counts.”
Oomba hopes to take esports national. The software startup, which includes Atari founder Nolan Bushnell as a co-founder, has purchased the chain of nine GameWorks arcade locations with esports in mind. Oomba CEO Michael Williams told AListDaily the plan is to open nine new locations in 2018 and nine more in 2019 with the goal of getting to 32 locations in two-and-a-half years.
“Many existing LAN centers in America are just PCs on a table,” Williams said. “For GameWorks, it has to be nicer than that. Inspired by Asian esports arenas, we want to make it as fun as possible and enjoyable for people to play games as well as watch others play.”
Williams said Oomba is upgrading the existing 30,000 square feet GameWorks locations in Cincinnati, Ohio, Las Vegas, Nevada, Newport, Kentucky, Laguna Hills, California, Schaumburg, Illinois, Seattle, Washington, Chesapeake, Virginia and Denver, Colorado to establish a level playing field for the brand. Only three locations have LAN centers right now, and those need to have the wiring upgraded. Eventually, LAN centers will be added across all current locations.
“As we build new GameWorks, we’ll design these with esports in mind,” Williams explained. “We’ll have esports sections and the stadiums will be larger with seating for 1,000 to 1,500 people.”
All current and future locations will serve food, which is one of the reasons GameWorks has been a profitable business. Williams is approaching the business of esports like traditional sports.
“Esports must monetize the way sports do,” said Williams. “The single largest source of revenue in the sports stadium is concessions, and we see GameWorks as the stadiums for esports.”
Oomba will begin signing pro esports teams when it has eight GameWorks locations retrofitted, and the company is already in early talks with Team Liquid.
“We’re going to go nuts when we get to 16 locations,” Williams added. “We’re already trying to attract events. We’re going to get there as fast as we can.”
Williams said Oomba isn’t trying to compete with MSG or Staples Center, since those major stadiums will be used for world championship events. He envisions GameWorks as the practice field for teams or minor league esports.
“We may be better suited for Rocket League or Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and we’ll host competitions that are more local or more frequent,” Williams said. “GameWorks will be a place to rub elbows with celebrity players. For example, when DreamHack is in Denver, there’s a good chance they’ll do some kind of GameWorks party and gather before the tournament.”
Williams believes GameWorks’ new esports business will open up sponsorship opportunities for brands like HP and Dell, which are active in the space.
“We can talk to these brands about what they want to do and use GameWorks as a showcase for new technology,” Williams said. “We can become a really good place to announce the next big game before it comes out.”
GameWorks is marketing to gamers with a new slogan: “Every night is game night at GameWorks.” In addition to esports, some locations feature bowling alleys and most offer tabletop gaming. The company is adding Magic: The Gathering tournaments. Moving forward, Williams wants to add more virtual reality gaming.
“I can’t think of a better place for VR,” Williams explained. “We’ve been talking to HTC and different VR providers, and very quickly we’ll be getting into that space with player vs. player VR. We always love tournaments. There are some amazing VR games out there and we have the space for people to come in and compete in VR tournaments and competitions. We’re also looking at getting drone racing inside GameWorks.”
Oomba launched five years ago as a cloud-based software company, which built out the infrastructure to run any type of tournament from the cloud. The company has been serving the board game space since 2014, replacing pen and paper with cloud-based tournaments. Now it’s moving into video game competitions and esports.
“Our software solves the problems of managing live events by handling registration, knowing where players are and tracking leaderboards,” Williams said. “Tournament organizer can run and manage an event and we get access to the information, so we can become a repository for people’s rankings and ratings. We want to be the home for stats. Overwatch and League of Legends don’t need us, but we can become a place where players can brag about their rankings, and our software is free to the public.”
The fitness industry has discovered a lucrative audience in the gaming community—despite a long-held assumption that video game fans are obese and lazy.
“The persistent notion that gamers are overweight slobs without concern for their own health is patently incorrect,” SuperData Research CEO Joost van Dreunen told AListDaily. “This is both a result of gaming becoming more mainstream and a shift in awareness around nutrition and health.”
Twitch, the livestreaming platform known for its active video game community, has experienced a surge in fitness streamers over the past two years.
“We are definitely seeing growth in the space,” Brittany Brown, Twitch community programs manager told AListDaily. “One interesting fact is that whenever we spotlight a fitness stream, we generally see a new batch of fitness streamers cropping up shortly afterward. When people realize there is an outlet for them to embrace their passion and also monetize it, it is a great motivator to start streaming on Twitch.”
