Rick Fox continues to promote eSports to the mainstream media while ensuring that his team, Echo Fox is connecting with the competitive gaming audience in an authentic way. His team now competes across Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Gears of War, League of Legends, H1Z1, Mortal Kombat X, Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros. Additionally, Fox has entered into a partnership with Asus and its Republic of Gamers (RoG) brand to provide his players with the hardware to practice and prepare for the extremely competitive field of eSports gaming.
Echo Fox won a major victory in the North American League of Legends Championship Series on Saturday, turning the game series around. Fox began his pro basketball career as a first round pick for the Boston Celtics out of UNC Chapel Hill before joining the Los Angeles Lakers in 1997, where he became part of a team that won three consecutive NBA Championships. He explains how he’s parlaying that knowledge and success from the NBA into the burgeoning eSports market in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily.
What is the correlation between the PC hardware that Echo Fox uses to practice with and the sneakers and gear professional athletes use to compete on the hardwood?
The preparation of any professional athlete is paramount to their success. We understand that. What we suit up in or the equipment we use—professional athletes are very particular about how they align themselves with the technology they’re using. That’s definitely on a parallel track to what we see in the professional world of gaming. I’m noticing the particulars in my own players as they search to become champions, as we push towards supporting them to the highest level to get to where they want to get. It is giving them the tools to succeed at the highest level and become champions. So, a partnership with Asus and their dedication to delivering the most innovative hardcore hardware that any gamer, let alone a professional gamer, helps Echo Fox is on this track to become the premier eSports franchise.
How does this partnership with Asus go beyond a typical sports sponsorship deal?
It goes further because of the stage we’re at in the eSports landscape. We’re infants still. It’s been around now for a number of years, but when you compare it to traditional professional sports, we are babies. When you’re as young as we are, you really need to collectively come together to grow the industry and really take something like eSports and make it a mainstream conversation. But you also have a seat at the table with the rest of traditional sports.
[That’s] what I’m excited for as one of the leaders in this space, and Asus has been leading in this way for ten years now, with their commitment to building the community of eSports with the tools that they need to perform at the highest level. I’m focused on the highest level performers becoming champions. When I think of what it’s going to take as leaders in the landscape to have this continued growth to a level that I have come from, which is basketball, and have it rival the viewership of traditional sports world championships, it’s important that Echo Fox continues to partner with brands that are committed to building the community and eSports as a whole.
As more non-endemic brands enter eSports, what role do you see the endemics like Asus playing in the landscape moving forward?
We all have to educate those that have been sticking a toe in and are now trying to jump in more confidently. That is obviously due to the commitment that individuals like Asus and RoG have made for ten years now. They’ve made it a more attractive and safer endeavor because they’ve educated the rest of the marketplace. As professional gaming becomes more of a voice, professional gamers are going to become household names like Tom Brady is today—or an individual like myself who played for three championships with the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe. Asus and RoG, in their commitment to engaging fans, have dominated because these fans are no longer just casual gamers. They’re becoming professional gamers, so that commitment is really important as we grow.
What has been one of the keys to connecting with the millennial eSports audience?
One of the most important things is authenticity. Today’s consumer, this generation, has been spammed with advertisements since the inception. They have access to every device known to mankind, and just the consumption of eSports and video game content as a whole has gotten easier because it’s everywhere and it can be in your hand and on your laptop—it can be whenever you want it. What I’ve seen in the content that has reached and connected is there has to be an authenticity there. A genuine desire to engage and participate, not just talk to and dictate. When you see a consumer come online and spend their quality hours—which a lot of them do two to three hours on end when they sit down to game—that has a core authentic background to them. It comes up through the roots. Asus is that. Echo Fox is growing up through the roots of eSports from an authentic place, and they’re going to connect because they’re going to feel that the authenticity and the direction of both of those brands are there for the long haul and not just their dollar.
How have you been able to apply the lessons learned from the success you’ve had in sports and in entertainment to Echo Fox and eSports?
It’s a daily education. It’s a daily search, and evolving from my sporting background to becoming an owner. Remember, I was a player. I had one of the greatest owners in professional sports with Jerry Buss, who gave me an example of what it looked like to be an owner that was committed to his franchise pursuing championships and excellence. And he gave me an example of what it’d look like to support his players to becoming the best they can be. I pull from that all the time. I hold onto the fact that I believe that this is not a huge Grand Canyon leap from traditional sports to professional sports and gaming. I see them hand-in-hand. I’m pulling them closer and closer together on a daily basis and [figuring out] how we can move that conversation forward. I just pull from my own traditional experiences and I believe that there’s a greater seat at the table and we should all blend competition into one household.
In your own career with sports, you were able to put on classic team jerseys. What’s it been like from a ground level to create Echo Fox, its logos, and an identity that future generations will be rooting for?
I haven’t really popped my head up to breathe yet to look around and really take in and celebrate the journey of last year because the second year came in like a wave. Having the opportunity to launch our second year with Asus has been invigorating and is revitalizing our franchise with more responsibility and commitment to just being an example and carrying the message. With the logo itself—I can think back to how it came to life and how people respond to it the way they do. To see it stand side-by-side on a jersey with Asus, I should stop and celebrate. But there’s so much work to be done. So, you’re giving me that moment now to really stop to talk about it for a second here and think about how far we’ve come in such a short time. But I know how far we need to go and where we want to get to, so I’m just going to drop my head back down and go back to work.