Standalone Esports Events – Marketing
As we’ve previously discussed, putting on a standalone esports event is more complicated than it may initially appear. As the esports industry matures, the requirements to put on a commanding esports event become more complex and sophisticated. We’ve already talked about the things you need to be thinking about when it comes to volunteer management, so today we’ll be talking about the remaining “commercial” logistics for which you’ll need to be planning. Looking at things like talent travel/management, merchandise, and venue requirements/management are going to round out your planning for a standalone esports event that will blow away the expectations of your event partners. And though it’s tempting to prioritize some of these things over others, the truth is that you need a broad bench of talent to be tackling these tasks – and working through their potential conflicts – simultaneously. It’s been said that no single raindrop knows that it causes the flood. This metaphor is especially true with esports events because there are SO MANY very technical requirements hitting the ground simultaneously. Ensuring that you have a grasp on each one of these requirements – as well as a view into how each of them are being executed – is key to pulling off an event that every constituent will love.
As you begin looking at locations for your event, it should be understood that if you’re looking at an event that will host more than a couple of exhibitors and 500+ attendees – the venue most likely has a team of people dedicated to helping you get your event off the ground. That’s the good news. The other news? Esports are so new that most venues in the country don’t have an “esports event playbook” just yet. This means you’ll need to be more proactive than you would be with other, more traditional sports events. “If you’re having ‘watch parties’ for events like OWL or LoL, then your requirements won’t be that drastically different than a typical event,” explains eGency Global’s Director of Marketing, Stephanie Chavez. “But if you’re going to have exhibitors, shoutcasters, streamers, BYOC accommodations, and 100s of attendees on their mobile devices simultaneously, then you need to link up with your facilities management team as far in advance as possible.”
The list of things that could go above and beyond “typical” venue capabilities is exhaustive, but eGency’s Chavez has some tips for companies that are new to the esports space. “Electricity and internet bandwidth are the two things around which you need to gain clarity first,” she says. “If you’ve got exhibitors showing up without the ability to power their AV or streamers showing up with insufficient internet to stream, then that’s a non-starter. Everything else follows those capabilities.”
While it might be tempting to parse out event labor as a separate line item as you put the event together, it should be noted that MANY venues require you use their staffing services in order to put on events inside their walls. And – to be clear – these costs are almost always incremental to the cost of floor space AND any equipment rental costs. “Labor costs are a multi-headed beast,” Chavez explains. “If you’re in a union state, the costs will be more predictable, but will likely cost more. Regardless of union affiliation, some states have legal requirements that venue employees do things like security, catering, or cleaning services. Having a solid handle on these costs, as well as the training requirements, is essential. As we’ve seen this past year, when people attempt to put on their own event without the proper knowledge and experience, these sorts of considerations can kill an event before it even has a chance to launch,” Chavez concluded.
Depending on the experience of the people putting the esports event together, travel and entertainment (T&E) costs can be either glaringly obvious or undetected land mines. Put simply, your T&E costs are a great deal more than the cost associated with flying, housing, and feeding your own employees. With almost no exceptions, the talent you bring in for an event – players, teams, shoutcasters, moderators, celebrities, for example – will need to have their T&E covered as an incremental cost to any kind of appearance fees.
If you’re hosting multiple teams, housing costs – especially – can skyrocket. You’ll want to look closely at the T&E riders for each team and talent to determine if sharing rooms is allowable or not. While it may be obvious, the room sharing allowance for a team of six people could be the difference between a $600/night bill and a $1,200/night bill. Multiplied by several teams, the cost becomes material very quickly.
On site transportation is another substantial, controllable cost. “This is where location planning becomes very important,” Chavez says. “You want to have adequate housing for your talent that is close to the venue. Same goes for restaurants/meal options that are not inside the venue itself. When you’re hosting multiple teams of five to six people, in addition to the other talent, those Uber / taxi rides and/or car rentals can REALLY add up to a substantial, unanticipated cost.”
A bass player for one of the biggest bands in heavy metal once said, “We’re not in the music business. We’re in the merch business.” While the case is not as extreme with esports events, merchandise sales are a required component of making events profitable. With gross margins ranging from 35 – 60%, merchandise sales can – and usually do – account for a substantial tentpole of profitability for esports event producers.
With the production of any kind of event – including esports – it’s imperative to have a solid understanding of what each venue requires and/or allows. “Merch at esports events is a unique challenge because of the number of different players involved. It’s not like you’re at a concert for one, specific performer; the event itself can have a merchandisable brand, while different exhibitors/sponsors/teams can have their own set of merch,” explains Chavez. “How do you handle merch sales for your exhibitors and sponsors? Can you use your own POS, or will you have to use theirs? Every answer to questions like these either adds to or subtracts from the amount of money you can take home from each piece of merch,” she says. Adding complexity to this situation is who, legally, can take money. For example, more than likely, volunteers are not allowed to work the merch area because they are not bonded and insured to take money.
There are a few things at play with respect to device usage at esports events. The great news is that there are a crop of event-based marketing technology companies who are attaching more accountability to event/experiential marketing spends through mobile applications. They can, for example, tell you how long anonymized groups of customers spend in the presence of a brand or how many go on to buy something after the event has ended. The even better news is that most – if not all – of your employees or volunteers will have mobile devices capable of using these apps. The challenge? The sensitive nature of the information being collected and the vast array of different devices collecting it.
“Mobile device management (MDM) is a critical consideration as you look to use mobile apps as part of an esports event,” Chavez says. “If you’re letting employees or volunteers bring their own devices to assist, for example, to check attendees in or registering them for a sweeps, you need to have direct control over the data those apps/devices are collecting. And while the cost per device for MDM software might seem trivial, the importance of having it in place is crucial.” On the flip side, if you are providing devices for employees and volunteers, you need a strict check-in/check-out and MDM policy to ensure all of your devices are returned.
Putting on a standalone esports event is a very big – though very manageable – task. Every venue will have a different set of capabilities and in order to knock it out of the park, you have to match those capabilities to your requirements as soon as you can. Proactively managing the T&E requirements for both employees and non-employees/talent will better allow you to put together a seamless experience for everyone involved. While it may seem like a line item at first, understanding the importance of merchandise sales and planning for them accordingly will add exponential value to your event. And lastly, the mobility of event marketing solutions offers unprecedented insight into attendee behavior, but that insight comes at the cost of mobile device management solutions that insure the security of any data you collect. And, as always, it’s worth pointing out that eGency Global has over 10 years’ worth of experience managing logistics like these and putting together esports events that will put a smile on everyone involved with them.
To learn how you or your organization can tap into opportunities in esports, please visit www.egencyglobal.com or call 972-323-6354 to speak with an eGency Global esports expert today.