Nicolas Maurer – Team Vitality – Kings of the Merch

Next up in our Kings of the Merch series is Nicolas Maurer, CEO at Team Vitality. When it comes to looking the part, Maurer recognised the importance of this long ago and has brought that mentality to his team. 

Nicolas Maurer, Team Vitality

Vitality signed a one year deal with Adidas France at the beginning of this year to kit out its teams. Vitality currently have rosters in League, CoD, FIFA, Halo, Rainbow Six Siege and H1Z1. Here’s an interview with Havas Entertainment, who helped broker the deal between Adidas France and Vitality, from back in January.

Esports Insider: How important is apparel design of the kits players wear to an esports organisation?

Nicolas Maurer: Extremely important.

“Keeping a powerful and unified identity across the most important leagues is crucial for growing our fanbase”

We’re a brand, and our jersey is the first physical connection to our fans. We want them to be proud of wearing a Vitality jersey and audiences to recognise the brand immediately. Keeping a powerful and unified identity across the most important leagues is crucial for growing our fanbase over time.

ESI: Where did the Adidas deal come from and how did the negotiation go? Do you think it says something about the French esports scene that it opted for Vitality as amongst the first to partner with in esports?

Nicolas: We worked closely with Havas, who were in discussions with Adidas France about esports. Working with Vitality was the most obvious choice for Adidas, since we’re the number one French team on every metric, with a European audience. Plus, we have some of the bests FIFA players in the world like Rocky.

ESI: Why do you think we haven’t seen movement elsewhere from Adidas and from their rival competitors in esports with teams and apparel to date? Will this change?

Nicolas: Like many non-endemic brands, Adidas has to understand the market : “what is esports exactly, and how should we address it ?”. That’s the main question for those brands.

“Merchandising is a small part of our overall revenue for now but it’s growing every year in relative and absolute terms”

Most of them know they have to communicate in esports at some point to reach the millennials, but they don’t really know how to do so. This is already changing with more and more people being able to teach them what esports is, starting with us. We work as advisors for our partners. Consultants and ad agencies work with brands but only a handful of them are knowledgeable enough at the moment. In the end, it’s an ongoing process and it’s already paying off with numerous brands coming into the field.

ESI: How much of a role does apparel and merchandise play in Team Vitality’s monetisation and business model now, and going forward? Are esports teams are better placed than other types of sports team to capitalise on generating income and building a brand via merch?

Nicolas: Merchandising is a small part of our overall revenue for now but it’s growing every year in relative and absolute terms. It’s a big focus for us developing our business.

We’re comparable to sports teams in the way that we can monetise physical goods, but we can do much more with in-game digital content. Every esports game publisher is taking the opportunity to integrate digital goods using top esports teams’ IP and sharing parts of the revenues with us. Winning competitions and developing our brand is obviously key to growing both types of sales.

ESI: So far you seem to have opted more for the official esports gear rather than going down the ‘lifestyle brand’ route some such as Fnatic and NiP have taken. Is this something you have in the pipeline or something you’ll be avoiding?

“We’re comparable to sports team in the way we can monetise physical goods, but we can do much more with in-game digital content”

Nicolas: We have many things on the pipeline but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything ! You’ll see.

ESI: How has the arrangement with Adidas been going? Have talks of a possible extension been had?

Nicolas: I honestly think they couldn’t be happier. The partnership announcement was huge, Rocky won the FUT World Championship and the Vitality jersey will appear in FIFA 18! Everyone is satisfied right now and we’re already discussing the future.

Our Kings of the Merch Series is an ongoing series exploring the relationship of and potential for apparel (and merchandise generally) in esports. Previously we’ve spoken to Benoit at Fnatic, Nate Eckman at ULT, Laura at NiP and Josh Chavez at Mainframe.

For those lucky enough to be in the UK next week (September 28th), our next ESI Forum event at Fnatic’s Bunkr will have a panel discussing the esports and apparel opportunity in depth, from jerseys to streetwear. Find out more and secure tickets here