The majority of esports fans are young, relatively tech-savvy, and actively look for ways that they can engage with their idols. Despite this, many esports stakeholders still lack dedicated platforms where they can foster deeper connections and provide a focused offering for fans, and, in doing so, activate their substantial followings.
Whilst the industry-standard approach appears to be a website coupled with a few branded social media accounts, Blocksport – a white-label mobile app solution – services several competitive esports organisations such as Team Singularity and PENTA Sports with their very own applications.
In the wake of Team Liquid launching its closed beta for Liquid+, and the battle lines for increased fan engagement beginning to be drawn, we spoke with Semih Kaçan, Co-founder and Chairman of Blocksport, to find out more about the company’s mobile solution to fan engagement.
Esports Insider: Can you share the inspiration behind Blocksport? Where did the idea originally come from?
Semih Kaçan: Vladimir Liulka, Blocksport’s CEO and Co-founder, and I are fans too, but like other fans we didn’t feel that there was an app that enabled us to engage with our favourite club and benefit in the way we wanted. From there, we decided to create an app that fills this gap for fans but also provides an easy to use solution for the clubs.
Finally, we designed and built our white-label app solution in winter 2019 and have been live since January 2020 with our first client BIG.
ESI: Most competitive esports organisations communicate with fans through their website and social media. Could you outline the key benefits that such organisations can access from having their own app, and indeed the USPs of Blocksport’s functionalities?
SK: With their own app, esports organisations receive direct access to their fans and automatically create a pool of valuable data to personalise the digital fan journey. Furthermore, the club increases the number of impressions and touchpoints which increase the organisation’s value for sponsors.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning the direct distribution channels for partners who can integrate customised products for the fans. With a merchandise store included, the app creates several new revenue streams for organisations and our combination of gamified community management and exclusive money-can’t-buy benefits are creating USPs for the esports organisations who get involved.
ESI: How have conversations been going with teams? Does there seem to be more interest from certain regions, for instance, and has it been difficult to onboard bigger organisations?
SK: Since our launch in January 2020, Blocksport has been in touch with more than 500 organisations – from the semi-professionals to top tier esports organisations. The interest has been cross-continental and very positive. The majority of organisations, as well as sponsors, do see the value Blocksport is adding to the ecosystem, and despite the global pandemic, we have onboarded more than 25 organisations of which many are doing quite well and are on their way to becoming top organisations if they aren’t already yet. Whilst we are unable to disclose the details of any projects, we are going to announce collaborations with two top tier organisations soon.
ESI: Has Blocksport considered working with tournament operators to curate an app that would boost fan engagement before and during events?
SK: Yes, we have – in-fact we are in touch with tournament and league operators from different sports. Operators have approached us because our gamification and reward system would help to boost fan interaction. The game prediction and fan voting functionalities reward fans for their interaction and activities, and our deep integration of partners has caught their attention. Fans can access exclusive money-can’t-buy benefits from partners and tournament operators during the event – a great way for fans to grow their own collection of exclusive memorabilia.
ESI: Your website mentions the gamification aspect of the Blocksport apps. Can you tell us more about this?
SK: In a nutshell, fans get rewarded for their interaction on the app with the organisation, the community and the partners. We have created a digital fan journey that is built upon fan missions which can be seen as a level within a PC game. If fans participate in predictions and fan voting, or if they buy new jerseys in the merchandise store, the fans receive points that help them to achieve the missions and climb the global fan ranking.
With each completed fan mission, the fans are also rewarded with an exclusive money-can’t-buy benefit which is provided by either the esports organisation, the players, or the partners. It’s a great way to appreciate the loyalty of the fans and the support of the partners. We call it our magic triangle.
ESI: How much customisation do your apps offer? How different is a FURIA app to a BIG app, for example?
SK: Although it’s a white-label app, it offers a wide range of customisation options. The customisation starts with the selection of the individual features such as betting, fan chat or live streaming, and continues with the integration of partner products. Furthermore, the look and feel of each app can also be freely adapted. Various data sources or APIs to relevant partners are possible as well so the apps look pretty different and enable individualism for each esports organisation.
ESI: What are Blocksport’s plans moving forward, and what are the aims for the remainder of 2020, and 2021 in relation to esports?
SK: We are working daily with our clients to receive their feedback, improve the app, and build a more comprehensive fan experience. It is important to us that our app solution accompanies the esports and sports organisations through their evolution process and provides them with the innovative level of fan engagement environment they need at any time.
In the remainder of the year, we aim to announce some partnerships with top tier esports organisations and brands as well as strengthen our global footprint. In 2021, we plan to extend our offering across the different national sports such as basketball, cricket, rugby, and football in North America, India, and Asia. It’s going to be an exciting journey and we are very much looking forward to it.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored piece by Blocksport