STARK Esports was the agency which helped one of the first major football clubs, VfL Wolfsburg, enter esports. The company, based in Germany, continues to work closely with the Bundesliga and maintains relations with clubs in the league.
Martin Wyss is one of the Co-Founders of STARK, and on May 3rd he’ll be sharing his expertise at a panel at the Betting on Football Conference at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge.
Wyss will be alongside Pedro Silva of Qwatti Agency and Wouter Sleijffers, the CEO of Fnatic. The three will discuss the topic of why football clubs are entering esports.
Esports Insider: Tell us about founding STARK and being one the first mover in the esports football crossover space…
Martin: My partners and I have been in esports for more than 15 years, and it was always our goal to not only be successful in regular business but also to establish something exciting in esports.
“It is not enough to sign a player, give him a shirt and then call yourself innovative”
Based on the experience in both “worlds” we decided to found a consulting company with a sole focus on esports. Our vision is to connect regular sports with esports. By bringing VfL Wolfsburg into esports we reached a huge milestone and the vision we had had since the beginning started to become reality.
Since then, we have seen a lot of clubs entering esports but only a few are doing it the right way. It is not enough to sign a player, give him a shirt and then call yourself innovative. You need to build a strategy, support and work with your players, create innovative and unique content ideas and events, work with esports and traditional stakeholders, your fans and one of the more underestimated points: use your club assets!
ESI: What can entering esports offer a football club? And which titles do you tend to advise them to launch with?
Martin: A football club can gain a lot from esports. Firstly, it can address new target audiences and revenue models for the club – this means attracting new fans and exploring new revenue streams.
Secondly, a club can use esports to diversify from others, for example a club is in the position to gain new sponsors and business opportunities through esports by way of its differentiation. And thirdly, a club entering esports is becoming more digital. Digital or disruptive business models are the future, and it’s in this same direction that sports will go. My prediction is that esports will become more important than regular sports in certain areas and certain target groups, so don’t miss the move.
“We have learned that every club has its own “wants” and “needs” when considering a move into esports”
There are more possible arguments for clubs to enter the space. One of these could be globalisation; a way to work on your brand image and brand perception, this could be for content extension for their own channels and a lot more. We have learned that every club has its own “wants” and “needs” when considering a move into esports.
In our opinion a football title like FIFA is a perfect start and also an authentic first step into the space. From there, it depends on your individual strategy if you need or want to do anything beyond that. There are a lot of risks and opportunities and every club needs an excellent partner to analyse that on a professional level.
ESI: Are the vast majority of clubs reluctant to do anything beyond FIFA?
Martin: Definitely, the principal of FIFA is easy to understand because it is football and football is its own global language.
Other games are more difficult to comprehend and still unfairly and negatively affected by the “Killergame” image. At STARK Esports we’re continuously working on this topic together with our clients, sponsors and other stakeholders to also be the enabler for other esports titles picked up by football clubs.
ESI: Why did you decide to speak at the ‘Why football clubs are entering esports?’ panel at Betting on Football (3-5 May, London)?
Martin: Because it’s a great event and location with a lot of important stakeholders in the sports industry. We had the opportunity to speak there last year and we are proud to represent the esports industry as professionals once again. Esports is our passion. We consider ourselves as esports natives, so whenever the possibility occurs, we love to explain esports to a broader audience.
ESI: What are your thoughts on the recent move by the DFL to tender rights to ‘interactive entertainment products’? What do you think this will entail?
Martin: This is a normal process because the Bundesliga is considered to have a monopoly position and then you are forced to tender specific rights. We have a very good relationship with the DFL and we are in regular meetings with them too. Some years ago, they were actually pioneers with the Virtuelle Bundesliga and they are fully aware of the huge potential esports has.
ESI: You guys are based in Germany and the Bundesliga first showed the light for football clubs entering esports, why was it the Bundesliga and not another and in your view is it still ahead of the game? There is now the e-Ligue 1 and E-divisie for example..
Martin: Thanks to EA Germany and the DFL we have enjoyed the Virtuelle Bundesliga for a few years now.
“We consider ourselves as esports natives, so whenever the possibility occurs, we love to explain esports to a broader audience”
Some of the world leading esports pioneers and companies are German, which leads to that the strong esports structure that currently exists in Germany. Besides that, VfL Wolfsburg is a very innovative club and as such it wasn’t out of nowhere that they were the ones to make this important move together with STARK Esports.
We see it as our mission to develop the market, to create even better structures and to assist more clubs on their way into esports. This is best achieved by helping clubs do it in their own, individual way which covers their unique club philosophy.
There are still limited tickets available for Betting on Football 2017 but they’re in short supply. The conference and trade show will see over 800 attendees, 140 speakers and 40 exhibitors around betting and football over the two days (May 3-5).
Disclaimer: We are partnered with the event organiser – SBC Events.