EXCLUSIVE: CHAT WITH ANDY MILLER ABOUT NRG'S WASHINGTON DC SPONSORSHIP
TNL Take: We still have a few weeks left in the 1st quarter of 2017 and eSports has already seen 25 brands invest in the space - for all of 2016 there was just over 50.
While it's great to see blue chip brands renew like Coca-Cola, GEICO, Audi, Pepsi and Gillette; we've also seen new entrants like McDonalds, Dollar Shave Club, Samsung and Old Spice.
The brands come from across the usual spectrum - Auto, QSR, Beverage, Entertainment, CPG - however on Friday, eSports broke an entirely new category.
Although the sponsorship is with Events DC, it's essentially with Washington DC. While Vegas has seen many eSports events, tournaments and gambling legislation; Events DC wants to make the city an eSports destination as well.
Why would a city sponsor an eSports team?
Here are the reasons that Events DC mentioned with my added translation:
- eSports Tourism: More tourists obviously equal more revenue
- Industry Infrastructure: More jobs and more events
- eSports Relevance: eSports is the hot new industry, platform and opportunity. Aligning with eSports changes DC's brand from just a political city to becoming a tech city and becoming "cool" - same reason brands invest as well.
While I think this is fantastic for the industry, I wanted to know a bit more about the partnership.
So I went straight to the source.
Andy Miller, co-founder of NRG eSports, gave me some further insight.
TNL: Andy, congrats on the deal and thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Over 50 brands invested in eSports in 2016. We’ve already seen 25 so far this year. However, this type of partnership with Events DC has never been done before. How did this happen?
AM: We met the Events DC folks at the White House when our Rocket League team was invited to play at the first eSports event ever held there. One of our investors, Justin Siegel, has a relationship with the DC team and we all sat down and started brainstorming on what a relationship might look like for 2017.
TNL: That's amazing. How will Events DC and NRG eSports work together to drive this sponsorship outside of the usual jersey logo?
AM: We are working through our plans now, but the idea is to use the NRG platform to introduce eSports fans to our nation's capital from a millennial perspective. DC has so much to offer and is an exciting place to live these days. NRG will bootcamp in DC as well as do events and local activations.
TNL: Vegas has seen many eSports events, tournaments, and casinos getting involved. eSports team Rogue is based there as well. Why do you think DC was the first city to work directly with an eSports team?
AM: The Events DC crew is a very forward-thinking group. They see the power of eSports and the mass engaged audience that is attached to it. They want DC to be viewed as progressive, tech savvy and a fun place to live and play. There has not been any major eSports events in DC and they want this to change. Sponsoring NRG is an authentic way to learn and become a part of the esports community.
TNL: You’re co-owner of the Kings which is based in Sacramento. NRG also has a house in LA. Any chance of DC NRG?
AM: We have a CSGO house in LA, but we have players all over. Our executive office is technically in NYC. No plans to be the DC NRG at this time.
TNL: During our podcast, we talked about how your new Golden1 Center was technically designed to be a world class leader to host eSports events. Vegas recently opened a 200 seat dedicated eSports arena. DC is going much bigger – a $65M 4,200 seat arena. Are these new, dedicated smaller arenas a new trend?
AM: Yes. Makes sense. You need big arenas for championships, but eSports is 24/7 and fans want to watch their favorite players and teams where they live which means more frequent, but smaller events.
TNL: So which city do you think will follow DC next?
AM: We will see a bunch of announcements with Blizzard's Overwatch League I imagine. Should be some exciting news there in the next few months.
TNL: Thanks for your time Andy.
ICYMI, here's the previous podcast with Andy Miller.