Esports Industry Partnerships: Route to True Brand Authenticity?

The commercial viability of the esports sector has long since been proven. Especially since the impact of the lockdown, numbers have skyrocketed. Many operators have already tried and failed to effectively penetrate the esports betting community, mainly because they lacked the authenticity and understanding needed to be a truly accepted brand in the sector.

Partnership initiatives spearheaded by partnerships between GRID, Relog Media to create the Pinnacle Cup are a fantastic demonstration of how operators can credibly enter the market with a truly valuable proposition to engage the burgeoning esports community.

We spoke with Stuart Bridges, Global Esports Partnership Manager for Pinnacle to hear more about the best approach to industry partners and how important of a role they can play in the growth of this nascent betting market.

For the release of the latest Pinnacle Cup tournament, you guys have teamed up with GRID and Relog media. What value do these partnerships bring to Pinnacle as an esports operator and the tournament itself?

“To deliver the best tournament, we have to work with the best partners. Once a format is agreed upon and teams are invited, we have to make sure that we can deliver the competition in the best possible way to our customers and the wider esports community, and that’s where GRID and Relog Media come in.

“GRID are experts in esports data provision. They deliver our trading teams with unparalleled access to raw information in real-time, which, when integrated into our models, produces better betting content and gives us the confidence to offer more markets with higher uptime.

“Relog Media bring a wealth of production experience to the Pinnacle Cup which ensures the tension and excitement of the event can be conveyed to the viewer, wherever they are. We’ve organised these events to not only make for quality betting, but also a top-tier entertainment experience, and with Relog, we can showcase Dota 2 at its best to its legions of fans.

“Together, Relog, GRID, and Pinnacle have a vast wealth of esports knowledge across betting and data, and a deep understanding of what matters to the wider esports community – quality content with minimal interruption and downtime, immersive experiences that bring fans closer to the action, and simply giving them the opportunity to watch their favourite teams compete against one another in real-time.”

How important are industry partnerships for operators attempting to enter the esports industry? Is it impossible to gain market share of this sector without them?

“From our experience, building on the right partnerships can help deliver your brand to a wider audience in an engaging yet passive manner. The typical esports fan doesn’t want to be bombarded with marketing messages and logos, and as fans ourselves, we know when to step back and downplay our branding and let the game do the talking. The right partnerships are those that deliver superior content or help invest in grassroots esports and executed well, they can be invaluable in establishing that first relationship with a potential esports bettor.

“Community trust and authenticity is so key in esports, more so than in most traditional sports. Fans will spot an imposter a mile off – it’s very easy for the community to see through those who just place their logo on a team or broadcast – so engaging with the community and investing in its infrastructure with like-minded, native partners is a proven way to drive a positive reputation. Esports fans also tend to be harder to reach through standard marketing methods, so leveraging already established routes with other companies can help make the first point of contact with those who may go on to bet down the line.”

Is there a danger that an operator will make the wrong sort of partnership? What are the best ways for a non-native esports company to source and identify the best native companies to work with?

“Of course. We are not short of our own learnings and lessons from unproductive partnerships, and we’ve taken them onboard quickly. However, those who look to profit off the esports boom with the wrong motives and a short-term view will tend to get found out. Partnerships that fail to invest in the industry’s growth will likely only have short-term engagement and little success. It’s important for all companies entering this unique world to understand what it is they can offer to the esports fan, and to display to them why they’re well-suited to offer it.

“Having a passion for esports is the simplest way to achieve success in this. Across Pinnacle, we have fans, gamers, streamers, and betting enthusiasts who love what they’re doing and the industry they’re involved in. They’re subject matter experts who know the specifics of individual titles and their audiences, they know what esports fans want as they have the same demands themselves, and ultimately, they just want to see esports become bigger and better.

“Those in the know, who have a deep-rooted knowledge of the esports industry, will see red flags when it comes to potentially risky partnerships or poorly thought-out product launches and marketing campaigns, while those that are looking for quick profit without a core understanding of the industry will more than likely come unstuck.”

This is now the 3rd Pinnacle Cup. CS:GO and DOTA 2 have been selected for the tournaments. How do you choose which games to create tournaments for? What title will Pinnacle Cup cover next and how important is the role of the game publisher in the success of a game from a wagering perspective?

“CS:GO stood out for the first Pinnacle Cup because we have a lot of experience working across Europe with previous tournament organisers and teams, so it seemed like the most logical step to continue this process before branching out to other regions. With the first Pinnacle Cup becoming such a success from our point of view, as well as looking at the major viewing numbers, it made sense to provide a new audience with its own Pinnacle Cup, and so we chose Dota 2 to do just that.

“Running with Dota 2 allows us to invest in different teams and streaming partners, while also positioning our product in front of potential bettors who likely had little interaction with the CS:GO version due to the two titles’ very different communities. It’s easy to group the big three esports titles under one umbrella but in reality, there’s little crossover and so each segment has to be delivered with its own unique, high-end product.

“With regard to how esports titles become successful betting titles, the publisher’s view on betting and approach to shared data becomes very significant. Publishers can withhold data from the public domain, which makes modelling trickier and trading more resource-heavy. This tends to lead to thinner markets and bigger margins.

“However, we’ve shown that whatever the title, our unique trading expertise and proactive approach to modelling still makes for hugely engaging betting products, and we like to think this commitment across the board is where Pinnacle stands apart.”

Editor’s Note: From speaking with Stuart, it seems the key to effective community engagement is making the right partnerships with brands that will enable your brand to be seen by a wider audience but in a passive manner. Bombarding the typical esports fan with a raft of logos and marketing messaging will have a negative effect and will not allow your brand to be accepted as a valued member of the esports community. The Pinnacle Cup is a great example of this, so it’s no surprise that they’re returning for a second time. Hopefully, more traditional sportsbook operators with hopes of entering esports can learn from this example and encourage strategic partnerships that add value and continue to grow this market for years to come!

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