What You Can Learn About Marketing From esports

What if for your next influencer marketing campaign, you didn’t have to go and find influencers? What if you already had the creators working for you? What if you had people coming to you, asking you to promote their product, allowing your business to make extra revenue? Does that sound like a dream world? It isn’t. These are real things that are happening in the world of esports.

The esports industry is growing at an average rate of 30% every single year and if you’re someone who’s new to the industry, you can’t get too far in without realizing the massive impact its players and creators have on the industry.

A Look at FaZe Clan

Transparency, Surf founders Swish Goswami and Aanikh Kler are both FaZe Clan investors.

FaZe Clan is one of the most prominent esports organizations on the planet. The organization has 10 different teams and has over 50 athletes under contract. On top of that, FaZe also has a similar amount of content creators under contract as well.

Started in 2010 FaZe Clan became popular through posting Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 montages to YouTube. Within two years they had over 1,000,000 subscribers and had expanded into esports. The group started to incorporate lifestyle content alongside its gaming content in 2014 and has not looked back since.

While at its core, FaZe is an esports organization, it has established its brand through its lifestyle content. If you were to take a scroll through their YouTube Channel you’ll notice that most of their recent videos have nothing to do with gaming. They are centered around the lifestyle and personalities that make up FaZe.

This content does two things.

  1. It builds a connection with the existing FaZe audiences. You get unparalleled access to FaZe and its creators. The more content you watch, the more you feel like you know them on a personal level and therefore the more loyal you will be.
  2. It acts as creative at various stages of the funnel. The lifestyle content can be consumed and enjoyed by anybody - even if you aren’t a fan of gaming. It has the ability to expose new people to the brand and with millions of views each video, it does just that.

How FaZe Makes Money?

While we can’t get into every single way that the organization makes money, we wanted to give you an idea of how many different revenue streams the company has.

  1. YouTube Ad Revenue - As mentioned, Faze is pulling millions of views every week on its main YouTube Channel alone. While the amount a video makes on Adsense varies, one YouTuber claims to make between $2,000-$5,000 per video with over 1 million views.
  2. Merch - With being a lifestyle brand, the company has created a streetwear apparel element to its business collaborating with the likes of Champion and Kappa.
  3. Sponsorships - Due to the attention that FaZe has, it has taken on sponsorship from different brands. Right now the team has presenting sponsors such as GFUEL, Nissan, Beats, and SteelSeries.
  4. Esports Tournaments - When a FaZe team places and brings home money from an esports tournament, the organization gets a percentage of the winnings with the rest going to the players.
  5. Revenue Sharing with Its Members - Not only does FaZe take sponsorship for the organization itself but it also helps its members get brand deals as well. If FaZe facilitates a sponsorship opportunity for its individual creators, the company gets a percentage of the deal as well.

These are just some of the ways that FaZe brings in revenue. According to a 2019 Forbes article, the team has a valuation of $240 million and an estimated $35 million in annual revenue.

It’s Not Just FaZe

In that same Forbes article, it listed FaZe as the fourth highest valued esports company. We wanted to take a quick look at the number #1 valued company according to Forbes as well as an emerging brand in the esports space.

The highest valued esports brand according to Forbes is Cloud9. Scrolling through Cloud9’s YouTube you’ll notice right away, just like FaZe they list their partners at the top of the page. You’ll also notice that the team has more esports related content than FaZe and not as much lifestyle content. However, C9’s content is not strictly esports matches and highlights. They create content around the interests of its consumers. Whether it be trying to play games blindfolded or react to gaming memes - the organization doesn’t stray as far from gaming as FaZe but offers more content than just esports matches and highlights.

The other team we wanted to look at was 100 Thieves. Founded in 2017 by former Call of Duty pro Nadeshot, 100T really made a splash when it received funding from hip hop icon Drake and Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber’s manager). 100 Thieves is building its brand similar to how FaZe built its brand with a focus around lifestyle content and making it more than just an esports team. If you take a scroll through 100 Thieves YouTube you’ll see podcasts, vlogs, content around TikTok, YouTube drama and more. 100T has also entered the clothing world, creating its own streetwear brand driving up demand by only making the clothing available in limited edition drops. The Verge even referred to the brand as “the Supreme of esports”.

The Lesson For Brands

What does all of this have to do with you and your brand when it comes to marketing? What is the lesson you can learn from esports? I have two takeaways, one being easier to implement than the other.

The first takeaway is esports commitment to content. Specifically, content that is not directly related to its primary offering of esports. While all of these companies do release gaming and esports related content, they also make sure to create “brand adjacent content.” Content that doesn’t relate directly to its main product. Traditionally, companies have not wanted to stray too far from their core offering when it came to content. However, esports has shown us that you can create content outside of your core offering as long as it maps to the other interests of your consumers.

Using FaZe Clan as the example, today people find the brand through its lifestyle content and are exposed to their esports teams that way. As viewers continue to watch the lifestyle content they grow curious and learn more about the brand and by extension FaZe’s esports teams. With all of this attention FaZe is able to monetize the massive audience it has created, distribute the audience to its other properties (its creators) and monetize there as well. It also offers its fans a physical product to buy in the form of the team's merchandise.

Brands should take a page from FaZe Clan’s playbook and create content that will engage your audience but does not directly relate to its product. Figure out what the other interests of your consumers are and create content that maps to that as a form of exposure for your brand. FaZe does it in the form of lifestyle content and Surf for Brands does it in the form of articles breaking down other industries to help you get insights and strategies you can apply to your business. While this article technically has nothing to do with our product, we know it is of interest to our customers and potential customers. It doesn’t directly promote our product but it has made you aware of our brand.

The other takeaway (which will be a bit of a stretch for some people) is for brands is to find talent and bring them in house to create content for you. Esports teams don’t often need to partner with influencers because its product, their esports teams are the influencers themselves.

Brands could look at identifying up and coming external talent or even the talent that they have internally and empower them to create content on behalf of the brand. This is a great way to create the brand adjacent content mentioned above. These creators wouldn’t be used to create ads for the company but more so additional content types to connect with your audience. Using Surf for Brands as an example, we recently partnered with our marketing manager to co-brand his podcast, My Social Life and make it our official company podcast.

The esports Industry Will Continue to Grow

The esports industry is going to be an interesting one to watch in the coming years as it is only expected to continue growing. An industry whose success is in large part due to the content it puts out. For brands on the outside, it’s a great place to look for content ideation and inspiration.