Adam Fitch: New-look Immortals are ones to watch - Dexerto
Opinion

Adam Fitch: New-look Immortals are ones to watch

Published: 6/Aug/2021 15:31

by Adam Fitch

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Immortals arrived on the scene in 2015, but despite high profile acquisitions in LCS and CDL, they have been left behind by bigger and more creative brands. Now, thanks to a couple of key senior hires, parent company Immortals Gaming Club appear ready to breathe new life into the North American esports organization.

Immortals Gaming Club looked set to make their breakthrough in 2019 when they acquired OpTic Gaming’s parent company Infinite Esports, and with it a place in the LCS and the Call of Duty League.

You’d have thought acquiring one of the most supported organizations in OpTic Gaming, as well as their Houston Outlaws franchise in Overwatch League and a slot in the LCS, would bode well for Immortals Gaming Club. Instead, it took even more attention away from their Immortals property and the acquisition failed on a logistical level. They may well have made a profit when eventually offloading those franchises, but that’s beside the point.

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Immortals has become a pretty stale team brand over the years. They’re not among the most popular teams in the LCS, nor are their social media profiles rife with engagement from fans. Having followed the organization’s recent moves closely, it seems that things are about to change, and it may result in the growth of their fanbase and social media platforms.

Immortals LCS 2020
Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
Immortals have been underwhelming in the LCS to date, failing to place better than 7th in the regular season since they returned in the 2020 Spring Split.

In May 2021, I broke the story that Immortals Gaming Club had hired a new president to head up their efforts in revising the strategy behind the Immortals brand. Jordan Sherman, the former chief revenue officer for Gen.G, was brought in to assume responsibility for the team’s emergence and subsequent rise to prominence.

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While he may not have had experience in running an esports organization before his time at Immortals, his experiences at Major League Baseball and LA Clippers have given him valuable knowledge when it comes to bringing revenue to sports properties and aligning with like-minded companies. His relative inexperience in overall brand strategy could end up being positive — he has no reason to attempt to recreate something he’s done in the past, providing the possibility for a fresh outlook on what an esports organization can look like. That’s if the big bosses at the parent company afford him such freedom and trust, of course.

Another new hire at Immortals comes in the form of a Vice President of Partnerships. Brett McGrew was brought in to fill the gig, utilizing his experience with the LA Clippers and LA Dodgers. If Immortals can bring in more revenue through sponsorships — the number one revenue stream for the majority of orgs in esports — then that could well persuade the parent company to place more importance and allocate more funds to the brand. This, in turn, allows for the signing of better players and creators and additional means of engaging with fans.

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There’s a lot of bias against folks from sports coming into esports, and some of that is warranted. If they believe they can enter the industry and just copy and paste work they’ve done prior, they’re in for a rude awakening. Esports does not need to be put in a box, it’s a young industry that’s largely digital in nature and there’s no reason it has to be a like-for-like replica of an analog industry.

A quote from McGrew in an interview with SBJ is promising in this respect, suggesting that he’s not in the business of limiting what’s possible in esports just because of comparisons to more established sports: “There’s no excuse here to say ‘this is how we’ve always done it,’ because we’ve never done it. You can’t really say that.”

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Immortals LCS 2020
Paul de Leon/Riot Games
Better positioning in the LCS could prove incredibly worthwhile for Immortals.

The recent sale of two esports properties paints a stark picture of how important owning assets is. FC Schalke 04 sold their LEC slot for $31.5m around the same time as legacy esports org Complexity Gaming was acquired in their entirety for $27m.

Invest early and intelligently in franchise slots, and the evidence is suggesting that this can be a financially fruitful endeavor. If Immortals in the LCS start succeeding and truly building a loyal fanbase in the hundreds of thousands, IGC stands to profit by an eye-watering amount should they sell up in the future.

It’s no longer enough to simply compete in esports as an organization, you need to create a robust media company that also has a competitive arm. Brands won’t gain fans and maximize revenue by winning tournaments alone — they need to engage with supporters by creating content and this is the path to monetizing the brand through merchandise, NFTs and more.

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If Immortals’ new signing of Wild Rift content creator and pro player SeongHun ‘Hoon’ Jang is anything to go by, it seems as if Sherman knows that media is a massive proponent for the future of our industry. “We want to invest in areas of growth to invite more fans to become part of our community,” he said upon announcing the signing. It seems like he has his eyes on the prize. Esports fans and professionals alike, keep your eyes on Immortals.