Every agency will be able to relate to this. Getting started with a new client is always exciting, and there’s normally a period of time at the start where you need to immerse yourself in that client’s business, understand the industry sector they operate in, and get to grips with the target audience and their behaviour. A lot of research goes into this phase, to understand where you can add value.
But what happens when the industry you’re researching is completely new to you, and even more so, is one that moves at lightning speed? This is the challenge we were faced with when we first started working with esports company Gfinity. Esports was new to us as an agency, and we needed to ensure we not only integrated esports into our agency culture, but became adept at esports marketing, so as to deliver valuable digital marketing insight that would help Gfinity and any future esports clients.
We had to respond quickly and effectively, making sure that we were in a position to not just assist our esports clients in their needs, but advance their position within the national and international esports community. In this article, we lay out the journey we’ve taken and the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Player One has entered the game
Like any major cultural movement, esports had already seeped into our consciousness by the time we started working with Gfinity. We’d heard of the major titles like Rocket League and CS:GO and many of us had had some experience playing them. So the first step was to understand exactly who in the company knew what about gaming and esports. We produced a survey to find out who in the company had experience in esports, and at what level. We turned that survey into an infographic, which is published on our blog.
Understanding this meant that whenever there was a knowledge gap, we brought in the most knowledgeable staff to help educate anyone who was in need of information. We also put some time aside each Friday to enjoy a bit of downtime and play games on our company Xbox, allowing those who lacked knowledge to gain first-hand experience. Our esports journey was underway!
Who and what is esports?
As well as using our collective internal understanding of the industry, we took the time to research the world of esports by reading, sharing and discussing every piece of research and content we could get our hands on. We read through resources like NewZoo, Mintel, Kantar, Esports News UK, Nielsen, Esports Insider and many many more, to understand what has been researched in the industry, what consumer behaviour looks like, what trends are emerging and therefore where we could add value.
Start spreading the news
Having done our initial research, we needed to make sure we could stay on top of trends and news. So we set up channels on our company Slack aimed at sharing esports news among the whole company. By doing this, and encouraging everyone to post whatever relevant esports news they came across, we were accomplishing two things. Firstly, we were ensuring that we were up to speed on the very latest esports news, opinion and analysis. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we were making everyone feel a part of the work. Even those not working directly on Gfinity or any esports clients have a chance to feel included and up to date on this exciting industry.
Enter the community
Engaging in a sector is about more than simply understanding the products on offer; it’s about entering the community. So we looked to get involved and pulled together a calendar of esports events we could attend, including major shows such as Insomnia, and smaller, more focused workshops, like the Future of Esports Symposium. During these events, we aimed to reach out to others in the community, gain contacts, glean learnings and spread that information through the rest of the company so those who couldn’t attend could still benefit. By doing this, we ensured we weren’t just observing the community, but participating in it.
Engage with other agencies
As our involvement in Gfinity and esports as a whole grew, we started working in a wider multi-agency environment, and this proved vital. Nobody can possibly know everything, and the great thing about working within a multi-agency world is that you’re not just working, you’re learning. We’ve worked with some great agencies and have taken on-board learnings that have enhanced our understanding of the industry and some of the decisions we’ve made. This kind of collaboration is important when working within any sector, but in one as new and changeable as esports, it’s absolutely critical to ensuring you, and the client, stay ahead of the game.
Find your own voice
It's easy to simply parrot the opinions of others, but it's important to formulate your own opinions too. And we did just that when we created our free guide, Field of View: How to Understand Your Esports Audience. This was a huge undertaking that required us to understand the research of others, but also create our own, conduct original interviews and ultimately form unique opinions and insight. In the guide, this took the form of a series of matrices for breaking down esports audiences, and we've used those matrices going forward, but that's not the only form it could have taken. The critical thing here is to produce original insight and find your own voice: not only does it make your stand out, it also allows you to truly understand the audience in a way that simply reading the thoughts of others doesn't.
Turn and face the change
One thing we learned very quickly about esports is that it’s always changing. It’s important to not just accept this, but embrace it. This kind of change is part of what makes esports the exciting world it is; to wish it away would be to undermine the sport. So instead, we sought to adapt, taking changes in our stride and using our shared Slack channel to discuss developments and the best way to react to them. Change is scary, but it’s a necessary challenge in an industry like esports.
Keep on learning
Ultimately, nobody will ever understand everything about esports, or any industry for that matter. As we’ve mentioned previously, it changes too rapidly for anyone to truly master it. Accept that and keep on learning. It’s what esports players do to achieve peak perfection, and it’s what anyone looking to engage with their industry should do too.
Have any questions about the esports industry and how to enter it? Get in touch or let us know on Twitter @FastWebMedia