Understanding the hype: A look at the esports insight at Leaders Week

Immortals, Cloud9, ESL, FACEIT, Astralis, the 76ers, Omen by HP and Lagardère were just some of the esports speakers involved in this year’s Leaders Week.

Esports Live saw a dedicated afternoon of esports content Under the Bridge at the Chelsea venue. There were a total of five sessions, of which the first saw Astralis and the 76ers on a panel titled ‘Understanding the Hype’. Moderated by Nicolas Gaede of Lagardère they discussed various topics in esports at length.

Jordi Roig, Chief Commercial Officer of Astralis, explained the importance of working with the likes of Nielsen to prove the value of deals the team has made. He explained: “This is important as it makes it easier for decision makers in big corporations to take the leap.” The Astralis and Audi partnership featured in Nielsen’s first recent esports report, which you can read more about and access for yourself here

Akshay Khanna, Vice President of 76ers, commented on the amount of engagement they’ve had with esports fans to date. He said: “We’re getting feedback from esports fans faster than we know what to do with. Ordinarily consumer brands see less than a 1% response rate on surveys, with the 76ers we tend to get 7-8% which is already massive in comparison but it’s still nothing on what we’ve seen from the world of esports to date.”

Khanna also noted how longer contracts are becoming the norm to protect both teams and players. 

The second panel saw the techier side of esports on the stage with Omen by HP represented by Yvonne Hobden and Nicolai Sønderby Knudsen, Senior Product Marketing Manager from Microsoft. Unsurprisingly, their focus was on brand sponsorship. Hobden pointed to the challenges of the market and stated: “This audience is the hardest I’ve ever had to market to. You have to be a little careful and a little subtle.” Omen by HP has been working Gfinity in the UK, and has produced some cool video content such as the below.

Hobden continued to explain how, despite this, they love the challenge and are determined to drive the esports agenda in the UK, which lags behind much of Europe and elsewhere. Microsoft’s Knudsen echoed the same statement of the difficulties they’ve faced, and how you simply “can’t get away with BS”. 

Following a short break, the Managing Director of the NBA 2K League Brendan Donohue gave an engaging and compelling talk about their plans for the game’s inaugural season, which’ll see 17 NBA teams involved. 

He made the strong point that the advantage they have is that their game is “globally recognisable”, and made the comparison that whilst League is an excellent game it can be intimidating for casual viewers. Donohue also pointed to the ease with which they can have in-game activations. He pointed to having Mountain Dew courtside as a prime example, it’s natural as people are used to it and moreover they expect it.

When asked how they’ll evaluate success and create revenue streams, Donohue signalled the audience size as the prime measurement factor and that with this revenue streams will take care of themselves. He also highlighted the fact that they’ve 17 teams involved, and more keen to be, and that these all have their own arenas which can be used for hosting events.

The final panel of Esports Live saw a line up including FACEIT Co-Founder Michele Attisani, Immortals CEO Noah Whinston and Jan Pommer, Director of Team Relations at ESL. The subject of betting came up which had Pommer voicing his opinion that it’s a great opportunity to work with fans and better engage viewers but that “we must be careful”. He continued: “Working with the likes of Sportradar is important and taking note of what traditional sports are doing to ensure our integrity and fan protection levels are up to the same standards.”

Attisani agreed on the point about betting, and the importance to play it safe. He gave a nod to Genius Sports and the positive work they’ve been doing with them for FACEIT and the ECS. As to the question of whether an overall esports regulatory body is required, or would work, Attisani noted: “It’s unlikely there’ll be an overarching body for esports regulation, but there can absolutely be cross pollination with different leagues and tournament operators working together and learning from one another.”