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How Ader Is Making Video Gamers Into Promotional Rock Stars

Through a series of creative activations with Twitch streamers and YouTube creators, Ader has helped build strong promo awareness with unique engagements.

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Ader, a Los Angeles-based esports marketing firm, is building a Who’s Who list of star clients in the digital space.

The company works with brands to help them navigate live-stream environments and engage with global gaming audiences through connective strategies. In turn, brands can then leverage individual communities already built with key esports influencers. Currently, there are more than 1.2 billion people playing video games worldwide; the staggering number of eyeballs on those screens is hard to ignore. 

Ader made waves this past spring when the company helped Disney develop branded content and product integrations. Specifically, it engaged esports fans and designed an activation for the box-office hit “Black Panther” by promoting #WakandaWeekend during its Blu-ray and digital release.

So, how did this upstart reach nearly a million unique engagements during this time? The team utilized Twitch as its core vehicle to connect viewers. Thanks to top esports athletes — like Myth and Daequan playing “Fortnite” — and influencers such as popular gamer DrLupo, artist RossDraws and BlackNerdComedy, these accounts consistently draw big viewership numbers.

“Fundamentally, live-streaming is extremely engaging,” said Justin Warden, CEO of Ader. “If you think about traditional sports, when we want to engage with athletes, we follow them on Instagram or Twitter. With a Twitch star, suddenly you can watch them live for five, six, seven, eight hours a day.”

With live-steaming and Twitch, fans are now able to interact more extensively with people and personalities that share these common interests. Video games typically were very niche when streaming first became popular. With the explosion of titles such as “Fortnite” and “League of Legends,” it’s made it viable to make a living competitively.

“The social awareness of gaming and being culturally accepted is worth noting,” said Andrew Temkin, chief revenue officer of Ader. “Over the years, gamers have been viewed as guys with pimples and braces living in their parents’ basement; that’s not the case now. Kids are growing up and looking at these people as celebrities, athletes, and role models.”

Professional athletes and musicians are getting in on the live-stream craze, which only fuels the marketplace for digital firms. Still, while the industry is growing leaps and bounds, it’s relatively new in the digital space.

Ader started from the ground up two years ago with some initial investors, which led to a deal with Audi and an expansion of its sales efforts. Temkin was previously working for ESPN, and took a leap of faith on the new agency. He wanted to drive the awareness and promotion of esports and felt that the untapped market was worth the risk. Since teaming up with Warden, the company has worked with over 100 advertisers and is considered one of the fastest-growing agencies.

One of Ader’s most recent campaigns surrounded “The Avengers” and integrating the promotion in real time during a “Fortnite” stream. Using fun and organic ads that tie into the authenticity of a channel allows a brand to get in front of large audiences, while not disrupting the game flow.

“We’ve taken, essentially, a live environment and created a very high-converting audience where ads are not all up in your face,” Temkin explained.

An example of how Ader creates this unique type of content was demonstrated by Twitch gamer Myth. While he played “Fortnite,” a live chat scrolled along the right side of the screen; viewers and new subscribers were rewarded with a GIF of “Ironman” — portrayed by actor Robert Downey Jr. — thanking them, which transpired into a fun and unique engagement.

Ader also builds custom emojis for live chats, making the experience authentic to the streaming community.  

“This is one of the first times you’re seeing a lot of mainstream brands really see success with this. It’s important because in the future you’re going to see a lot more of content like this,” emphasized Warden.

For every video game franchise release, there are peaks and valleys. No one title is a for-sure blockbuster hit, which can make advertisers weary. However, the number of people watching YouTube videos (in live time or recorded broadcasts), in addition to Twitch streams, keeps trending upwards.

“Gaming is going mainstream. When you see famous soccer players doing ‘Fortnite’ dances, it’s a cultural phenomenon,” Warden shared. “There’s a bar here in L.A. called the E Sports Bar and it’s packed every single night. People come to watch others play video games, not your traditional sports.”

The outlook is still unknown as far as growth and the reach for digital players. Ader is optimistic that user-base figures will continue to expand, and people’s favorite TV shows, for example, will begin to incorporate advertising into streaming platforms.

“People are cutting the cord, and ad-blockers allow users to push themselves away from promotions,” Temkin said. “If you want to be in esports and get in front of the right audience, we’re the agency to do that organically.”

Michael Silver is a journalist and photographer covering the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, Action & Combat sports. A TV-Radio-Film Master’s grad from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, he resides in Southern California. Tips and pitches: Michael@frntofficesport.com

Esports

Traditional Professional Athletes Could Soon See More Opportunities With Gaming Companies

Los Angeles Lakers guard and avid gamer Josh Hart teamed up with gaming audio company Turtle Beach in new endorsement and consultant role.

