Esports team Evil Geniuses is rebranding in a bid to un-tarnish its reputation

Correction: A previous version of this story implied that the majority of Evil Geniuses’ current management team worked at the organization in 2022. At the moment, current CEO Chris DeAppolonio is the only director-level or higher staffer who was part of Evil Geniuses’ leadership team in 2022. Evil Geniuses has responded to the claims made by fans in this story.

Prominent esports team Evil Geniuses announced a rebrand on June 20. The goal: to help move the company past a series of scandals that shook fans’ confidence in its brand in 2022 and 2023.

Founded in 1999, Evil Geniuses (often referred to as EG) came under the ownership of private equity firm PEAK6 in 2019, winning championships in esports such as “Dota 2” and “Valorant” along the way. Though Evil Geniuses boasts a social following in the hundreds of thousands, its reputation took a hit in 2022 and 2023 following reports that the team had ignored some players’ mental health struggles and requested its “Valorant” team take a pay cut shortly after winning the game’s world championship.

In August 2023, former CEO Nicole LaPointe Jameson, who had become a focal point of much of the controversy, stepped down from her role at the company.

“The way that they handled the whole situation, and also just the overall trend of management kind of straying away from the old identity of Evil Geniuses into somewhat of a more corporate stance, has irked me in the wrong way,” said Moctar Ayeva, a self-described Evil Geniuses fan who has supported the org since 2014.

Evil Geniuses management is aware of the hit the brand has taken, and last week’s rebrand is a conscious effort to mend fences with fans. The crux of the rebrand was a return to the team’s original logo, which management had changed following the PEAK6 acquisition in 2019.

“Things that happened happened, and it’s unfortunate that they did, and we can’t go back and change the past, but we can make changes to make Evil Geniuses the org that fans can be proud of again,” said EG CEO Chris DeAppolonio. “When I was a fan of EG back in the early 20-teens, when the ‘Dota’ team was rolling along, that logo meant a lot. And changing the logo over the last five years — it’s one of those logos that never should have been changed. It would be like the Yankees going to a different font.”

So far, fans’ responses to the June 20 rebrand have been a mixed bag. Three fans who spoke to Digiday following the announcement said that they believed the rebrand came across as an attempt to use nostalgia to paper over the past controversies without making more concrete changes to Evil Geniuses’ culture.

“Going back to an old logo, I’m like, you’re just trying to make money selling merch,” said Caitlyn Roslonski, another self-described Evil Geniuses fan. “Unless there’s news about coming back to CS [‘Counter-Strike’], that’s all I saw it as.”

Skepticism notwithstanding, Evil Geniuses’ followers have largely celebrated the return of the fan-favorite original logo, with some viewing it as a signal that the org recognizes what must be changed if it wants to successfully move forward.

“I feel like the organization, especially the newer management, has been trying to capture that late-2010s EG vibe that they used to have,” Ayeva said. “But they really have to nurture it. It’s not going to be just a year-long thing; it’s going to be a couple years, where they have to nurture a new community and gain their trust back.”

To truly win back its fans’ trust, Evil Geniuses may have to do more than just change its logo. After several years of abysmal news cycles, EG’s fans are well aware of the company’s past struggles, and they want to see concrete signs that it is treating its players with more consideration.

“To me, a rebrand is not even a step in the rehabilitative process. It is maybe a statement of intent, of, ‘Hey, we want to go back to first principles; we want to change,’” said esports journalist and industry observer Mikhail Klimentov. “But, in and of itself, it doesn’t signal that anything has actually changed.”

In 2024, Evil Geniuses’ “Valorant” squad is still a championship contender, but the team’s leaders are aware that it will need to do more than just win to make last week’s rebrand a success.

“The return of the original EG logo isn’t going to change the community’s feelings overnight, and we knew that,” DeAppolonio said. “But it’s a first, necessary, step in a marathon of work we have to do to rebuild trust with our fans. We hope they’ll stay with us for the journey.”

https://digiday.com/?p=548627

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