Jackson Bliton—known as Bajheera—has amassed a large following on Twitch for streaming both his World of Warcraft sessions and his gym routine. The gaming bodybuilder is an influential figure in both the fitness and gaming communities, recently partnering with Bodybuilding.com to offer discounts on its products.
“Because Twitch represents a new economy for fitness content creators, it is beginning to attract more of them,” says Brown. “Brands need to be where their users are and although it is at a nascent stage, Twitch represents the next evolution of the fitness industry.”
Fitness brands have connected with the gaming community—and vice versa—through games like The Biggest Loser, Gold’s Gym Dance Workout, Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout and Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum for the Nintendo Wii. Nike partnered with Take-Two Interactive to provide bonus content for NBA 2K18.
Gaming brands are also marketing to the health-conscious players. To promote Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Ubisoft has introduced a branded line of athletic wear called the Assassin’s Creed Kinetic Collection. The collection includes jackets, hats, pants and more for the gamer on the go.
Speaking of “go,” many gamers said—some jokingly, others not—that they would play Pokémon GO hoping that the location-based game would help get them in shape. The game convinced millions to walk outside with what technology research firm Gartner calls “persuasive algorithms.”
“The Pokémon GO phenomenon showed how gamification algorithms, combined with augmented reality, can induce people to leave the indoors and step into the wider world, with potential benefits for fitness and health and for local businesses,” Gartner noted in its October 2016 report, “Top Strategic Predictions for 2017 and Beyond: Surviving the Storm Winds of Digital Disruption.”
Augmented reality is one way to encourage healthy behaviors, and another is virtual reality. Many health-conscious consumers are now donning VR headsets to work out in virtual environments with or without equipment such as stationary bikes.
“Gamification” of exercise routines, as well as other aspects of daily life like work and education are becoming more commonplace. Exercise is predicted to become more gamified by 2020, according to Pew Research. Setting goals, repetitive tasks and seeing results—these are all notions gamers already know and enjoy.
Television has taken on a very cinematic quality, with shows like Game of Thrones getting the same kind of hype and anticipation as blockbuster movie releases. With the fall premieres fast approaching, there’s no better time to celebrate the small screen, and no better way to do it than on the big screen.
That’s what the inaugural Tribeca TV Festival aims to do with a host of shows projected onto giant movie screens for attending audiences to enjoy.
The new festival, sponsored by AT&T, is spun off from the television track of the Tribeca Film Festival and runs from this Friday through Sunday. It features both season and series premieres, talks with the cast and crew and TV-related VR experiences.
Notable highlights include a conversation with the cast of Will & Grace (Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally) as they reprise their roles in a new series more than a decade after the original show went off the air.
“After two successful years of Tribeca TV at our April Tribeca Film Festival, we felt like there was the enthusiasm from audiences and from networks to create a new space to platform exciting work being created, especially at a different time of year,” Cara Cusumano, director of programming for Tribeca TV, told AListDaily. “Since we began Tribeca TV, the number of shows created in a single year has surpassed what even the most dedicated fan can possibly consume, so there was a clear need for a curator to come into the space. Our track record of discovering and spotlighting the highest quality storytelling in film, VR and digital work brings a lot of value to TV audiences looking to know what is worthy of their attention and to networks needing to be sure their work is recognized.”
Cusumano also emphasized how the Tribeca TV Festival is a freestanding fall event, and that Tribeca TV will continue to be featured as part of the Tribeca Film Festival in April. Both events follow similar formats, hosting premieres followed by in-depth panel discussions.
Other debuts coming to the Tribeca TV Festival include Ten Days in the Valley, a mystery starring Kyra Sedgwick; Liar, a new drama series coming to SundanceTV; and the YouTube Red police procedural parody Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television starring (surprise!) Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars; Party Down) and Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale; Orange is the New Black).
VR projects include Look But With Love, a VR series coming to Within, the content platform created by film and VR pioneer Chris Milk. Additionally, there will be the Mr. Robot Virtual Reality Experience, the Snatch VR Heist Experience from Crackle and Timeless: Continuum Recon, which takes users back to 1969 to witness the first moon landing in promotion of the time travel show.
Although VR experiences might seem a little out of place at a festival designed to celebrate the “golden age of television,” Cusumano explains how the experiences fit in with the rest of the showings.