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With more traditional professional athletes playing video games, opportunities are ample for companies to capitalize on the trend.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart recently revealed a new partnership with gaming headset and audio accessory brand Turtle Beach.

As Hart’s official audio partner, Turtle Beach will outfit him with the brand’s latest gear, with Hart endorsing the brand and consulting on future products. Hart, an avid gamer when not on the court, worked with his management company, Roc Nation Sports, to reach out to Turtle Beach about the idea of working together.

“We strive to align ourselves with partners who share our passion for gaming, and we’re impressed with everything Josh represents both as a pro athlete and as a gamer,” Turtle Beach CEO Juergen Stark said.

To kick off the partnership, Turtle Beach renovated a room in Hart’s home, creating his own personal gaming paradise complete with multiple gaming systems and a variety of high-end gear, plus an assortment of the latest Turtle Beach equipment, and signed jerseys of some of Hart’s favorite professional athletes.

Set up for Josh’s love of gaming, Turtle Beach also made sure Hart can use the room for reviewing his own game footage, watching TV and movies, and listening to music.

In the past, most of Turtle Beach’s partnerships were licensing deals with companies such as Activision, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. However, the past few years the company’s partnerships strategy has shifted to focus on top pro esports teams and players, such as OpTic Gaming, Astralis, Splyce and the Houston Outlaws.

READ MORE: The Boom of Implementing Esports Classes in College Has Begun

The shift also includes content creators and influencers, including DrDisRespect, Siefe and Ali-A.

Working with Hart, a budding NBA star, is a newer endeavor for Turtle Beach, and additional athlete partnerships could be in store in the future — so long as it’s a great fit for both sides.

“When you look at partnerships like this, obviously the most important part is that Josh is actually a core gamer and will use our gear accordingly, and not just for gaming but for audio in general,” said MacLean Marshall, Turtle Beach’s senior director of brand and communications. “However, beyond just using Turtle Beach headsets, we’ll look to Josh for his input as we develop future products, and will work with him to create more content that celebrates our mutual passion for gaming and the benefit of having great audio.”

Marshall mentions Hart specifically as an ambassador of gaming to the NBA, for obvious reasons, but knows there are plenty of others with the potential to provide a new entry point to fans into the world of gaming. Likewise, it provides a bridge from gaming fans to the NBA.

“When I started in the industry years ago, traditional pro athletes weren’t really gaming,” Marshall said. “Maybe there were a few here or there, but traditional athletes were mostly just traditional athletes because gaming was more niche and not as mainstream as it is today.

“We’re now at the point where there’s a variety of younger pro athletes who grew up playing games, who still play games in their spare time, and it’s great to see it as another equally exciting passion for them, and to see the crossover between our respective audiences and fans.”

READ MORE: VY Esports Capitalizes on Trend of Traditional Sports Entering New Space

Hart joined the Turtle Beach team at a busy time of the year, with the company amidst launching its new lineup of gaming headsets while gearing up for the holiday season.  

That, along with all the usual intricacies of managing and maintaining a great partnership, Marshall isn’t sure if and when Turtle Beach might add another professional athlete partner, but it certainly isn’t out of the question.

“We’ve been cognizant — not just with Josh Hart, but all our partnerships in general — to make sure they’re focused on the right thing,” Marshall said. “For example, this partnership isn’t about us, or even about Josh as an NBA star. Rather, it’s about Josh Hart the avid gamer.

“So, sure, we could go after more [pro athletes], but there’s quite a bit of effort and energy that goes into partnerships like this, and it’s more important to us to deliver on our part with Josh, as opposed to bringing on others and potentially overstretching our bandwidth. This is about quality, not quantity, and we’re excited to do more with Josh in the future.”

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Inside the NFL’s New Partnership With ‘Fortnite’

One of the world’s most popular video game and the National Football League are connecting with fans through cosmetic DLC.

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With “Fortnite” now boasting well over 50 million players worldwide, the game has become a mainstream hit. Americans have had a similar relationship with the National Football League for decades now.

Last week, the two brands announced a partnership that would allow “Fortnite” players to add the uniform of their favorite NFL team to their avatar after purchasing it from the store.

The partnership should come as no surprise, really. Since the launch of Battle Royale mode, NFL players have expressed their love for the game. Some have even taken to playing competitively in their free time or being an active part of the game’s online community.

Rachel Hoagland, vice president and head of gaming and esports at the NFL, stated that this played a factor in bringing this partnership to fruition.

