Heaven Media: Don’t go solo on esports sponsorship unless you’re willing to do the grind of activation

There are a lot of companies looking at esports these days and wondering if their brand could benefit from getting involved. We talked to Mark Reed (pictured top), founder at Heaven Media and former director of marketing for AMD in EMEA, about what to consider before jumping onboard the competitive gaming bandwagon.

Heaven Media is a specialist media agency working in esports and enthusiast gaming. The company can work as an advertising, PR or creative agency – as well as organising events and tournaments, providing logistics, influencer management and much more.

Heaven Media covers a wide array of agency roles – how important is it to coordinate all these?

We are fortunate that most of our clients allow us to coordinate multiple elements of their campaigns, which in turn allows us to truly amplify the results. Relying on a single marketing element in isolation is to tell a story in a vacuum. To get the results our clients deserve, you need to create the story and often let it live elsewhere to maximise the impact. Doing a live event and driving strong engagement face-to-face is all well and good, however you limit yourself to telling the story only to the guests in attendance. If you can capture that content and build momentum before, during and after the event on social, you can greatly amplify the result with relative ease. Engaging content such as interviews with partners, influencers and consumers, can be used for many online destinations including your own website.

Using influencers can have a profound impact for our clients, but why stop with using that content just for their audience? If they tell the story of your brand in an imaginative way, take that content to social, to your website, to other communities and deliver it, albeit in a different format. We’re strong believers in multi-disciplined marketing, and it shines a light on the importance of coordination, which is so intrinsically linked to everything we do. Our team coordinates social activity through creative and content, PR through influencers and the press to get the results our clients deserve, and which resonates authentically with gamers.

Influencers are here to stay, but is this channel still maturing and how?

The sheer proliferation of influencers is proving a major challenge and therefore so is finding the value sweet spot. On the one hand it is far too easy to go to the influencer with the biggest reach, but today for many brands they simply will not get the value they seek. On the other hand, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of mediocrity. Many of our clients are understandably eager to engage with the influencer community but it’s important to be smart in how we approach this resource. For example, if your business priority is PC gaming (as many of our clients’ are), you may think influencers focusing on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite would give excellent value, and you’d be right.

However, if you’re not careful in choosing the right influencers you may be left with someone that has an overwhelming PlayStation or Xbox community and therefore not helping you hit your goals. As the space gets very crowded, brands find it hard to make the right choice. At Heaven Media we focus on influencers so heavily that, for us, it is easier to find the right individual to fit with the client’s quarter or annual objectives.

And what will be the next big way to reach consumers?

The crazy thing about our market is the unrelenting way it never stops changing. We’re focused on integrating consumers into our clients’ brand experience at the most personal level. Media fragmentation is nothing new, but we’ll continue to help our clients’ brands to prioritise personalisation and curation at every touchpoint. For me, it’s about creating content and opportunities that really bring value to the gaming audience. Expect to see a big push around cause-based partnerships and loyalty programs this year and next too.

What are the most common errors in esports marketing?

Everything! Seriously. Though I have spent ten years now talking about esports until I was blue in the face trying to get brands to understand the opportunity. Today it is often holding them back. So many brands have been getting a great return for years, albeit probably not realising the true value delivered until now. The principles are still true that esports, like traditional sports, helps create brand loyalty and credibility in a space. The challenge today is that the cost and risk associated with that is beyond those that benefit most from it. Endemic sponsors cannot get the value easily and the non-endemic soft drink brands and car companies have pushed the price of entry up considerably. My first piece of advice to all customers is: do not sponsor a team or tournament in esports, unless you are willing to do the daily grind of activating that sponsorship into your social, your retail marketing, your events and building it into the fabric of your marketing. Heaven Media has a whole team dedicated to supporting our clients on the daily activations that makes esports work, to ensure they get solid results and value for money.

“My first piece of advice to all customers is: do not sponsor a team or tournament in esports, unless you are willing to do the daily grind of activating that sponsorship.”

How big is the appetite for esports tournaments in the UK and who should be getting involved?

We’re only just at the tip of understanding what esports can truly grow into in the UK. We are certainly behind most European countries, especially Germany, Sweden, Poland and others. It has been suggested that British people do not like to travel, or venues are too expensive to put on large live events, but I think it will change over the next three years.

Having the likes of ESL and FaceIT bringing large events to the UK is a great start but we’re also starting to see casual esports raise its game, with GAME getting involved with its Beyond brand, for example. The appetite is huge and we’re forecasting strong growth for many years to come. There’s room for all to be involved from casual to professional and the opportunities for sponsorship, publishers, hardware manufactures, broadcasters and developers is obvious. Again, the key is to find the most effective way to get involved.

What makes the perfect client from your point of view?

Heaven Media are all passionate gamers, so we like to work with clients who share our excitement and enthusiasm for their brands and the industry as a whole. Generally speaking, if you love what you do and believe in your story, the quality and creativity of your work is so much stronger. Enthusiasm is infectious and we like to work with exciting clients who wish to see their brands excel. Most of our clients are large corporate entities and we see and feel their pain with the challenges that can bring, but there is no greater feeling for my team than building a business case in the face of senior scrutiny and showing epic results. We like making heroes of our clients, plus, we also like it when our clients join in on the Heaven Media lunchtime Fortnite and Overwatch gaming sessions!

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