“When we first set out to make a TV Festival, the first question we had to think about was, ‘What is TV?’ And we decided that for us, that meant episodic, regardless of how those episodes are delivered,” said Cusumano. “Our festival is inclusive of all episodic storytelling, across platforms. We are interested in the ways these kinds of traditional barriers between mediums are coming down, and think that’s an interesting space to explore. As a festival that has always embraced VR and other forms of forward-thinking new media, it was a very exciting opportunity to be able to include an episodic VR piece—and one from one of our feature film alumni (Milk), which speaks even further to how all of these traditionally separate formats are emerging.”
While television is taking its first steps into episodic VR storytelling, content on digital channels such as Netflix have already made huge impressions on the industry, as digital has quickly risen to compete with broadcast and cable channels.
“We sought to program this lineup the way people really consume TV, which includes traditional networks, digital platforms and maybe even some VR,” said Cusumano, explaining how the festival balances between different platforms. “We wanted the representation of shows to be reflective of our audience and encompass fan favorites and new discoveries in equal measure, so we were open to all channels of distribution.”
As viewers grow more accustomed to TV binging through digital channels, Cusumano shared her thoughts on whether weekly episode releases were still relevant for today’s audience.
“There’s something still appealing about watching a show week-to-week,” she said. “We get to build anticipation, formulate theories and talk with other fans about what might happen next. It brings an enjoyable communal experience to a medium which is so often enjoyed alone.”
The future of everything—marketing, technology and even journalism—is connection and community, Facebook vice president and chief marketing officer Gary Briggs told an assembly of marketers.
(Editor’s note: Briggs spoke at Mumbrella360, a marketing conference held this June in Australia. The keynote conversation was published for the first time earlier this week on YouTube.)
In the hour-long Q&A session with Mumbrella founder Tim Burrowes, Briggs expounded at length on topics ranging from Facebook’s focus on mobile to his favorite Louis C.K. bits, but one subject remained the focus—as the world unites closer together, so too must marketers. Briggs spoke multiple times about the increasing need for cooperation between departments to succeed in the digital age.
“The big part of what you’re focusing on is trying to teach the company to think in marketing terms, often without using the terminology,” Briggs said regarding the reluctance of many young tech companies to embrace established marketing practices. “The agencies I find are doing well are changing the working model. It’s why you’re seeing consulting firms come into the agency business; they’re more used to cohabitating with companies. Everybody gets better: the client gets better, the agency gets better the closer you’re working and the less you have this divide between the two groups.”
The marketing executive, who’s formerly held senior roles with Google, PepsiCo, IBM and Motorola and been with Facebook for the last four years, went on discuss his predictions for internal streamlining.
“This distinction between a brand marketer and a direct marketer is going away. The best marketers on Facebook today are the ones who don’t make that distinction,” said Briggs. “In broad terms, the communications teams and the marketing teams report separately to respective executives, but we are oftentimes, in terms of anything we’re working on, two in a box.”
Part of the reason for this growing connection is the speed at which the economy has changed.
“Nearly 100 percent of our revenue now comes from products that did not exist five years ago. That’s how fast mobile has moved,” Briggs said. “This will happen again. The shift to mobile will be much like the shift to other platforms and other types of user experiences.”
Briggs spoke with pride about how quickly his company has shifted its focus in the past, citing the flexibility of Facebook’s internal teams and encouraged others to do so too.
“One of the reasons we’ve insourced a good amount of creative into our company . . . is speed. Our creatives are working hand-in-hand with project managers on advertising,” Briggs said. “The people who run the marketing organization don’t just sit next to the brand people with the data people parked in a different building. The analytics people are not in a technology organization, they are all together. It doesn’t matter if they are brand or direct marketing, what matters is the results in driving the business for the company on behalf of the customers they serve.”
But beyond connection between departments in a single business, and Briggs emphasized the importance of connection with consumers most of all.
“A lot of times people really do identify with key brands in their life,” he said. “Our job as marketers is to be part of the conversation with people, and put ourselves in conversations in ways that people want.”
When asked about the how best to implement altered reality marketing, Briggs added, “Think again about the target, think again about what kind of experience they’re having . . . You have to ask why—what is the kind of conversation you want to have with people?”
Despite the rapid advances that Briggs anticipates will affect the marketing and advertising industries, he remained optimistic about the future.
“There are times when you know too much, and as such massive consumers of media and technology, we sometimes know a little bit too much. People are more optimistic. People want to see one another succeed and grow and be fulfilled,” he said. “I find that deeply heartening.”
“Are we building a world we want to live in?” Briggs asked, regarding Facebook’s intentions to expand internet coverage for the five billion global citizens currently unconnected. “A key part of that, for us is community.”
