Photo Credit: Gen.G
Gen. G, formerly known as KSV, appears to have completed a month-long whirlwind of rebranding with the appointment of Jordan Sherman as their new Head of Sponsorship and Revenue. The operative word is appears since Sherman’s task will be to continue spinning that whirlwind in the form of finding corporate partners to keep Gen. G as the most prominent team across the vast swatch of esports throughout the globe.
After stints with Major League Baeball Advance Media and the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA over the first two decades of the 21st century, Sherman witnessed the explosive growth of technology and how to harness its potential. While with MLBAM, Sherman recalled how the league decided to “consolidate instead of letting teams run websites” and how MLB was the first to live stream games in 2002 as the eventual precursor to MLB.tv in 2010.
By the time he joined the Clippers organization, Sherman saw similarities in how teams and the league market their players in the potential of esports in the form of the popular 2K NBA games and his curiosity was piqued.
“I always keep my eye on ways to use technology and social media to engage fans and enhance the in-game experience,” Sherman explained. “The NBA does a phenomenal job of marketing its players. With the Clippers, I saw the potential of 2K, where it was going and I did a deep dive.
“Esports is global in nature and it’s wide open, which leagues, which teams are the best, who fans will follow. I have an opportunity to apply what I learned and where it’s going with this ownership group from a league and brand perspective.”
Expanding beyond the confines of Silicon Valley
While Gen. G has team locations in Silicon Valley, Seoul in South Korea and most recently Shanghai in China, Sherman sees the reach of esports extending from all three hot spots as this generation of gamers has allegiances beyond its geographical location.
"I feel fortunate our ownership group is based in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, having these roots are important," he said before adding, "I bring a lot being in Los Angeles, having a network in Los Angeles. I took families to Clippers games and people wear jerseys of teams not even playing in that game, and it's interesting to see kids like players' personalities.
"They change from time to time and who they like is a unique sense of their own mind which didn't exist 10, 15, 20 years ago, and it's a good thing. People will root for the organization and who they feel strong connections to."
While Sherman did not draw parallels to Gen. G's rebranding and recent corporate sponsorship deals with Razer and Mirae Asset Venture Investment to how the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s were willing to spend money to make more money in the days before the NFL had a salary cap, he did note those two deals provided starting points at an organic level with gamers.
"You see the ones endemic to the sport, like Spalding is to NBA basketball," he explained, citing the Razer deal as an example. "You need routers. That was the entry level. What we get into is who the players are and who the audience is. Who is the audience?
"They are young, millennials male and female. Who are hard to reach and tech savvy with ad blockers up to get around ads. They are willing to pay money on Twitch for content they like, they are a supportive and inclusive community. They are a group willing to invest socially, the groups are involved around this community. This huge element of community doesn't exist in a linear field."
Building Gen. G in the rapidly escalating arms race of esports
In February, a Newzoo study forecast that esports revenues will grow 38 percent year on year to slightly more than $900 million, part of a bullish trend in which the study expects growth over the next three years to climb 82 percent to total $1.65 billion. The study also expected brand investment will comprise 85 percent of that $1.65 billion.
Such an aggressive trajectory puts Sherman's role in the cross-hairs of helping Gen. G maintain their status as one of the premier esports franchises in the world and also why the two-way flow of culture and information between Asia and the U.S. will be instrumental in finding those revenues.
"The U.S. is unique in that we are more closed off," Sherman noted. "If you go to a restaurant in a foreign country or club, you hear music of all different types, five or six different languages spoken at the table. People love learning more about each other's culture.
"A lot of Asian culture comes to the U.S. because that's where esports starts. The U.S. has a huge influence on brands and people in South Korea and Shanghai. It's the reinvention of a wide-open landscape. When you put the pieces together, I think there is so much potential."
Sherman pointed out K-Swiss signed the first esports shoe deal with Immortals in late April as one such deal, that non-linear approach which sets esports apart. The one area where Sherman sees the biggest potential value is in the tutorials the players provide for games.
"Part of our fan engagement and building the brand of players and the team, what they stand for is through tutorials. What I see is that a lot of people play these games way more than a traditional sport. What they're showing you is teaching the game on line and they do tremendous views and engagement and that expands to learn more about the players and the games.
"The players aren't stereotypes, they're really smart, they work together. They love fashion, which is now, and there is an opportunity to brand in fashion. The game is the international language and brings a competitive and social aspect that did not exist previously."
Gen. G's role going forward
As any person taking on such a role with a franchise, Sherman believes Gen. G is leading esports' charge into the future. When asked to look down the road, he offered the interesting note that "my hope is we look back at this month five years from now and go 'duh' in that things we're talking about today are leaps that actually happen."
He pointed out that the Year 1 buy-in of $20 million for the Overwatch League at the time was a steep price tag, but also noted that if it stayed at $20 million, Year 2 "would have 100 different groups." Gen. G is juggling three organizations across two continents and as a result, there is a need for assets, the need as Sherman put it "to acquire players like a fantasy football draft and ... make a successful company, where the pieces fit and go in the same directions."
His five-year plan is highly ambitious in the goal of helping Gen. G be "one of the best if not the best esports organization. Period. Gen. G will be a leader in the field the next five years, with games and cultures emerging, we want to be outspoken leaders for that change.
"It's not going to be one team or one league or one structure. Franchise groups have more power because of so many different leagues and teams. That is much better than traditional sports and we'll use that for the betterment. People who jump on board, it will be really exciting."
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