Esports BAR is coming to Cannes on February 12-14, bringing big name speakers to the french resort town for one of esports biggest business to business events.
MCV is proud to be a media partner, and in the first of a series of articles we're speaking to Stephane Gambetta, Reed Midem's esports development director and a driving force behind Esports BAR.
Reed Midem is a subsidiary of Reed Exhibitions that focuses on real estate and entertainment trade shows, but last year the event organiser took aim at competitive games with its inaugural Esports BAR event in Cannes, which it followed up with Esports Bar Miami in September.
But why does a real estate and entertainment trade show company want to position itself in the esports industry and how did this come about?
"For the past three years I have been working in new development for the entertainment division," says Gambetta. "Mostly in TV, developing our brands and our events in different regions of the world. We launched a TV event in Latin America and we're doing one in China. In my development role, I came across esports, while discussing with some TV clients that were getting into esports such as NBC and others that were developing esports content."
"So I started digging a little and saw that it's a very interesting sector with a lot of endemic companies and players that have been growing the esports industry for many years, but many non-endemic players - media and brands that were interested in getting into esports — were not necessarily sure of how to do that, who to talk to and so we thought: 'This is exactly what we do in other industries' - creating the most effective platforms for people to do business, to meet each other, to build partnerships."
Gambetta admits that Reed Midem didn't really have experience with esports, but they were willing to learn. Gambetta says that while Reed Midem understands how to create a "really effective international platform" for an industry, they'd need to pair up with people who had the esports expertise they thought was necessary to build a strong event.
"Before our first event last year, we built a team of people who were really into esports. On this team, we have Stuart Saw from Twitch, Mike Sepso from Activision Blizzard, Todd Sitrin from Electronic Arts. Recently, we've announced Christina Alejandre from Eleague will help us also. We built this team of people right at the start to advise us on the format of what we should do in terms of events and what people we should bring to the table to really build an effective event for everybody."
For Gambetta personally, esports is exciting because of how fast it's developing. "At this stage there are no real business rules set to how it will evolve. Everything is possible. That's a good stage to be in."
"It's a fascinating sector because it engages the young generation all around the world. In the team we all know kids who are deeply into esports. It's great to be in an industry that talks so much to the younger generation. We began convinced that this sector can be really a major entertainment sector. Now I'm sure that esports is here to stay, and I'm totally engaged in helping it to grow as big as it can be."
Describing the first event as a success, and a learning experience, Gambetta mentioned that the biggest surprise on running the first Esports BAR event was how much attendees said an event like this was needed in the esports sector. "To be honest, it was a test of whether we could provide something meaningful for the sector. Will people really come to the event to do business, will they leave the event having met some interesting people and had some interesting conversations?"
The answer was a resounding yes, according to the data. Last year's events in Cannes and Miami were limited to 100 invited attendees, which returned a 96 per cent satisfaction rate on both events.
"There is a need for non-endemic and endemic players to meet and that we can really fulfil this need. The schedule for the first two events was one-to-one meetings - it's a format that proved very efficient because when you arrive at the event you know exactly who you will meet during the course of the pre-scheduled meetings lasting 30 minutes.
"It's a very effective format where you know you will accomplish something and also it's very hassle free in terms of the organisation. You sign up for the event and we take care of the rest. This we want to continue. Also, creating alongside those one-to-one meetings, a forum for other segments based on an offer that is both a learning experience and a networking experience. What we have learnt from the first two events is that beyond the core segments that we were targeting, mostly dealing with esports rights: sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting rights, we focused a lot on that, but there are a lot of needs beyond that and a lot of segments interested in esports beyond that. We are creating this forum of content and offer alongside the one-to-one meetings to fulfil that."
For companies interested in esports but not embedded in the scene, Esports BAR is aiming to provide "a learning experience."
"We want to be very tactical," says Gambetta. "It's not 'let's look at esports, it's an interesting sector', but instead it's really focused on how to - if you're a brand - associate yourself with esports, what works, what doesn't work, and the latest experiences that prove to be efficient.
"To accompany our content and networking sessions, we have some mentors on top of the content who are available on site to answer questions and point to the right people businesses can talk to to understand what their role in esports."
"We want to really build a really practical, effective experience so even if you don't know what you want to do yet, you will leave Esports BAR with a better understanding of what you can do."
Esports BAR takes place in Cannes on February 12- 14 February. You can get tickets here.