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Adam Fitch: New fan engagement schemes are promising but not light tasks

Published: 20/Nov/2020 17:26 Updated: 6/Jan/2021 11:57

by Adam Fitch

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Esports organizations are finally exploring ways to create deeper, more meaningful connections with their fans, but are they prepared for what a huge undertaking this can be?

While teams are amassing millions of followers across social media platforms, with fanatical supporters even getting tattoos of their logos, it’s easy to be mistaken in thinking that they’re the stars of the show that is esports. However, players and personalities are the real stars.

This is demonstrated frequently when esports athletes change teams and their dedicated fan base follow suit, now switching their team colors and overall allegiance. It’s not brands that are pulling off incredible plays on the server, nor brands signing autographs and taking selfies at events; again, it’s the players. They command most of the audience and, in a majority of cases, the diehard support of thousands.

In traditional sports, you may find your lifelong team depending on where you’re born or the colors that are placed on you by your family. Manchester United, Dallas Cowboys, Gloucester Rugby — the list goes on, and across numerous sports as just demonstrated. This is different in most cases when it comes to esports.

Team Liquid+ Beta
Team Liquid
Team Liquid announced the beta for their fan engagement initiative in August 2020.

What are organizations doing to combat this trend, or at least attempt to build up a bigger fan base that is in it for the long haul no matter the result or roster? In the last few months, they’ve turned to fan membership schemes.

These programs typically take the form of subscription-based perks, in which fans can buy into a program that awards them with increased engagement, insight into behind-the-scenes happenings, and perhaps even helping to influence upcoming decisions.

Of course, there are perhaps other reasons for these programs to be popping up. The global health situation has cancelled almost every in-person event or at least forced an online substitution to take place since March 2020. Revenue may be down for many, if not all, organizations that don’t have other streams in place to work around the lack of merchandise sales and fan initiatives.

Regardless, experimenting with new revenue streams is important in an industry that’s notoriously difficult to make a profit in — at least on the team brand front — can’t hurt, right?

Subscription services

Kicking off with what is starting to become a trend, one of the most popular organizations in the space, Team Liquid, launched the beta for Liquid+ on August 11. The initiative provides an environment where “regular fan interactions earn opportunities for elite rewards, fan experiences, and access to players.”

North America organization Envy were next, announcing EnvyUS on November 9 with premium memberships costing $29.95 per year. Fellow North American org Cloud9 followed Envy just a day later, announcing Stratus. Starting on January 1, and costing $500 per year, they are taking a similar approach to their predecessors — providing an “exclusive annual membership experience” for “superfans.”

Cloud9 Stratus
Cloud9
Cloud9 are offering the most expensive subscription service to date.

The eye-watering disparity in price between EnvyUS and Cloud9 Stratus is somewhat off-set by the welcome package that the latter offers. It includes a mouse pad, custom keycaps, a keychain, and limited edition t-shirts & jersey. This may not make up for the $500 price tag, but C9 will likely offer more ‘free’ physical items throughout the course of the subscription.

Now, this has been done before. SK Gaming had their own subscription service, SK Insider, over a year ago; accounting for 50% of the organization’s revenue at one point according to their co-founder. This may sound promising for the more recent initiatives but revenue was much harder to come by back then, especially in scale, so it’d be irrational to think that level of contribution to an org’s income is likely in 2020 and beyond.

It is indeed encouraging to see such initiatives from major organizations though, and if they prove to be a success in the future then no doubt this type of offering will become commonplace in the industry.

Third-party platforms

There are third-party attempts to increase and deepen engagement already in play, too. Socios.com have partnered with the likes of OG, Team Heretics, and Natus Vincere to encourage participation from fans. They offer ‘fan tokens,’ which are effectively platform-exclusive currency that supporters buy with their own money and then use to engage in fan polls and other methods of garnering engagement.

Alliance Partnership with Socios
Alliance/Socios
Former TI champions Alliance are the latest to join Socios.com.

While it’s hard to say whether Socios.com are proving to be successful for teams on an engagement front, the involvement of longstanding and prominent orgs add a bit of credence to the concept.

Fnatic’s sneaky attempt

On November 11, around the time of Cloud9 and Envy’s announcements, London-based Fnatic revealed that they were to launch a crowdfunding attempt. Aimed at giving small pieces of the business to fans, they were hoping to reach a total of £1m in exchange.

The announcement coincided with the news that they had just raised an additional $10m, taking their investment to a total of around $35m to date, and proving that they weren’t simply turning to fans in a moment of desperation.

I see this as similar in motive to what the aforementioned organizations are doing. With a small sub-section of fans eventually owning a piece of the pie, they’re essentially buying into the future success of the team and are financially incentivized to support them for the foreseeable future.

hylissang inks new one year contract fnatic rekkles question marks remain
Riot Games
Fnatic have raised over their £1m target, reaching $1.2m on November 20.

If the goal of all of these efforts is to make fans stick around longer and be more emotionally (and financially, in some cases) invested, then Fnatic’s approach may be different but it has the same motive. You’re securing long-term fans that want to see you grow and succeed more than ever before.

