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9 things to say at an eSports conference

Updated: Feb 7

Nothing is more important than pretending to care about eSports.

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This is particularly true in the agency sector, which has not felt this out of step with the zeitgeist since it pretended to know something about skateboarding in the early 2000s.

Language is critical here. Discussing eSports is like talking Spanish: you might be able to ask a question but you won’t understand the answer.

A phrasebook is therefore essential. Somewhere to keep a compendium of killer phrases and seemingly throwaway lines that can fit any eOccasion.

1 “This is a gold rush and I'm selling shovels.”

The perfect catch-all intro, suggesting insider knowledge with a dash of genuine entrepreneurial flair. Being known as commercially savvy is a good way of winning the trust of a YouTuber. Never forget: Millennials™ are suckers for a chancer promising to get them on the property ladder. 

(For the record: Google, Microsoft and Sony are the ones actually selling the shovels, the rest of us are up to our knees in shit, looking for something sparkly).

2 “But is sport the right model?”

Sports marketers are a bit like hairdressers. You can ask them for groundbreaking, ambitious work but you’ll end up with a version of what the previous bloke had. In the eSports analogy, the gamers get chucked down a long dark tunnel called the rights market, which processes the raw material until it appears at the other end shaped to appeal to a fortysomething CMO. There are variations on this theme, but if in doubt go with the ‘Champions League model’.

There is a more radical approach available. During any conversation about IP rights, wait for the lawyer talking to pause and then say, ‘But maybe it’s closer to the shape of the music market?’ This makes you sound both cool and an out of the box thinker unafraid to disrupt the system if it means getting the job done.

3 “The numbers are off the scale.”

If you find yourself in trouble, go to the data. When doing a presentation, put a picture of a huge crowd entering a real football stadium, overlayed with the words ‘2015 eSports Festival, Gdansk’.

4 “To people under 25, Fifa is a game, not a governing body.”

A popular phrase designed to build a bridge between what we might call the ‘real’ sports business and the whiny children of eSports. It’s not actually true, as even the thickest teenager can maintain these two apparently contradictory positions in his tiny head at the same time. 

5 “If you thought ‘proper sport’ has got integrity issues…”

A bit of vinegar to counter the runaway optimism that dominates every conversation about ‘the future’. Integrity is a good word that positions the sports business hack as a world-weary consigliere, essential for the legal battles ahead. This reminds the eZealots that bad headlines await involving zero-hours team owners, underage drinking, drugs and systematic cheating.

6 “We’re at the end of the beginning.”

Churchillian statesmanship can be an asset, particularly if the audience of digital natives knows who he is. The negative headlines (see 5, above) can be used as evidence that the eSports sector is ‘growing up’ (see also Paralympian drug scandals).

7 “eSports are the new normal.”

Try to avoid patronising labels, even if you’re heart’s not in it. Millennials™ are very quick to pick up on any attempt to marginalise eSports as being a short-term fad driven by bored bedroom-dwelling geeks. So only talk about this stuff when they’re not in the room.

8 “These guys are rockstars.”

A quaint phrase used to paint a picture for the 40 something marketing director. But always keep this type of conversation in the abstract and never, under any circumstances take a gamer to the office. Far better to say, “My client is a YouTube influencer with over 300 million subscribers – it’s like Beatlemania out there,” than it is to introduce them to a 15-year-old Latvian boy who hasn’t been outside in three years. The magic tends to dissipate.

9 “There’s going to be a lot of casualties.”

Fear is your friend. Nobody knows anything and someone is about to make a multi-million dollar mistake, so remember, if you can’t see the mug, it’s probably you. Other clichés are available on request.

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