While California is arguably becoming home of esports in North America, various brands and organisations gathered to the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles last week for eSCon USA.
The two day event hosted by Kisaco Research featured non-stop 1-on-1 meetings, panel discussions and overall networking focused on the ever-growing business industry within esports. Some of the attendees included Hi-Rez Studios, Nielsen eSports, HTC, T-Mobile, Splyce, NRG, Soylent, and ESL.
The opening presentation was given by Sundance Di Giovanni, VP of Brand and Content at Activision Blizzard and focused on ‘How brands can play to win in esports’. Di Giovanni discussed the history of esports along with showing that while statistics like prize money, viewership and revenue are on the rise, with the evolution of technology it’s still difficult for brands to enter the space and make an impact. He explains: “Millennials are the most desirable and least reachable demographic simply because of ad blocker and if you force it, they will go away”.
He then went in depth from a viewership standpoint explaining that most fans watch esports to improve their own play and will even buy products to improve if they think it will make them better. The brand alignment must be additive, not forced and brands must create memorable experiences.
“Millennials are the most desirable and least reachable demographic simply because of ad blocker and if you force it they will go away”
Next up was a panel focused on brands entering the esports space and featured Dan Ciccone, Managing Director at rEvXp, Coutney Lauer, Marketing Manager at Turtle Wax, Nicole Pike, Global Research and Product Lead for Nielsen eSports. It was moderated by Manny Anekal, Founder and CEO of Venus Sports and The Next Level. They discussed how brands need to educate themselves before entering esports along with how the automobile industry is one of the fastest growing brands in esports. The Audi sponsorship of Astralis was used as a prime example and it was noted that it’s often you see players marketing their cars on social media.
After the first round of panels the 1-on-1 meetings continued along with an exclusive briefing for brands featuring Stuart Lipson, Executive Director at Esports Ad Bureau before the network lunch provided in the confines of the SLS’ own restaurant, The Bazaar by Jose Andres.
After the lunch break and more meetings, the “Talent Management: It’s all about the talent” panel began featuring Jason Moore, Partner at Agency for Professional Esports, Damon Lau, CEO and Co-Founder of Everyday Influencers, Ryan Moorison, CEO and Co-founder of Evolve Talent Agency and Darren Yan, Talent and Influencer Management at Everyday Influencers. They discussed that esports from a management standpoint is still fairly new and many players have be burned by mismanagement. As esports becomes more and more legitimised with salaries and prize pools players need representation to keep them safe.
Next was a discussion on “Localisation: The home advantage” featuring Todd Harris, COO of Hi-Rez Studios, Marty Strenczewilk, CEO of Splyce, Andy Babb, Executive Vice President of Super League Gaming, and Victor Suski, CEO of The American Video Game League. The topic of the Overwatch League came up more than once as it will require teams to be tied to a city. While Splyce is not in the Overwatch League, Strenczewilk stated he hopes to make Boston the home for his organisation. They then discussed the benefits of localisation such as bringing in new fans, and rivalries along with the downfalls like alienating to one location as it could risk what the organisation is capable of reaching.
Later was a panel on “Esports Law” featuring Bryce Blum, Media Founder Partner at ESG Law, Hansen P. Reed, Managing Shareholder at Walker and Reed, Joseph M. Clemko, Senior Attorney at Beckmen Crystal Law, and Jake Williams, Director of Legal at Sportradar. A major topic in this panel was betting on esports, a feature quite vacant in the United States but growing vastly on a global scale. “Esports is a wide audience by a young demographic” said Blum, “Kids are betting with skins instead of cash and don’t realise the consequences or the legal issues”. There is simply too fine of a line right now when it come to betting that can’t be crossed until more regulations are put in place. Reed then brought up the topic of franchising and how important that process is along with trademarking for organisations. Simply enough: ask the tough questions if you’re looking for a lawyer.
“Kids are betting with skins instead of cash and don’t realise the consequences or the legal issues.”
Day two included panels on growing the esports audience featuring Nik Adams from Turtle Entertainment along with a presentation from Travis Cochran and Michael Reddick from Esports Amateur Competitors League about their platform of holding amateur tournaments while giving back to non-profit organisations.
Before the first round of meetings on day two, a discussion of “Venues: An Unforgettable Experience” took place with Robb Chiarini, Senior Manager for esports at Ubisoft, Brian Mirakian, Director for Populous Activate, Tina Suca, Vice President for Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, and Nate Eckman, Co-Founder and CCO for Ultimate Media Ventures. Suca discussed the major differences of putting on an esports event versus a sporting event or a concert along with creating unique experiences for the fans as it may be the first time they’ve stepped into that specific venue. They further discussed how we’re now witnessing the beginning of facilities being built specifically for esports events and training along with broadcast and content creation. Regions also make venues important as well, going back to the localization topic for certain organizations.
One of the final panels of the event featured ‘Broadcasting: Reaching the Billions’ with Steve Arhancet, Co-CEO of Team Liquid, Travis Gafford, Former Head of Esports Media at Yahoo Esports, Kyle Laffey, Business Development at Sliver.tv, and Bo Daly, Co-founder and Vice President of Superevil Megacorp. This panel discussed the obvious dominate platform of Twitch and how most brands take the misstep of thinking it’s as simple as making a stream, then broadcasting it. They agreed that there is no “one size fits all” content and that the same things that apply to traditional media to not apply to esports media and broadcasts. They also talked about how telling stories will make people that don’t consume esports, will.
eSCon USA saw 24 1-on-1 meetings per attendee and 13 informative panels along with numerous casual networking opportunities for all involved. As Los Angeles is arguably the mecca of esports in North America, the SLS Hotel was a spectacular background to have during the two-day conference.
With a mix of existing and new brands, organisations, companies, and teams, one thing was certain at the conclusion of the conference: esports has and will continue to grow to new heights in the years to come.
Disclaimer: Esports Insider was an Official Media Partner of the eScon event.