Engagement isn’t easy

Now, keeping fans engaged with membership programs isn’t a light undertaking. Liquid, C9, and Envy are offering access to exclusive content that’s not available to the public — personnel is needed to make that happen. They also need to speak with their ‘superfans’ more often, and personnel is needed for that also. Hosting events, whether online and offline, requires plenty of hands in most cases too.

These teams can’t afford to now only focus on their paying fans, they need to keep their wider fan base happy with content, merchandise, experiences, and engagement that they’ve grown accustomed to. It’d also be advisable for them to try and obtain new fans also, and that’s not going to come easy.

These initiatives could well be a new, necessary stream of income for even the biggest of organizations, but it won’t be easy. This is just the start of things to come but I hope everything promised is fulfilled and such programs become a mainstay in the industry.

Entertainment

How does Addison Rae make money? TikTok star’s revenue streams explained

Published: 24/Feb/2021 16:04 Updated: 24/Feb/2021 16:27

by Adam Fitch

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When you think of the select few who are at the forefront of the current wave of influencers-turned-entertainment-giants, Addison Rae Easterling comes to mind. The TikTok star has blown up, especially over the past year, and she’s poised to make millions of dollars because of it.

The 20-year-old is traditionally a dancer, competing in the sport across the United States since the age of six. After blowing up on TikTok from, unsurprisingly, dancing, in late 2019, she’s amassed millions of followers across all major social media platforms.

The typical method of monetization for influencers comes in the form of sponsored posts and brand deals, and that certainly was the case for Addison early on. Though, after signing with talent agency WME in January 2020, she has her sights set on devising major revenue streams across multiple mediums.

From pretty standard ways of making money like advertisements on YouTube to launching her own beauty line, Addison is proof that social networks such as TikTok can serve as launchpads for a career that’s much bigger than any single platform. As she continues to expand her footprint and command higher paydays, it’s worthwhile looking at how she’s building an empire that may well set her up for life.

How Addison Rae makes money

Content

Addison Rae Mama Knows Best Podcast
Spotify
Spotify are hoping to bring more teenages to their platform with Addison Rae’s podcast.

Addison Rae is a major force in the world of content creation, it’s even been reported that she was the highest-earning TikToker in 2019. The majority of her income, which was said to be $5m that year, was from posting sponsored posts for the likes of Rebook and Fashion Nova.

When going live on TikTok, viewers can donate in the form of gifting. Addison Rae, once living in the Hype House — a collective of content creators in Los Angeles — has gone live with her friends to give further insight into her lifestyle, an enviable one for her many young fans. So, from TikTok alone, she’s made plenty from gifting and branded content deals.

Then, as you’d perhaps expect, there’s YouTube. The Google-owned video platform isn’t Addison’s main platform but she’s proven that she is a hit on there whenever she chooses to post. With 4.64m subscribers at the time of writing after posting only 16 videos, she makes money from adverts on her content and sponsorships from brands.

It’s clear that sponsored content is a big driver of revenue for the dancer, and that translates over to Instagram too. Companies such as American Eagle, Disney, and Daniel Wellington have all paid healthy sums to have a presence on her ever-popular feed.

Moving away from video content, Addison Rae signed a podcast deal with Spotify in July 2020. Published weekly, Mama Knows Best is an original audio product from the TikTok star and her mother, Sheri Nicole. The show is produced by Spotify-owned Parcast. There’s no word on how much she’s being paid for this endeavour but if it’s even a fraction of the deal Joe Rogan closed then she’s receiving handsome cheques for her weekly show.

Other ventures

Addison Rae Merchandise
Fanjoy
The internet celebrity’s merchandise range features lines based on popular phrases she coined through TikTok.

A fairly typical avenue for content creators to go down when they amass popularity is merchandise, and that’s no different with Addison Rae. She launched her own self-named merchandise store, in collaboration with Fanjoy, on May 1, 2020. Products available for purchase include clothes, phone cases, notebooks, and mugs.

An extension of her popular Instagram is a blossoming modelling career, one that was kickstarted by posing for Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS brand. She found herself blown up on a billboard in New York City in some of Kardashian’s line and has since publicly spoken about how much she enjoyed the experience. As she continues to grow in popularity, she’ll be tapped to be a face of major brands.

Getting further into the world of business, Addison Rae launched a joint venture with Madeby Collective in August 2020. ITEM Beauty is a makeup line that is said to be cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. It launched with just a handful of products but that’s to be expected; you wouldn’t want to invest too much into a new business initiative just to find out it wasn’t in-demand. More products have been launched since, perhaps indicating that it was received well by her audience.

Addison Rae ITEM Beauty
ITEM
Addison Rae’s beauty line ITEM launched with a limited range but has since expanded.

Film & music

In September 2020, Addison took a major step into the world of traditional entertainment when it was announced that she had been cast in a movie. ‘He’s All That’ is a remake of the 1999 comedy ‘She’s All That’ and she’s occupying the main role. At the time of writing, she’s busy at work filming her Hollywood debut.

While not confirmed, it appears as if she has other ventures in the works too. As expected based on her desires to pursue many facets of the entertainment industry, there are rumors that she’ll soon be launching a music career, including a Nicki Minaj collab, and that she has a reality television show in the works. One thing is for certain though, and that is she has no interest in being pigeonholed — there’s no doubt she’ll make a killing financially along the way, too.