Fantasy sports has immeasurably heightened the fervor in fans since the turn of the millennium. The competitive game category has blossomed into a powerful subculture calling for countless hours of sports programming and endless ink spilled online each day, breaking down intricate athlete details and nuances.
With such a demand for fantasy fun, HypSports is bringing in the new kid on the block—esports—into its platform so that users can form their own League of Legends fantasy esports teams.
HypSports differentiates itself by not drafting a roster upront, but rather playing general manager yearlong and developing a squad throughout the season by acquiring and upgrading players daily using platform-specific collection and crafting mechanics.
Mike Taramykin is the CEO and co-founder of HypSports. He is building his new fantasy sports platform by bringing in experience from both sides of the business. In his previous three positions over the last 12 years, Taramykin has been an executive vice president at Fan Duel, vice president of Zynga as well as vice president and general manager for Electronic Arts.
Taramykin joined AListDaily to dish details about HypSports’ direct-to-consumer, microtransaction business strategy, and how it will differ as a fantasy sports platform with a fresh approach.
Why did you decide to gamify live sports and esports? What steps were you trying to solve in the consumer journey?
Over the past 20 years, our team has created a lot of sports games. As part of that process, we’ve talked to many sports gamers and fantasy fans to understand why they play and, just as importantly, to understand why they sometimes stop playing. What we found was that fans love sports games because they feel that it brings them closer to their favorite teams and athletes. But many fans eventually stop playing when they feel that they are no longer competitive and don’t have a chance of winning. Meanwhile, we have all seen a pronounced shift in the overall consumption of sports content as the underlying demographics change and new technologies come into play. And while demographics are always changing, we think that this time is different. Consumers in general have more content choices than ever, and as a result, sports content finds itself competing with video-on-demand, free-to-play games and social media. A little over a year ago, our team realized that there was a tremendous opportunity to combine the proven engagement mechanics of games with the real-life daily drama of sports to create a truly unique experience that other content categories can’t deliver.
What is Season Showdown and how are you marketing the new mode to specifically target your audience?
Season Showdown is the mode that greets every player each day when they first log on. Having Season Showdown in addition to our head-to-head and solo modes was the needed element that is pushing us to bring this app to a wider audience. Since our players are intelligent fans and engaged content consumers and creators, we want to respect them and interact with them using their own preferred platforms—YouTube, social media, athlete endorsements and team sponsorships. We’re looking at every avenue right now. That said, we’re focused on three types of marketing content: education, awareness and engagement.
Can you further explain the threetypes of marketing content?
With education, we’ve improved our website with tips and created new tutorial videos so that prospective players can quickly understand our game and get easy answers to their priority questions. With awareness, we’re talking to multiple teams about strategic partnerships that would include sponsorship elements such as signage, social media, multimedia and experiential marketing. We’re also going to be working with key digital platforms, websites and social content providers for sports fans, as well as talking to pro athlete influencers about their experiences playing HypSports. With engagement, we’ve got a lot planned, but the most immediate engagement promotion is the #FansCompete campaign. Beginning with the football season, fans are encouraged to share their rosters on their social platforms to win prizes. We are also inviting our HypSports players to share and create content for our website—our intent is that our loyal players will be able to use our platform to share their personal brand, personalities and sports and esports knowledge.
How is your approach to social, influencer and streaming designed to be different and hit home for potential sign-ups? Do you plan on testing any new platforms?
Our social, influencer and streaming campaigns are designed to convey how HypSports is a season-long competition for all fans. It’s designed to actively engage fans everyday by giving them things that they can do to improve their rosters so that they have a better chance of winning future matches. Just like real sports where teams and athletes are always training, in HypSports there is always something for players to do so that they can improve their chances of winning on game day. We like to think of HypSports as ‘the game when the game isn’t on.’ As a result, our players stay highly engaged throughout the entire season, because every game matters. Yes, we’re planning to test all sorts of new and existing platforms to see what works for us. It’s exciting to think about all the direct ways that we can reach fans, but at the same time it can quickly become overwhelming so we’re taking a methodical approach trying various platforms.
What are the avenues for sponsorships and partnerships that you plan on exploring?
We’re looking at a lot of options, but we’re most excited about the conversations that we’re having with pro sports and esports teams, as well as the brands that appeal to sports fans. Our main goal right now is to get as many fans onto our platforms as possible. Playing everyday, building their rosters, competing against other fans and most importantly feeling engaged and connected to their favorite sports and esports teams and players. We believe that one of the best ways for us to connect with these fans is to partner closely with the teams, players and brands that they already love. And for us this means finding the right partners and then working closely with them to enhance their fans’ overall experience throughout the season and all year long.
