Minutes before OverActive Media announced to the world that Splyce would no longer exist in Riot Games’ LEC as we know it – instead making way for Spanish brand MAD Lions – Esports Insider sat down with Chris Overholt, President and CEO of OverActive Media to discuss the decision.
Esports Insider says: Why did you decide to rebrand Splyce to MAD Lions in the LEC and does it mark a change in approach to marketing?
Chris Overholt: Yeah, absolutely. OverActive Media is a global esports organisation and we take that positioning very seriously. One of the things we were looking to do as we began 2019 was to think about how we speak to the very significant Spanish-speaking esports audience. Around the middle of the year we were introduced to the team at MAD Lions and we saw an opportunity there to work with them. Not only to grow our position in Spanish-speaking esports audience, but maybe more significantly, bring a team to the LEC for the whole nation of Spain to cheer for.
We saw that as a significant opportunity, not just in Spain, but as we looked into Latin America. It looked like a big opportunity for us to take another big step in the direction of building out our global esports organisation.
“We think this actually puts us ahead of the curve in many ways in European League of Legends.”
ESI: So you’re taking a global approach to esports but also have a local approach with both Toronto Defiant and Toronto Ultra.
CO: A global company, for sure, but thinking about how you build efficient business and a fan base is about how you react and build community locally. Here in North America and Toronto, that strategy is largely built through the leagues that we’re invested, Overwatch League and Call of Duty League.
Similarly, even though this team will play for the predictable future in the studio in Berlin, we felt like by taking our position in MAD Lions and building out a strategy there for both English and Spanish content – and having the team present in the marketplace in Madrid – we could build a local fan base and a national fan base across Spain. You’ll see us do more and more of that as the years go by and, candidly, it’s our opinion that esports – as a global industry – is likely to be progressively regionalised, so we think this actually puts us ahead of the curve in many ways in European League of Legends.
Was this rebrand something you had in mind when you acquired MAD Lions in May?
CO: It was part of the discussion initially and at the time we were considering a rebranding of Splyce. As we dug into the fan following of MAD Lions, it didn’t seem to us like that could be denied. The fan base that support the team in the Superliga Orange is very strong.
We combined the Splyce Vipers and MAD Lions in Superliga Orange to make all of this start to work well together and we’ve only found efficiency and synergy in it. It gives us a very clear path for development, a very clear path to pro, and an opportunity for us to think seriously about how we continue to develop Spanish players in the Superliga Orange and then eventually graduate them to the big clubs.
“For now Splyce will be sunset but, again, as we continue to build out our business around the globe, you never know.”
ESI: How did Riot Games react when you pitched the idea to the team?
CO: At first it was a bit clunky because we had two teams in the Superliga Orange and we had to figure all of that out, but they’ve been really supportive and encouraging. I think League of legends in Spain is in the top two or three leagues for viewership in Europe so it really made sense for them in a lot of ways.
We’ve worked really well with the team over there to really make sure this is smooth and efficient. It’s been a very cooperative and encouraging partnership.
ESI: Will Splyce still exist or is this a goodbye to the brand?
CO: We’re thinking about that. We’re not committed to sunsetting the brand at all. As we think about our future in different leagues, it might be the case that we choose to come back to it at some point. If we did that, we would think about probably refreshing the brand and which titles might make sense versus others. For now Splyce will be sunset but, again, as we continue to build out our business around the globe, you never know – Splyce could emerge again.
ESI: What brand will your Superliga Orange team represent going into 2020?
CO: In the Superliga Orange there will be MAD Lions and in the LEC there will also be MAD Lions. There’s a couple of subtle nods to the heritage in Spain and in both teams in the new branding.
“It’s given us a terrific story to tell in the commercial marketplace.”
ESI: How have your partners and investors reacted to the rebrand?
CO: It’s so great and it’s given us a terrific story to tell in the commercial marketplace because now we’re talking to more potential marketing partners, we can bring a fully-integrated solution to them.
If you’re a Spanish-based company, we can give you a great position inside of Spain and a great team to cheer for. If you’re an organisation that wants to be involved in the LEC then you have that choice through us as well. So it becomes a single point of intersect for marketing partners that want to support both the esports scene in Spain but perhaps broaden their message into Europe as well.
With those that are invested in OverActive Media, what you can start to see developing here is a true portfolio approach to investing in esports. If you’re thinking about investing in an organisation that specialises in building team brands and growing a business in that context then with a single investment in OverActive Media, you can be invested in Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, LEC, and Superliga Orange. Again, we’re continuing to look at other opportunities so that’s a very efficient buy if you’re an investor.
All of these things led us to the decision to rebrand and all of these things speak to the global-leading position that OverActive Media has started to build out over the last 13 months.