READ MORE: How You Can Make a Career Out of Video Games

“’Fortnite’ has captured the attention of so many different groups of people. It’s moved well beyond just being a game,” she said. “I think it’s fair to say its popularity among NFL players was a factor in us moving forward with this partnership. There were many others, including its wide reach and global audience, as well as the opportunity for the NFL to be the first branded sports integration in the game.”

Prior to the launch of these skins, NFL teams were putting together activations with Twitch and YouTube content creators. Notably, the Detroit Lions invited Ninja (arguably the most popular name in the space) to a game back in September.

Ninja returned the favor by wearing a Lions uniform on his avatar in his streams when the uniform skins launched. The streamer also bridges the gap between gamers, the NFL, and the two fan bases by appearing on television shows like “NFL Live” every now and then.

“The outfit integration gave us an opportunity to do even more by bringing the popular influencers in early, and amass hours of gameplay previewing the outfits,” Hoagland said.

To build on it, content creator NICKMERCS also played alongside Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the NFL’s Ultimate Squad contest stream.

Hoagland can attest that the working relationship between the NFL and Epic Games, the “Fortnite” developer, has been a positive experience. For that reason, look for more from this partnership in the future.

READ MORE: Study Confirms Esports Has Graduated to the Big Leagues

“The Epic team is very creative, collaborative, and more than willing to work with and incorporate our thoughts and ideas,” Hoagland stated. “We are a good complement to each other.”

The skins are not currently available for purchase in the “Fortnite” digital store, as the content available to players regularly rotates. The outfits will reportedly return in the near future.

Who knows, we may even see some additional NFL tie-in content somewhere down the line.

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The Boom of Implementing Esports Classes in College Has Begun

The UNLV School of Hospitality realized esports could blaze a trail academically and provide opportunities students may have never had before.

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League of Legends fans watching the 2018 League of Legends World Championship Finals sponsored by Mastercard on November 3, 2018 in Incheon, South Korea. Photo by Hannah Smith/ESPAT Media for Mastercard

Working as a marketing executive at a Las Vegas casino property on the Strip in 2013, Robert Rippee helped host a small EA Sports video game competition at a bar within the resort.

Rippee was shocked as young adults filled the bar to watch the video games and spend their evening. Fast forward a few years, and Rippee is a professor within the UNLV School of Hospitality who realized the school’s International Gaming Institute was missing a key industry segment: esports.

He approached the executive director, who agreed to let Rippee experiment.

“We thought it could serve both academic and industry interests and, maybe, blaze a trail,” said Rippee, who is now in the third semester of running the lab.

SEE MORE: How You Can Make a Career Out of Video Games

Rippee created a lab that would put students in practice to create a sustainable and viable business model for esports venues on the Strip. The lab at UNLV isn’t meant to teach students to manage teams or create games, but provide a real ecosystem to showcase esports information that might be relevant to casino resorts. Casinos have certainly noticed the potential of esports — specifically the Luxor, as the iconic pyramid casino is home to Esports Arena Las Vegas.

“We want to give them information in context they understand,” Rippee said. “We know the ranges of profitability for theaters, nightclubs, retail, restaurants. You can’t be worse than those; you have to be better.”

While the esports lab is housed within the school of hospitality, Rippee said it has proven to be multidisciplinary, drawing upper-class students in architecture, engineering, business, and even law school.

The first three semesters have been focused on the casino resorts and how they might be able to implement a successful esports operation. The lab features guest speakers including developers, tournament management companies and a wide array of other professionals involved in esports.

SEE MORE: Study Confirms Esports Has Graduated to the Big Leagues

Now, Rippee said it’s time to potentially expand beyond that industry.

“We’re toying with the idea to go beyond,” he said. “Can we create a standalone business in a shopping center or a theater?”

Rippee also said creating more courses centered on esports is not out of the question, as esports is continuing to evolve and further prove its worth as a viable industry. He said condensed, executive style courses — potentially online — are especially of interest as the school regularly receives requests from non-UNLV students.

“There are lots of elements to esports to expand horizontally and vertically,” Rippee said.

At least 10 schools from across the country and internationally have also reached out to Rippee to see how to potentially structure an esports curriculum. Rippee said there’s little doubt esports will continue to grow, especially with backing from professional sports executives and athletes.

He understands the infatuation with the games. While not an intense gamer himself, Rippee said he enjoys watching professionals apply their craft and the excitement is no different than other sports.

Having formal education in the industry provides passionate esports fans an avenue into a career, just as with traditional sports.

“There’s a lot of growth in esports globally, so people are starting to wonder how to prepare students to be those employees that have the background and knowledge,” he said. “This is a paradigm driven by a younger generation, a generation that’s grown up with video games. This is not a fad; it’s not getting any smaller.”

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