How does your business model shift traditional fantasy sports? What are the engaging opportunities out there?
For years, fantasy sports has been about stats and (to some part) money, while sports video games have been about hand-eye coordination and twitch skills. In our consumer research, we constantly heard how casual fans eventually quit both when they felt that they could no longer win. So, while their passion for sports never went away, they would lose interest in their fantasy team or put down their game controllers when the work required to stay competitive grew to be too much. The two stories that we heard most often was how fantasy players give up after week four or five because they drafted poorly, or their team was riddled with injuries and they didn’t have the time to read every article about who to start or sit. Likewise, gamers would say that they stopped playing their sports video games because developers changed the controls every year and they didn’t have time to learn all the new modes and button combos. In both cases the customers told us that they lost interest when they felt that they couldn’t be competitive. So, the opportunity for HypSports was to create a season-long competition where every player was competitive throughout the season. This meant creating roster-building mechanics that allowed a player’s team to constantly improve over time, thereby strengthening their chances of winning their upcoming matches. We want fans to always look forward to the next match and always feel better about their chances of winning the next game. That’s kind of what sports is all about.
How are you leveraging mobile gaming, and particularly through the gamification of real-life events?
We’ve designed HypSports around proven, fundamental, mobile game mechanics of collecting, crafting and questing—which is exactly how real sports works, too. In real sports, teams try to collect the best players, then they constantly train to craft each player’s individual abilities, and then the team sets off on a quest to win a championship. Our platform creates the same experience for the fans—only on their phone and with a user-friendly UI.
What is the proven way you’ve appealed to millennials?
I think we do a great job of bridging the gap between traditional pro sports and esports, which in turn appeals more to younger fans. We believe that the world of sports is always expanding, and sports fans enjoy watching competition between the best players in the world. Esports is no different. In many ways, it’s more exciting right now to see a whole new category of competition develop right in front of our eyes. On our platform, we not only provide a competition for esports fans, we also have a linked economy that incentivizes all players to compete in multiple sports and esports seasons. For millennial sports fans, we provide an integrated app for playing along with all major sports and esports leagues.
What are your thoughts for new sports monetization models?
We believe that there are exciting new ways to build massive businesses that cater to a new breed of digital sports fans. Most existing models revolve around either sponsorships, ticket sales or merchandising. What none of these models account for yet is that today’s sports fans are always connected, always ready to transact and fully accustomed to microtransactions. We believe that in the next five-to-ten years, sports will become an ‘always on’ direct-to-consumer service business with incredible new revenue channels. The games industry went through the same transformation over the last decade, and now more than half of the $108 billion dollar game industry generates its revenue from free content and microtransactions, two business models that didn’t really exist 15 years ago. The same will happen in sports, and we want to help drive this trend.
How would you assess the current fantasy sports landscape?
Fantasy sports is a great category that is enjoyed by 60 million sports fans in the US. The industry recently went through an exciting growth cycle, which was driven in large part by the invention of daily fantasy sports. Now daily fantasy sports growth has slowed, and we believe that is because the current offerings have found their audiences. We also believe that this indicates there is an opportunity for innovative new products that appeal to the approximately 130 million US sports fans that are not interested in the current crop of fantasy sports products that are available.
How do you envision competing with platforms that are already dominating the fantasy sports landscape?
We don’t see ourselves as competing with existing fantasy platforms because we have a different value proposition. Our product is 100 percent free-to-play and it’s designed to engage fans in a season-long competition, complete with playoffs and finals. Our game is designed to let fans join at any time in the season and lets them play right up until the very last game of the year. Furthermore, HypSports is designed for fans to play all year long. We incentivize cross-sport play by awarding resources in each sport that can be used in any other sport. As a result, our crossover between NFL and NBA players was 90 percent last year, and now we’re seeing close to a 40 percent crossover between MLB and League of Legends (LoL) esports.
What is your ultimate vision and strategy for scaling HypSports?
We believe that sports fans are just as passionate and competitive as the teams and athletes that they follow. This means that we want to turn traditional sports and esports into a personal competition for the fans so that they can leave their mark on the world of sports at large. We envision working very closely with teams, leagues, athletes and brands to engage fans on a daily basis, to support season-long competition and drive year-round retention.
Thank you for your continued support and readership.
-The AList Team
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