Since the Philadelphia Sixers acquired Team Dignitas, the esports powerhouse has been forging partnerships with non-endemic brands like Mountain Dew and expanding its relationships with longstanding partners such as Dell. In fact, according to Team Dignitas CEO Jonathan Kemp, Dell has been a sponsor for 10 of Dignitas’ 13 years in existence.
“We’re on a new path and a new trajectory with the Sixers acquisition, so it’s great to have Dell alongside us with this next stage in our journey,” Kemp said. “Dell and the Dignitas brand together makes sense. That Dell brand now has such a wide range of products that have a broad appeal, from the high-end competitive gamers at one end, all the way through to novice gamers at the other end.”
The approach Dignitas is taking with Dell parallels what the esports team is doing with the Sixers. Dignitas expanded its livestreaming outreach beyond Twitch to reach Facebook gamers. “We have so many different new things that we’re bringing to the team and to esports that we are appealing to a really wide demographic of fans, not just the hardcore, and that is reflected by what Dell is doing with their range of computers as well,” Kemp said.
A week before E3, Dell was integrated into a boot camp for Dignitas’ all-women Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team. Sixers players competed against the pro gamers at the Dell Mobile Gaming Station. The pros were also featured in video packages using Dell gaming hardware.
As Dell expands its gaming footprint—something seen in a television campaign featuring new Spider-Man: Homecoming actor Tom Holland—its brand is now featured on the Dignitas jerseys, replacing Alienware.
The CS:GO team also spent time at the Dell booth during E3 to do media interviews and autograph signings for the fans who attended the show. While the focus in these first four months has been getting its CS:GO team prepared for competition, Kemp acknowledged that these pro gamers open up new opportunities for brands and sponsors. As part of the Philadelphia boot camp, the team talked to Sixers executives about products and brands they use in everyday life.
“The primary focus right now is about getting the best out of the team and enabling them to be as successful as they can be in the tournaments that they attend,” Kemp said. “The commercial opportunities will no doubt follow as we move forward.”
A recent report from PwC researchers found that 22 percent of women are involved with esports, compared to 18 percent of men. The report also found that women watch esports for enjoyment and the social aspect, while men are more interested in the actual competition.
Dignitas’ women’s team played at the Intel Extreme Masters Finals in Katowice, Poland earlier this year as part of Intel’s commitment to women in games.
“We have a women’s team because we want to support women in gaming,” said Kemp. “We think that’s a really important thing. The fact that we are able to give them the same opportunities as all of our other teams gives them a chance to push on and be the best team in the world, and that’s what we’re all aiming for here for every single one of our teams.”
Dignitas has one of the top League of Legends teams in the world today, so Riot Games’ shift next season to a franchise structure is something Kemp believes will help his organization stabilize its business. “It gives us an opportunity to invest in our players, which gives us more certain rosters so we can commit to games for longer periods of time,” Kemp said.”That allows us to build our fan bases and engage more with them. Franchising is hugely empowering not just for us as a team, but for player stability and fan engagement.”
Kemp has no doubt that more publishers will look at Riot as a model to see how they can make their games fit into it. “People will look at franchising and find it interesting, but to come out and say you’re going to develop an esports game is a tough challenge,” Kemp added. “That happens organically. Gamers are looking to play the best game they can. And if fans like to watch them play, there’s the potential for that title to become an esport.”
The Sixers, along with the Miami Heat (owners of Misfits), are in a unique position for 2018 when the NBA and 2K Sports launch NBA 2K ELeague. Kemp said things are still being worked out regarding whether the Sixers brand or the Dignitas brand will be used on the pro gamers’ jerseys. “There’s no fixed decision yet on what the branding piece is going to look like, but we as Dignitas being owned by the Sixers will have a role to play there,” Kemp explained. “We have 13 years’ experience in managing and running esports teams and understanding how that dynamic works. Clearly, that’s a skill set that the Sixers and Dignitas will leverage to make sure that we can be successful.”