An interview with Sabrina Ratih, conducted by Gian Luca Vitale. Esport organizations with their different teams are a key player in the esports ecosystem. Even though the market is still developing, some esports organizations differ significantly in terms of competitive and economic success, professionalism and unique selling proposition.
This is exactly what Gian Luca Vitale discussed recently with Sabrina Ratih. The managing director Value of We and business development at G2 Esports explains in the interview why organizations need to stand out in the market, how to grow with business partners and why they should never forget about the community.
Gian Luca Vitale: If you talk about esports and top organizations, there is no way around G2 Esports. The rise of G2 Esports is a pure success story although you are one of the younger Esports organizations compared to some others.
What makes you so successful and what distinguishes you from the meanwhile numerous other teams?
Sabrina Ratih: As a brand we early on understood that while competitive success is important, entertainment and storytelling is equally crucial to position ourselves as the global esportainment brand that we are today. You are a G2 fan because you love to be entertained and that sets the tone for everything, we as an organization do day in and day out. By putting our community at the center whether that’s through our on- and offline events, access to our brand partners, unique content and media formats or social memes we are building a brand love that goes far beyond supporting one specific player or one team. We currently have a roster of 8 competitive teams competing in various leagues, covering all major game genres from strategy to tactical first person shooter (FPS) to simulation. Our recent addition is our VALORANT Pro Team which is currently the strongest across Europe. We are headquartered in Berlin but command a global following that grew by more than 115% over the past 12 months. Our recipe for success is that we carefully listen and stay true to our audience. We have an obsession to do things differently in order to create those unexpected and entertaining moments for our community. Like in other areas, a clear brand identity and positioning is essential, which must be reflected in all forms of action and interaction.
Gian Luca Vitale: If we take a closer look at esports organizations, it becomes clear that the marketing department is a driving force. They are creating incredible stories and giving fans the great feeling to be part of a bigger community.
Why is the marketing department so important for esports organizations?
Sabrina Ratih: Esports is much more than a competitive video game or a form of entertainment, it’s a communication channel to a global, digital native and very engaged audience. G2’s content team is by far the biggest team in the organization. This allows us to stay up close with our community in order to solidify long-term engagement with our fans while also attracting casual gamers and occasional viewers. It’s certainly a growth potential I see for a lot of the teams out there.
Gian Luca Vitale: How has being in the esports industry inspired you in terms of gameplay interactions and your connection with the gaming community on Twitter, Twitch, and other platforms?
Sabrina Ratih: I don’t have a gaming background and went from not knowing much about the industry to stopping my car at the side of the road because I absolutely had to watch a Counter Strike final to watching LEC every weekend. My development alone and the way I have grown into this topic shows that we are still far from reaching the potential in terms of audience growth. The possibilities are much greater than what we are currently seeing. There is still an exciting and long way to go to what esports is today and what it can become. From a business standpoint I enjoy working in esports a lot. It’s a very open-minded, passionate and welcoming environment. Seeming competitors are collaboratively working on bringing new ideas to life on the quest to make this industry even bigger and better. This dynamic is something very special and actors from outside have the exciting opportunity to be part of it and to learn something that can be transferred to other economic sectors.
Gian Luca Vitale: Esports organizations are under a constant change, very open to innovations and creative when it comes to business development, as they are trying out what works and what doesn’t work. Yet, the profit zone and real stability has not been reached and investor capital for backing is needed in order to have a safe harbor to grow.
What is needed to bring more stability into the esport organization business model?
Sabrina Ratih: Esports offers a diverse set of revenue streams to help refinance esports organizations. Many of which are still underutilized such as media rights and esports lifestyle collections. Besides extending and professionalizing their set of revenue streams, teams need to build their individual brand ecosystem beyond competitive success in order to reduce dependence on a win or loss. If you think more about economic business models and company networks, the possibilities become greater. Nevertheless, you must never lose sight of the fan base and the community, because success or failure largely depend on their acceptance.
Gian Luca Vitale: Partnering with sponsors and companies has been and seems to be an increasing factor for a successful Esports organization. Services and products are jointly created to create a bigger fan/customer value/experience.
What can we expect as the industry will grow?
Sabrina Ratih: We will see more and more non-endemic and media brands enter the space ensuring a constant dialogue with their current Gen Z and Millennial audience and build a trusted relationship with their consumers of tomorrow. Partnerships that come out on top will be the ones that deliver true value to consumers and the ecosystem we are all passionate about. The key to success lies in identifying the right match of rights holder and brand while offering bespoke turnkey solutions that highlight brand partners in a seamless yet engaging and always authentic and relevant context. Every brand that has the ambition to talk to a millennial and Gen Z gaming and esports audience should ask themselves how they can deliver true value to the community. This is no trivial task and requires a deeper understanding of the respective needs of these target groups and an equally committed esports partner i.e. team, league, publisher or organizer to find the strategic overlap where both brands click.
Gian Luca Vitale: Streaming and the relevant social media channels (e.g. Reddit, 9Gag, TikTok, Instagram etc.) have been and are boosting the esports industry as everybody can easily create and distribute content.
What's it like to be a part of the esports media industry? How does streaming affect esports as a whole? Do you think it's good that players kind of build up their personal brand?
Sabrina Ratih: It’s an exciting time to be working in this industry for sure. There is real momentum and opportunity to pioneer the esportainment landscape. We see traditional media platforms adjusting their content scheduling to accommodate the demand for live esports & gaming content which will serve as an additional gateway to a broader audience. Streaming is an integral access point to our audience. In a time of limited attention spans it is one way to stay in-tune with our fans on a daily basis while delivering high-quality engagement points for our brand partners. I appreciate that more players start to invest in building their own brand besides their pro player career given this industry is not just about competitive success, it’s about establishing a meaningful relationship with a digital native audience and streaming is just that. We will experience the development of more exciting personalities and thus have the opportunity to transport deeper stories that reflect the passion and special features of esports as sport and entertainment.
Sabrina Ratih is managing director at the brand partnership agency Value of We. She has an international marketing background, spent several years giving wings to people, ideas and partners at Red Bull which led her to follow her 10+ year long passion for brand partnerships in co-founding Value of We. She uses her deep expertise in branding and partnering in her work at the esport organization G2 Esports, where she is responsible for business development. Together with her colleagues, Ratih managed to develop G2 Esports not only into one of the most successful, but also one of the most visible organizations in the ecosystem.
Gian Luca Vitale works in the Advisory section of PwC GmbH WPG in the customer centric transformation department. He has been a passionate esports and gaming enthusiast since childhood as a player, team founder and caster. He is now responsible at PwC for business development, customer experience and the conceptual development of esports events.
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