Jeff Suhy & Jason Moore – APE and modop – The next Nirvana could be in esports

Following the announcement of the deal between creative ad agency modop and esports player agency APE (Agency for Professional Esports), we decided to find out more. 

Jeff Suhy, modop

We spoke to Jeff Suhy, a Founding Partner of modop, and Jason Moore, President of APE about moulding ‘esports celebs’, when we’ll have that first breakthrough star and the opportunities for players after their playing days have ended.

Alongside Jason, Alberto “Crumbzz” Rengifo and NFL agent Matthew Pope set up APE last year.

Esports Insider: Is esports at the stage now where players can become ‘mega-celebrities’ in the mainstream?

Jeff: That depends on the definition of “mega-celebrities” but there’s no doubt of the power these players have to reach a very substantial audience.

“Tom Brady can endorse Ugg Boots without anyone blinking an eye…it’s hard to imagine that sort of non-endemic marriage being quite as credible with an esports player”

I would offer that modop believes it’s going to be more imperative to match the player with the right brands in the world of esports than it might be with traditional athletes. Tom Brady can endorse Ugg Boots without anyone blinking an eye….we find it hard to imagine that sort of non-endemic marriage being quite as credible with an esports player today. That being said, in the near future, we believe the reach these players have will equal that of the traditional athletes.

I believe these esports players are already more relevant within the younger audience than traditional athletic “super stars” that don’t have vibrant social channels.

Esports Insider: Will we soon be reading gossip about their relationships on Perez Hilton or does that level of interest simply not exist yet?

Jeff: In the US that does not yet exist.

We’ll need a breakthrough player to really open up a more mainstream awareness in order to draw that sort of attention. These cycles are fairly typical. No one thought an “alternative” music artist could break through to the pop mainstream until Nirvana came along with the right combination of talent, timing and looks. 

Jason Moore, APE President

Within months of “Nevermind” being released the guys wearing spandex selling millions of records were out of business. It’s just a matter of time!

Esports Insider: What can APE do for clients that others can’t and why is it needed?

Jason: Our agency is approaching player contracts and their brands with more than twenty years of experience in traditional athlete contract negotiations and representing branded celebrities.

“No one thought an “alternative” music artist could break through to the pop mainstream until Nirvana came along with the right combination of talent, timing and looks”

These players are athletes and brands. APE’s unique experience and expertise will open up more opportunities for players to monetise their in-game performances as well as defining and developing players into major individual brands.

Esports lacks the individual branded athletes that we see in traditional sports and there is a huge opportunity for players to develop their brand and increase their value.

Esports Insider: Why did you choose to form a partnership with modop? What specifically do they offer APE and its clients?

Jason: As an advertising agency, modop has a deep tech and gaming background, they understand the shifting landscape around technology and frequently work with clients we felt might be well aligned with our own.

Esports Insider: Are esports players breaking through and going pro currently more vulnerable than those in traditional sports?

Jason: Definitely. I believe the vulnerability comes from players being asked to be professional athletes and their own representatives in business negotiations at such a young age.

“Esports lacks the individual branded athletes that we see in traditional sports and there is a huge opportunity for players to develop their brand and increase their value”

In traditional sports there is a preparation for when an athlete turns pro and with that comes a team that is built around the athlete to protect both them and their best interests. This is being slowly adopted in esports and APE has uniquely positioned itself to protect players’ interests.

Esports Insider: Will you be working with academies? Is esports going to become similar to other sports where major organisations vie for the signature of the next promising youngster?
Jason: Esports is unique in the fact that most of the games show player performances and stats online, but not all stats represent the players’ abilities so there is a need to review players in academies, colleges, and internationally as scouting is entirely different in esports than it is traditional sports.

“Esports-specific academies have not developed to a point yet where they consistently produce pro-level talent and are not widely used like they are in traditional sports”

Data and statistical analysis are currently underused and underdeveloped. APE is developing relationships and methodologies to use stats to our clients’ advantage. Esports-specific academies have not developed to a point yet where they consistently produce pro-level talent and are not widely used like they are in traditional sports. APE has strong relationships with college programs, and we will continue to utilise those relationships to develop talent.

Esports Insider: How can agencies such as APE help esports pros in the latter stages of their playing careers? Do players need help with deciding what to do once their playing careers are over, and are there enough opportunities?

Jason: We work with our clients and identify career paths, financial planning and college education for athletes after they retire from professional play.

“We are still in the infancy of esports and over the years we will see more avenues for retired players within the industry as entertainers, casters, or administratively within organisations and esports related business ventures”

We are still in the infancy of esports and over the years we will see more avenues for retired players within the industry as entertainers, casters, or administratively within organisations and esports related business ventures.

As the esports industry defines itself more in popular culture we will see more post-pro business endeavours like we see now in traditional sports such as entertainment, product development, licensing, personal appearances and business investments.