Team Heretics became one of the most popular names in Call of Duty esports in the past year, building a solid reputation for itself with its Spanish roster. A big change was impending upon the scene, however, in the form of franchising.
The Spanish organisation applied to acquire one of the 12 franchise slots in the Call of Duty League but wasn’t successful, despite getting rather close. The sad news was broken to fans on September 14th and we later saw that ReKTGlobal and c0ntact Gaming acquired the two European slots for the inaugural season.
Esports Insider sat down with Arnau Vidal, Founder & Co-owner of Team Heretics to find out about decision, what the organisation has been doing since, and his thoughts on how the league is shaping up.
Esports Insider: Can you tell us about Activision Blizzard’s decision to not include you in the league?
Arnau Vidal: We were excited about the idea of getting a franchise team for for Call of Duty. We believe that it’s the right path for us. It’s the right path for esports. I think that Activision Blizzard is really good at selling commercial deals that drive revenue to the league so I think that it’s going to be a good product.
Specifically for us, we were born as a small Call of Duty team in Spain, we have grown a lot since, but we come from Call of Duty and most of our fan base comes from that game too. Our content creators used to focus on Call of Duty too, so when we knew that a league was coming, we knew that we had to be there because we belong to Call of Duty.
We’re not a huge organisation like most of the owners of CDL franchises – we haven’t had any crazy investments rounds or anything like that – but we knew that we had to go for it. We did whatever we could to be there.
ESI: So you think franchising is a good model for esports?
AV: I think it’s good to control the teams that are part of the league, especially in Call of Duty. The last year was a total mess, there were a lot of organisations that didn’t bring anything to the table. There were 16 teams in the CWL Pro League and there were six or eight organisations that were actually bringing value. With a franchised league though, it totally changes things with the requirement to create new brands. That’s not something that I personally agree with but, apart from that, I think franchising is a good idea.
ESI: We’ve seen Atlanta FaZe manage to utilise FaZe Clan’s brand, does that go against what you believed was possible at the application stage?
AV: That was surprising, I’m not going to lie. I read your interview with them to know how they actually managed to do that because, personally, I didn’t know it was possible. I’m sure that a lot of organisations, if they knew, would have done something similar. I guess they have their reasons for it but on our side we didn’t know that it could be done.
“We don’t have a huge investment group behind us so we had to go through the entire process from scratch.”
ESI: If you were to, hypothetically, acquire an expansion slot in the league down the line, would you look to keep your organisation’s branding?
AV: Yeah, I think that everyone would like to do that unless they have really, really weak branding – which is not the case with us. We always like to keep everything under our umbrella, it’s better than just creating another brand. Even if you can create another brand that’s really close with the same values and the same colours, it’s always better to keep things the same. So if we could keep Heretics and then use a city name, that would be great for us. I think everybody would’ve done that.
ESI: How did you feel when you found out you didn’t secure a CDL spot?
AV: It was tough because the whole process was very intense, especially on our side because we started from ground zero. We don’t have a huge investment group behind us so we had to go through the entire process from scratch and it was really tight, at the end everything was really close for us in terms of timing.
There were only a couple of European spots available, I believe it was between us or London Roval Ravens, and at the end of the day they didn’t pick us. It was frustrating because it was really hard to get everything done and we actually believed for a moment that we would be making the league. It sucks, but it is what it is.
ESI: What city were you looking to represent?
AV: We’re based in Spain, specifically in Madrid. We proved last year that we were one of the most supported teams in the league, probably only behind OpTic Gaming and 100 Thieves. We were definitely looking to keep a connection to Spain.
ESI: Now you’re outside of the league, how do you think the franchises and league have turned out so far?
AV: I get the impression that some things are being rushed a bit, some organisations are doing a really good job and some of them are just trying to get everything done but don’t have the time to produce good work. That’s affecting the product.
I’ve seen presentations that I hope I would never have done. It seems as if some teams are just doing things to get them done instead of working in the background and doing things that make sense and bring value. Everybody is against the clock but I expected some better work from most of the teams, especially with the assets and the budget that they are supposed to have.
They’ve started with new branding so what they do now is going to define what they are and what they build. If you’re 100 Thieves and you get into the league with the same branding, even if you don’t do much, you’ll still have a lot of fans because of who you are. But because people are starting fresh with new branding, what they do now in content and marketing will define how big they are and how people look at them.
“We’re going to look to expand our footprint and our presence across more esports and content.”
ESI: Is Call of Duty worth the investment for you now that you’re outside of the Call of Duty League?
AV: It depends on the business model that you have. For us, we’re not going to do anything in Call of Duty unless we are part of the Call of Duty League. Maybe there’s a good business in developing talent and selling players to CDL teams, but in our case, we’re investing our assets elsewhere unless we’re in the league.
ESI: Where are you allocating the efforts and resources that you would have used for the CDL slot?
AV: It’s a shame because a big percentage of the prominent organisations that have been in Call of Duty, they invested way more in CS:GO, League of Legends, and so on when they blew up. When we became more popular, we invested more in Call of Duty as it was our number one project.
So when we knew we wouldn’t be in the league, we had to think about other strategies. We knew lots of people that watch Call of Duty also watch CS:GO because they’re similar and we also had an opportunity to build a great team. We’re now focusing on having a really strong French CS:GO team and we’re investing in developing more infrastructure in Madrid.
ESI: You announced a sponsorship from adidas in June. Can you tell me how that came about and what the deal entails?
AV: Back in January we signed the former Director of Sponsorships of Athletico Madrid. He joined us to help sell Team Heretics to bigger brands like adidas. By then, we started to talk with multiple sports clothing brands but we wanted adidas.
They’re a great brand. We work pretty close with them in everything that we do. It’s a great partnership because besides the economic deal that we have, we work really closely to make sure that everything that we launch in terms of content and products are very well-defined by both sides.
ESI: In the same month, you secured Logitech G as a partner. Can you detail that relationship for us?
AV: They’re supporting a lot of great organisations and we were their main bet for the Spanish market, which is great. Logitech’s brandsares awesome, it also own ASTRO, so we have a perfect relationship with them. It is a perfect partnership for us both. We’re both really happy with how it’s going.
ESI: Where do you see growth for Team Heretics coming from in the near future?
AV: At Team Heretics, we have something that is not common in top teams. Everyone nowadays has big investors behind them that put in money to help them grow. So far, we’ve managed to grow with only natural income that we’ve received from merchandise, sponsorships, prize pools, and so on. We have managed to build one of the biggest brands worldwide without funding.
We’re in the process of securing funding to keep us growing but I think it’s interesting that we’ve been able to build all of this with just the sponsorships we’ve managed to close.