After ceasing operations in June 2018, Swedish organisation GODSENT made a surprising return to the esports fray by merging with The Final Tribe in September 2019.
The organisation, continuing under the GODSENT name and brand, has been busy since. In November, the team announced a deal with esports technology and data platform GRID, and earlier this month, GODSENT revealed an eye-catching three-year exclusive apparel partnership with fashion brand Björn Borg.
We caught up with Ludwig Sandgren, CEO of GODSENT (and previously CEO of The Final Tribe) to gain a deeper insight into the collaboration and recent merger.
Esports Insider: Earlier this year, you announced the merging of The Final Tribe and GODSENT. What’s it been like managing a new brand? Has it brought any surprising challenges?
Ludwig Sandgren: The only thing that might have surprised me was the reception of it, and the traction of the move. People actually took notice, and it kind of “worked.” People cared about the move, and people found it interesting, and it rejuvenated the whole company a little bit. It was much better brand than The Final Tribe to work with, and it seemed like it had a stable fan base that were resting. It surprised me, in a positive way.
I try to stay sanguine about, I don’t know [laughs] upsides, because I’m in sports, so you just prepare to get it in your face, I suppose. It’s been a startup life since the beginning, so I don’t expect anything to come easy; I wouldn’t say it came easy, but we had good engagement, and it’s been a good reception.
ESI: In our experience, exclusive apparel partnerships with such lengthy terms are rare in this industry. Why do you guys think you were able to make that kind of a commitment?
LS: Well, it came about because the CEO of Björn Borg really wanted us to play the long game from the start. The three-year deal is mutual, as is any agreement, I suppose, but it really was not pushed from our side. It was in the vision from the beginning of the talks. So, I would say much of it is anchored to the fact that the management of Björn Borg was really open to the idea of exploring this opportunity.
I think it’s really cool. There are many things that align, in terms of our vision, as well.
“In the future I would say we will see esports professionals being much more physically fit.”
ESI: Well, let’s explore that. One of the things that we’re excited about from the collaboration is the stated desire to highlight the benefits of physical training alongside gaming. Do you feel like this is an underappreciated area in esports?
LS: Yes and no, I would say. In general, yes, of course it is, and I think that in the future I would say we will see esports professionals being much more physically fit. [The trend] would be a product of esports influencers becoming more mainstream, and there will be a pressure towards a mainstream style, or things that are also mainstream fashion. And people will continuously look better and better, I suppose.
However, it will always be anchored in the sport. So, when I say, “yes and no”, it’s like—yes, absolutely, in general people are kind of underestimating the influencer and the power of physical workouts when it comes to developing a professional lifestyle. But at the same time, everything is a product of its history, and in the end it will always be Counter-Strike that matters. I think we will still see people that don’t seem to give a shit about physical appearance that will dominate the game. And I don’t see in any near future that suddenly—it will be GODSENT, if so—but I don’t see any Dota team coming about, having this niche, really. It doesn’t seem to influence Dota [laughs].
“First and foremost we’re still an esports club brand, and I think we will carry that with us all the time.”
ESI: Is it fair to say that, with this move, you guys are looking to build more of a lifestyle brand than a brand that is purely focused on gaming?
LS: Yes. Yes, I suppose. We have always worked with the terminology “lifestyle brand.” I don’t think I really know what it means to be a lifestyle brand, but if you mean that we will also put in place values of physical training and stuff, not only gaming, then yes, absolutely, and I think we will maybe convey a picture that is more broad than just gaming. But it’s more about the professional lifestyle of an esports professional, I would say.
First and foremost we’re still an esports club brand, and I think we will carry that with us all the time.
ESI: Do you think that the industry will eventually move on from the traditional esports jerseys that we’re seeing at the moment?
LS: No, I don’t think so. I think you will see different kinds of experiments, but I don’t think we will ever see something totally different, because a lot of value comes from the branding of the jerseys. That’s something that all teams sell, and that is something that you will keep on seeing. You’ll probably see more refined and sophisticated ways to go about it and people will get better and smarter about how they package their brand, how they package the communication of their sponsors, but I don’t think we will not have jerseys in the future. I think we will have something similar, but probably more sophisticated and refined.
And you also see a trend towards—at least among the top teams—things getting more stylish.
ESI: Your new collaborative collection is going to launch next autumn. Can you give us any hints on what to expect from that?
LS: The project is not initiated as of now, but it will be a Björn Borg collection which they will be able to harness and sell retail—that’s the idea of it. So, it will not only target the esports audience, though of course, that will be a niche of it.
But we haven’t decided much about the design progress, so I don’t know much about it more than what the focus will be, which will of course be: “What is Bjorn Borg about, what is GODSENT about,” and finding something in-between. And I think it will have something that should also be able to appeal to a mainstream audience but have something related to esports and gaming. I think it will be really cool, hopefully.
ESI: This has been the biggest decade for esports so far. It has really seen it explode into mainstream attention; organisations have formed much more coherent brands, and everything has become a lot more stable. Give me one word that describes your feelings towards esports in the next decade. What do you think’s coming?
LS: “Quality.” I think that we’re already seeing an improvement in the quality of esports now, but I think that in the next decade, I think there will be enough money involved and it will be organised enough in a way which… we will be entering a “decade of quality”, basically.
When it comes to production, tournaments, everything. The Majors this year will be far better than the one in the previous year, et cetera, et cetera. Things will just keep on improving. And get even more hype, I hope!