Here’s how some esports orgs are positioning themselves to withstand esports winter

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After a difficult year in 2023, the esports industry is recovering in 2024 as some brands and advertisers return to the space. But while esports winter might be thawing somewhat, it’s become clear that not all esports organizations have been equally able to withstand the cold. 

Here’s a look into how four leading esports orgs are positioning themselves for long-term stability and sustainability, independent of the whims of brand marketers.

NRG

One esports organization that managed to grow its business over the past year is NRG, whose CEO Andy Miller told Digiday that 2023 had been “pretty good” for the org in December of that year. In 2024, NRG has announced new partnerships with Samsung Galaxy and Panda Express, in addition to building on partnerships with automotive companies announced in late 2023.

One key to NRG’s success is that the organization has a significant hand in both the competitive and casual sides of the gaming community. By clearly delineating between its esports teams under the NRG brand and its casual presence under the Full Squad Gaming brand, the company has managed to sign partnerships with multiple companies in the same category, such as the aforementioned automotive sponsorships.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid is one of the oldest active esports brands, and thus one of the most popular, with millions of followers across social platforms and a worldwide fan base. To some extent, the power and lasting relevance of Liquid’s brand is one of its greatest strengths: at the grand final of February’s Six Invitational in São Paulo, for example, an entire section of fans showed up wearing Team Liquid jerseys, even though the team wasn’t actually playing. If you follow esports, you know Team Liquid.

“In 2024, we see that brands with long-standing commitments to esports will continue to invest,” said Team Liquid co-CEO Victor Goossens. “In terms of new brands coming into esports, we see sponsor interest picking back up in 2024, but I would say the approach is more conservative, focusing on less risky deals involving proven properties.”

Team Liquid is also well-positioned for the long term because it has successful business units that have little to nothing to do with competitive gaming. Beyond its esports teams, Team Liquid also owns the video content production company 1UP Studios, which creates white-label content for companies such as Riot Games, as well as Liquipedia, a prominent esports wiki network, and Liquid Media, an in-house creative production agency.

One True King

One True King, better known to its fans as OTK, doesn’t describe itself as an esports organization — it’s a “gaming organization,” a descriptor that makes it clear that OTK’s focus is on casual gaming, rather than competitive gaming. Founded by a cadre of popular gaming content creators in 2020, OTK is a member-owned collective that blurs the line between media company and entertainment channel. Every member of OTK has equity in the team — and thus, everything OTK does is content, all the way down to its livestreamed shareholder meetings. 

OTK’s member ownership structure is one factor that could set the organization up for long-term success. Esports organizations that build their brand equity using the clout and fan bases of individual influencers risk losing that equity when those influencers leave the org for another team, or simply decide to strike out on their own. By giving equity to all of its members, OTK has ensured that they are invested in the company’s long-term success, not just their short-term bag.

Brands are taking note of OTK’s unique approach to the space. On April 11, for example, OTK released the first episode of a content series sponsored by Progressive, with the insurance brand buying in for over 20 episodes. 

“OTK is now transforming gaming content into a predictable, impactful media buy for brands like Progressive — standardizing pricing, de-risking partnerships and guaranteeing impressions,” said Damon Harman, co-founder and CEO of the agency Integrated Content, which organized the Progressive deal.

G2 Esports

In 2023, amid a general downturn for esports, G2 Esports was able to grow its sponsorship business, signing new partnerships with brands such as M88 Mansion, Stride, Mastercard and Herman Miller over the past year. 

“It was our fifth consecutive year of sponsorship growth, which is great,” said G2 Esports COO Sabrina Ratih, without providing exact figures. “But, obviously, we don’t want to stop there.”

In 2024, G2 Esports is re-structuring its leadership team with an eye toward growing its commercial partnership business further. On April 4, the company hired Henning Christiansson, who previously served as a marketing and business manager for companies such as Logitech and DreamHack, as its commercial director, with plans to appoint additional director-level hires in finance and marketing over the course of the year. The goal of the hiring initiative is to help G2’s senior leadership translate its long-term goals more effectively into its different business units as they continue to expand. 

“Short-term, brand partnerships are very important,” Christiansson said. “But long-term, we need to have other revenue streams — and that’s a big portion of why I’m here, to really look at what are those areas of growth.”

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