Traditional sports athletes investing in esports has become a recent phenomenon that has led to the likes of international footballers Gareth Bale, Sergio Aguero and Casemiro creating their own respective esports organisations this year alone.
Moreover, we have seen a variety of other athletes choose to invest in existing esports entities such as NBA player Dion Waiters investing in Miami-based organisation Centric Gaming.
However, one individual who has caught the attention of many is Formula One driver Lando Norris. At the beginning of November this year Norris also launched his own organisation, Team Quadrant. Though unlike other athletes, the driver has gone down a different route, focusing firstly on content in an attempt to become a gaming and lifestyle brand rather than jumping straight into competitive gaming.
Esports Insider spoke with Phelan Hill, the Head of Strategy & Consulting for commercial solutions provider Nielsen Sports, to break down the benefits of Team Quadrant’s lifestyle and gaming brand approach, as opposed to immediately launching a competitive team.
“Lando’s not just gone ‘I’m going to compete in F1 esports and that’s me’ it is something much more border,” explained Hill. “I think it probably resonates with the way the ecosystem is going.”
Hill cites that the ecosystem is going more towards the ‘FaZe model’ which is to focus on building the brand on its content, rather than it be built on tangible successes such as trophies.
“I guess in a way FaZe were one of the first to pioneer it, by being an actual lifestyle brand and gaming being a part of that. That looks certainly like the model he’s going down a lot more. A lot more content, lifestyle, clearly, he’s gonna start bringing out his own merchandise, which leverages his appeal.”
The general selling point of athlete-owned organisations is exactly that, they are athlete-owned. However, whilst that can contribute to short-term growth it’s important that the momentum is carried on to keep fans engaged and ensure long-term development.
“I think they’ve (Team Quadrant) been quite clever because it’s not just a model that relies on Lando and I think that’s really important because with any of these projects, you need momentum,” said Hill.
“It’s not just Lando, you’ve got other YouTube stars, you’ve got other influencers, who also compete in competitive gaming as well.” Hill expressed that the importance of this is because it allows Norris to continue to excel in his profession as an F1 driver, whilst also allowing the brand to develop. He continues: “When Lando’s busy the momentum carries on. You’ll always have fresh content as well because you’ve got all these different pillars and you’ve got different people involved, then you’re going to pull together different fan bases.”
As of this writing, Team Quadrant current boasts 108,000 subscribers on youtube along with a combined 51,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter, which already amasses the likes of Guild Esports, CaseEsports and Ellevens Esports, who have opted to jump straight into the competitive environment. Moreover, the organisation’s first official ‘merchandise’ launch saw huge success with Team Quadrant selling out its F1 mini-helmet collection in only five hours.
This combined with Norris’ recent growth in popularity within the gaming scene since the pandemic has put the new organisation on the growth fast-track, with Quadrant using this momentum to develop its brand and launching new content.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that the gaming and lifestyle approach is the only model that works. Take Man City striker Sergio Aguero’s new esports organisation KRU Esports for example, with the organisation immediately jumping into the competitive FIFA scene whilst also appealing to the Spanish market through content activations. Despite only launching in October the organisation has garnered 260,000 followers on Instagram alone.
Moreover, the likes of Guild, Ellevens and CaseEsports could still find success in esports if the brands continue to gain a reputation in their respective titles.
Hill explained that right now, whilst gaming and lifestyle looks to be the correct model for Team Quadrant, there isn’t a solid structure as to how to get into the scene. “I don’t know if there is a right way and a wrong way to do it,” he said. “EXCEL recently have done another rebrand. They are probably pivoting the other way, where they’ve gone with an esports team first and now they’ve had a rebrand, they’re going to roll out a lot more merchandise, they’re certainly becoming much more lifestyle.
“G2 have always been like the pioneers of all the memes and the little bit more jokey type, digital social content for engagement. But yeah, then you do get the flip side of that, where you’ve got someone like FaZe who is probably lifestyle first and gaming second.”
Nevertheless, one thing that what Hill identified was that there is certainly a shift in how esports models are being created. More importantly, there is an awareness from organisations that a mixture of the two styles could prove to be successful. He explained: “I don’t think that there is a right way and a wrong way but, I think brands are realising or rightsholders are realising that you need both.”
So, the question is then raised as to what are the next steps for Team Quadrant after establishing its brand further? Hill believes that the next logical course of action would be to delve into the competitive sector, but only if the fanbase wants it. “It’s almost a case of ‘let’s just bring in people who are passionate about their areas and let’s combine them’.
“Then they’ll potentially go in the direction which their fans want them to go into as opposed to a bit more of a manufactured thing of ‘we’re going to create an esports team. We’re going to buy a franchise in League of Legends’.”
To Neilsen Sports’ Head of Strategy & Consulting, Team Quadrant also emotes a feeling that has very rarely been felt for an athlete-owned organisation. Their growth feels organic despite Norris already having a fanbase behind him.
“I think what they’re doing is very clever. It probably reflects on the sector a little bit. The esports ecosystem is really quite honest and sincere,” said Hill. “The most successful brands now or rightsholders have done everything organically in a way they’ve grown. It’s a little bit the same here with what Lando is trying to do.”
Team Quardent’s success will ultimately be decided by its longevity, with the likelihood being that the new organisation is still benefiting from the general hype of a major name entering the esports/gaming scene. Still, the groundwork has already been made for when its short term growth dies down and it seems, from the organisation’s actions in the first few months, that it is taking the correct steps to be a reputable organisation, not just an athlete-owned one.