ADVERTORIAL — The Story Mob is affiliated with The Esports Observer by being a BITKRAFT Esports portfolio company.
This article has been guest-written by Nicola Piggott, a co-founder of The Story Mob—an international communications consultancy focused on esports. Nicola spent over five years at Riot Games, where she was leading global communication for Riot’s esports team, and has given counsel and training to esports teams’ organizations worldwide.
Esports’ meteoric journey into the mainstream consciousness over the past few years has been a rocket ship. From pro to CEO, we’ve all had to grow up quickly and learn core skills that other sports have had centuries to master.
It takes time for any new industry to build up the support services that keep it flowing. From lawyers who understand and specialize in esports to sports psychologists who can apply their techniques to this new digital playing field, supporting players are becoming more and more critical to an organization’s success. None of them are more critical, or more public, than communications.
With this in mind, I and the other co-founders of The Story Mob set up the consultancy to zero in on the unique challenges and opportunities that this world offers to brands already in the space, as well as those with their nose pressed up against the glass.
Esports is the first sport born into a post-internet age. Its audience is more reachable and receptive than any sports audience in history – and yet equally bullshit resistant. To keep up with this demanding audience, brands and teams alike can’t go by the old playbook – PR, platitudes and manufactured hype. When a pro goes on a meltdown or an esports tournament combusts after a day of delays and complaints from teams, a press release won’t save you. It’s time to get down and dirty with the community you’re hoping to target.
Although esports may reshape the wheel, it doesn’t reinvent it. We have examples around us—from traditional sports to entertainment—that we can learn from, even as we feel our way through this new landscape. With that in mind, we’ve put together what we’ve been calling the seven commandments of esports comms.
Here’s our hot take on esports comms universal truths—and where we’re missing the mark.
Create Value – If you’re a brand entering the esports space and hoping for a meaningful return on your investment, you need to work harder than ever before. It’s not enough to slap your logo on a broadcast. Brand loyalty from an esports audience is based on trust, and trust is gained by giving something to esports fans they don’t already have. Intel founded the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tournament series specifically to offer fans more live esports—in doing so, they’ve linked their brand for over a decade with high-level competitive gaming
Be Authentic – The esports audience is more bullshit resistant than any sports audience in history. Faking enthusiasm (sick play bro!), using a meme after its expiration window, or straight up putting a spokesperson who doesn’t understand esports out publicly, is always going to strike a bum note. In the words of DJ Khaled, ‘Overwatch Me!’
Be Timely – There. Is. No Reaction. Time. In this world, crises and news spread quickly. Esports fans, like most people peering over their Tweetdeck and Reddit tab, associate being heard with being respected. If they’re calling you out for a scandal, you’d better be ready to commit to something – even if it’s just a promise as to when they’ll hear more info.
Brand loyalty from an esports audience is based on trust.
Be Media Savvy – Let’s be clear: esports as an industry does a Trump-worthy terrible job of collaborating with media. Having a direct line to our fanbases via social media has left us complacent and distrustful of media (except when you want that NYT article to show to your investors). It’s critical that we get better about partnering with media to share news, insights and to reach a wider audience. Relinquishing control doesn’t come easy—and partnering with media ready to call you out on your mistakes may sting—but building a strong brand with strong, independent stories is a worthy payoff.
Be Transparent – Like most online audiences, esports fans demand radical transparency from their pros, execs, and brands. Whether you’re letting a beloved coach go, or explaining why an event is being canceled, you cannot shy away from difficult conversations. Explain your reasoning, take questions and be honest.
Be Truthful About Who You Are – Speaking of being honest…….the best hype is the one that accurately reflects who you really are. Don’t claim to be the most player-friendly team out there if you’re going to shortchange your players on their wages, or pocket their winnings. Likewise, don’t claim to be a brand that’s ‘all in’ on esports if you’re going to pull sponsorship after half a season. Say who you are – then hold yourselves to it.
Be Bold – It’s a game after all – let’s break a few rules. Esports is a great place for a bold and experimental approach to communications. If Blizzard Entertainment VP and Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan can get thousands of viewers for staring into a camera in front of a yule log for hours, the sky’s the limit. Don’t play it too safe.