The Skillz platform allows typical mobile games such as Bejeweled to be turned into eSports, where players compete for prizes that include virtual currency or cash. Last June, the company announced that its annual run rate was $50 million and that it had grown by over 5x from the previous fiscal year (2015 vs. 2014). Skillz has run more than 100 million mobile eSports tournaments to date and now hosts over 500,000 tournaments every day, awarding over $5 million in cash prizes to players every month, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

The company announced the inclusion of brand-sponsored tournaments in November, which is almost certain to help grow mobile eSports gaming as more non-endemic brands have the opportunities to become involved.

Skillz founder and CEO, Andrew Paradise, recently spoke with [a]listdaily about how the brand-sponsored tournament system works and how the platform is already helping to make the mobile gaming experience better.

Andrew Paradise, Skillz founder and CEO
Andrew Paradise, Skillz founder and CEO

How will brands be shown in sponsored tournaments?

Skillz is providing brands with a lot of exciting opportunities. The beauty of what we’ve built is that we have structured offerings but are also looking at some creative options to customize additional tools based on what interests brands the most. Brands that partner with Skillz will be able to sponsor mobile eSports tournaments across thousands of Skillz-enabled games. They can sponsor an entire game, or choose to sponsor specific tournaments within a game. Brands are also able to host and sponsor physical events where players can compete at in-person tournaments, or work with social influencers via livestreamed events on Twitch, YouTube and other broadcasting sites.

What opportunities does Skillz open for brands looking to get into eSports?

According to Nielsen, sports accounted for 93 of the top 100 live viewed TV programs in 2015, compared to only 14 in 2005. This tells us that there is an increasing demand for live competitions where brands can access an engaged audience, and we’re offering the opportunity to tap into a novel and rapidly growing market: electronic sports. We enable brands to reach and engage with our audience of over 10 million players, 49 percent of which is female, as opposed to just 19 percent in the gaming industry as a whole. The new sponsorship opportunities from Skillz will continue to broaden the market, fueling the growth of the industry’s prize pools while allowing brands to connect with the next generation of athletes and fans.

Do sponsors set up tournaments by selecting games and participants themselves or is there an automated process?

We’re offering a fair amount of flexibility for sponsors when arranging their preferred level and method of involvement. Through the Skillz platform, we will have a range of sponsorship options from programmatic to more prescriptive selections where sponsors can choose their desired audience and sponsorship characteristics. We have some exciting programs coming soon.

Is there a connection between the tournament sponsor and the prizes players will be striving to win?

In many cases, the prizes for a tournament may relate to the brand sponsoring it. For example, if an online retailer chooses to sponsor a tournament, prizes could include specific products, memberships or gift cards to their website.

Does the system include a means for sponsored giveaways of products?

Right now, we are exploring all options with our initial pilot programs. We want to see what players enjoy most.

Can brands be directly connected with streamers through Skillz?

Skillz will enable brands to work with social influencers via livestreamed events on Twitch, YouTube and other broadcasting sites. We have existing relationships with a variety of top streamers, and one of the benefits we’re providing to brands with this new offering is our team’s expertise. We’ll help to curate the most engaging and relevant experiences for brands, streamers and players through expert recommendations and facilitating the best collaborations.

How does Skillz allow non-endemic brand sponsorship without sacrificing the streamer or game’s sense of authenticity?

Our mission is to make gaming better. Each time I’ve founded a company, it’s because I’ve seen a need that wasn’t being met in an industry.

With Skillz, the idea for the company came to me one day when I was playing a mobile game. The game control buttons were strategically located next to advertisements to make players accidentally tap on ads while trying to play the game. I realized that there had to be a better way for game developers to make money without negatively impacting the player experience. That’s how Skillz was born—with the goal of providing an alternate revenue stream for developers while increasing player retention and enjoyment. These new brand offerings will continue in that same spirit, by providing brands with an opportunity to get involved in the burgeoning eSports industry without negatively impacting the experience of streamers, players and other stakeholders involved.

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