Esports Uncut #1: Pandemic and Partnerships

This is the first part a blog series written by the General Manager of hREDS Christer Kasurinen. In the blog, he will go through interesting topics and give his insights on the field of esports. The author with his opinions are his points of view and should never be considered as 100% truth. Although you might notice they differ a lot from the traditional ones.

Before we start going through the first piece, I think introductions should be in order. My name is Christer Kasurinen. I am the operational lead of the Finnish esports organization hREDS and have been so since the end of 2016. Esports has become my primary passion leaving my old career to fully commit to it in late 2018.

I am 43 years old and live a mundane life with a wife, one kid, and a dog. I also drive a Volvo to keep the stereotype alive also when I am not at home. Been a huge video game enthusiast ever since 1983. My father bought me my first device (Atari-2600) and have never looked back since.

The Pandemic

Where else to start this blog series than the pandemic that has lasted for over a year. During this period we have had the chance to experience a world with less stimulus and interaction than in many decades before. This has made the use of technical devices even more of a norm in our lives than ever before as humans tend to drift to social interaction and want to link themselves to something.

We have experienced in the industry that this has shown the strength of esports compared to many traditional sports. The day-to-day operations can continue as most of what we do can easily be done on the internet and the need for a specific space is not required. One could think esports is in a place where we have a very big advantage over the other parts of the sports industry. Yet it is not so black and white as I will explain below.

Where our capability to operate unhinged on the internet continues we are left in a state that makes working in the industry rough. As the business keeps growing globally one of the biggest things supporting its growth, good stabile partnerships have become rarer as time goes on. At the start of the pandemic in early 2020 (EU region) the partnerships were still on their non-pandemic terms where for example live events and activations were a big part of the deal.

Wanting to be an endemic brand, the companies needed to meld into the heart of the countries ecosystems by not being just present in events but also being part of the infrastructure that grows it. As the events have been postponed or altogether canceled now for a year already, many companies have taken a step back and their general consensus is to “wait it out and see how it goes”. We as a business cannot.

As mentioned above, we as a global ecosystem keep on growing. The challenge for us now is to prove ourselves by combining the best practices of old and new to counter the skeptics who think esports is a short-term thing that will fade eventually. This being said the field of new partnerships has become somewhat odd compared to pre-pandemic times.

The Partnerships

Whereas the 2010’s esports was a new and growing sector in sports entertainment, we have reached the point where the “new factor” has started to move aside and the day-to-day business grind has taken the field gradually. Now with that being said the pandemic could have not come in a worse time as the marketing budgets of many companies have declined and reverted back to the “more safe partnerships” leaving the growing organizations in a slump where the expenses keep rising and the available opportunities keep saturating as more and more companies are formed.

On top of this, the bad times have also created a market desperately needing funds, thus growing the interest of parties that might want to benefit out of the situation with less money exchanging hands for more work to be put into the deal. I have heard and also been part of negotiations where the opposing side has merely wanted a content creation subcontractor to create content with a smaller budget than it would normally cost making the partnership a +/- 0 deal where the organization does not gain any resources from the transaction.

Opting to hang tight with the opposing brand and make it a reference case might be the way to go. Sadly in my opinion it promotes the “we will literally put up with anything” mentality, thus strengthening the side of the business that does not want to commit to growing a long and meaningful partnership.

Our organization has been lucky with our current partners. We have already signed new contracts with them or are in the process of doing so. This trend needs to continue as our business needs to grow. With the majority of funds still flowing into the esports economy being investment and partnership deals, it is imperative to find good companies on which we can build on. Not for the upcoming quarter, but for the long haul as well.

For this to happen, organizations need to refrain from taking nonbeneficial deals from companies that don’t want to fully commit. This is of course easier said than done as the resources are hard to come by these days.

In a nutshell: Get partnerships, not companies that only want subcontractors.

Thank you.