Esports is very much a digital-first industry, and with that comes pressure to stay on top of modern branding, design, and social media to just stay afloat with the competition. There are tonnes of organisations, tournament organisers, and other companies in the industry; but not many indigenous creative agencies that can help them stand out. That’s where AoE Creative steps in.
Founded by former employees of Infinite Esports & Entertainment – the parent company of OpTic Gaming and Houston Outlaws – the agency is jam-packed with “experts in Creative Brand Design and Marketing”. Don’t just take it from us though, we spoke to Simon Bennett, CEO of AoE Creative about the current spectrum of creativity in esports.
Esports Insider: What’s done wrong when it comes to branding and design in esports, and how can things be improved?
Simon Bennett: This is the biggest crusade for us right now. As we all know, esports is in a period of rapid growth and probably will be for another year or so. It’s definitely not going away any time soon. This ecosystem is survival of the fittest. This pressures/pushes teams and other brands to move quickly and often with little thought for long term growth. Because of this, many teams overlook marketing and brand in favour of the creation of a basic logo that “looks cool” which leads to a hollow brand with no clear voice.
A good example of this done right is the Houston Outlaws. We designed the brand to be quintessentially Texan. It spoke to a specific audience, and we spent a long time looking at the voice of this brand. This led to the motto, “We don’t start fights we finish them”. This motto and the marketing strategy around it drove the entire voice of the brand and lead the Outlaws to be the most talked about Overwatch League team of 2018 (even after coming in the bottom half at the end of the season). For anyone that says that marketing is not important for esports teams, please take some time to assimilate that information.
We often see the statement, “The Nike logo was designed on a napkin in 15 minutes”. This clearly shows the lack of understanding of the brand. The reason this logo was immediately used was that the Nike team had spent months of branding exercises and thousands of dollars to get to the point where when they saw the logo they wanted they could say “That’s it!”
Esports needs to be better at creating long-lasting memorable brands that have a very clear understanding of their audience. These brands will stand the test of time and build fan-bases that advocate and champion the brand.
ESI: How about the dos and don’ts of creative strategy?
SB: Creativity is more structured than most people think. At AoE, we have a goal to have fun every day, but it’s structured. We actually work similarly to a tech company or game developer, with a project manager controlling the flow and weekly sprints to complete projects as defined for our clients.
Within our industry, we are beginning to see teams plan out full-scale creative campaigns where they integrate all areas of their team and sponsors for one large scale project. This structure and strategy allow teams to build a much bigger brand footprint and saves money in the long term.
Sadly, many brands are still not strategizing and building creative campaigns properly. This often leads to disappointed sponsors and fans. A good example of this is 100T; they had such a great 2018 building a new cool brand in the space. The problem is they clearly don’t have a clear, detailed long term creative strategy.
While I am a huge fan of Matthew’s, 100T can’t grow having a single person being the face of the brand. We are definitely seeing the 100T hype fall away drastically in 2019 as the “lifestyle brand” approach is adopted by many other teams. (Hit us up Matt, we have some ideas!)
ESI: What are your thoughts on how social media is currently being utilised?
SB: This is probably the most complicated area, and there are very few brands in the world that get social media right. In our industry, we have to pay extra attention to social trends and strategy due to the fact that our demographics are the most connected and internet savvy generations.
For example, brands not looking into the rising popularity of TikTok and thinking of how they can use it to build their brand, need to start right now! This may well be the social media of the current new fan audiences.
Social media is driven by communication and openness. Brands that are not investing trust and money in their social team are going to start falling behind rapidly. Social media and community managers are probably the most undervalued people in the industry. Far more time and effort need to be put into social strategy across the board.
Simon Bennett recently spoke on the ‘Marketing in esports, the past, present and future’ panel at ESI New York.
ESI HALL OF FAME 2019 REGISTRATION