The Esports Business Summit, produced by Event Marketer and sister publications Cynopsis and Chief Marketer, brings together all sectors of the esports ecosystem, from brand marketers to esports leagues to investment firms to game publishers. The inaugural show in 2018 in Las Vegas offered three days of networking, education and inspiration, and as we gear up for this year’s show, taking place Sept. 10-12 at the MGM Grand, we’re calling on our 2019 Board of Advisors, a group of industry experts from ESL, Twitch, Eleague and more to help shape the program.
We sat down with one of the members, Matt Lederer, executive director-partnership marketing at Xfinity, to chat about some of the key topics circulating the esports landscape.
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Event Marketer: What are your responsibilities at Xfinity, and where do esports fit in?
Matt Lederer: My team is responsible, specifically, for brand partnerships, so my job is to take the Xfinity brand and insert it into moments of popular culture. And that means, how do we get the brand across in the world of sports, music, TV, movies and now gaming? We’ve been involved with gaming for almost four years now, whether it be sponsoring esports at the league level or partnerships at the console/publisher level. We feel like we were one of the early brands in our space to identify gaming as an emerging popular culture trend and have so far been very happy with what we’ve been able to do.
EM: The esports space is growing so rapidly. Could you talk a little bit about something that you learned about it in the past year?
ML: Because of the rapid growth of this space and because of the numerous ways in, whether it’s with an event, media partner, direct with a game or team, what’s really important from a brand standpoint is to know what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to accomplish it in the space. The opportunities in esports have happened at a much quicker pace than they have in the traditional sports world, so knowing the role of your brand and what you want to accomplish is crucial. Otherwise, you could fall into that trap that nobody likes to fall into—and it’s a term that’s used at every gaming conference I’ve been to—the trap of being inauthentic. So, when we go into these partnerships we are very precise in the way we define our goals and path of what we want to accomplish. It helps us look at the opportunities better, but also, once we go forward with an opportunity, it helps us craft why we’re there, how we’re there and what we’re messaging to the end user.
EM: Where do you see the biggest potential for growth in the esports business right now?
ML: The regional nature of the esports business, as we go into year two of Overwatch League, and what’s potentially happening in the Call of Duty space, is really interesting. When you think about traditional sports, the passion of local sports is driven by the local tribal nature. The idea that this community, myself included, all root for the same team. This is a unique opportunity that can help grow the space as a whole. It gives the space structure, in terms of where we are in the season, when the playoffs are, etc. It gives people that local, community feel. People in Philadelphia are beginning to understand who the Fusion are, who Carpe is on that team, etc. The structure and the organization of those things is really interesting to us.
EM: So how do you see brand sponsorships shaping up in this space?
ML: There are a lot of brands getting involved because this seems to be the new “it” thing to do. A lot of properties go through this, whether it’s music artists, whether it’s emerging sports or emerging moments of popular culture. Brands just want to be a part of it and say, “Let’s just get in and we’ll figure it out later.” I think what you’re going to see from brand sponsorships are wiser approaches into the space—making sure what their role is and making sure that their involvement in this is based upon their role.
Look at what brands like Gatorade do in the world of sports. They’re not just in there slapping on their logo, they’re in there for a distinct purpose. Where their brand is positioned and messaged throughout the course of the game is relevant and makes sense. Look at what Microsoft does with the NFL and with Surface. It’s natural to the game. It’s integrated well. I think that’s what you’ll begin to see in the gaming space. We’ve seen a lot of people just get in for the sake of getting in, and I think you will start to see a little bit more maturity of the brands—not just why they participate, but how they participate.
For the gaming industry in particular, a fast and reliable internet connection is extremely important, especially for that esports fan who is also playing at home (most of them are). That’s where our Xfinity Internet product comes in because we provide reliable and super-fast, gigabit per second, internet speed. That’s extremely relevant to both the teams and the players at home, and is really where we become important to how games are played.
EM: What game are you playing right now?
ML: I wish I had more time to play games. I’m definitely more of a console guy. I’m a sucker for NBA2K. I just think it’s one of the better video games. You’ll find me playing NBA and Madden and NASCAR Heat when I do find the time.