The ABC’s of eSports Eduselling: Part II
The focus of eduselling (education + selling) for eSports sponsorship is to bridge the gap between eSports properties (teams, organizations, players, etc.) and the average non-endemic sponsor. This demands an understanding of customer service. While the term is typically associated with consumer-facing businesses, e.g. food service, it is equally important in the eSports sponsorship sales process; where a customer is defined as any prospective sponsor. Likewise, customer service encompasses the experience had by a potential sponsor during the sales cycle. Steps 3, 4, and 5 (see figure 1) compose the heart of this experience; so will be explored in detail.
Figure 1 – Courtesy of Sport Promotion and Sales Management by Richard L. Irwin, William Anthony Sutton, Larry M. McCarthy
Step 3: Mapping the journey
It can be argued that sponsorships are, essentially, marketing partnerships, implicating a high degree of interaction and long-term focus. In turn, eSports sponsorships should be classed accordingly. As with any other relationship, a partnership starts with dialogue. Following initial contact between sponsor and sponsorship seller, the immediate goal is to validate the former’s marketing goals and objectives, which are then used to set a journey map for the prospect. The journey map is a visualization of the sponsor’s partnership experience, and consists of the following five phases:
- Create an initial map – Involves taking data about key people involved in the sales cycle, from the first two steps of the eduselling process. The map should take into account the individual composition of a specific customer.
- Evaluate and prioritize – Entails looking past surface appearances towards understanding attitudes and emotions. For example, how enthusiastic and/or knowledgeable the sponsor is about competitive gaming. The key is noting whether they seem confused, intrigued, impressed or otherwise.
- Add detail – Discover true customer needs and motivations by detailing the people/parties involved. This involves a certain degree of honesty on the part of the sponsorship seller, who must look past internalized biases and blind spots about the nature of eSports.
- Frame the opportunity – Customer needs must be clearly framed as an issue or opportunity. Doing so starts with an evaluation of how well they are currently being met. Questions to ask, include: How critical is the business issue to the prospective sponsor? Is the eSports sponsorship seller equipped to create a solution that meets the outstanding need(s)?
- Define a destination – All journeys start with a vision. Specifically, an outline of a clear goal for the marketing partnership, which will differ for each prospect. Since all partnerships are an iterative process there is always the option to reset or re-envision along the way.
Step 4: A taste of electronic sport
Allowing non-endemic sponsors to sample the eSports experience is a must, given the typical knowledge gap that exists. Regardless if the sponsorship seller is a team, organization, digital platform, or otherwise, this phase is at the heart of the eduselling process. Since electronics sports depend heavily on the digital domain, as opposed to physical locations, it’s important to ensure memorable sampling experiences. This could take shape as interactive, virtual experiences or in-person VIP-type events with exclusive access to the eSport property.
The experiential exposure to the eSport product is an inflection point for the sponsorship decision-making process. Unless the sponsor has had prior acquaintance with eSports, this will be the first chance to create a reference point in the decision maker’s mind. The following are key elements of a successful product sampling campaign:
- Relay the emotion of the product – eSports is driven by the palpable passion and enthusiasm of its community. The sampling must relay as much, in addition to the inspiration behind the product itself.
- LISTEN and gather information – Every step of the eduselling process is a chance to better understand the needs of the prospective sponsor. Encouraging dialogue is critical.
- Establish an internal champion – The majority of the sponsorship decision-making process happens behind closed doors. An internal champion is someone who has voice within the customer and can advocate in the absence of the sponsorship seller.
Step 5: Perfecting the follow-through
After a potential sponsor has been granted a sample of the available product, it’s important to set the stage for an offer. Whether the product being positioned for sponsorship is logo space on jerseys, digital ad space, or title rights, the point here is to define the exact sponsorship program. This step is commonly referred to as the main presentation. While other forms of presentation might precede it, this one will build on the sampling opportunity and reinforce the education delivered in prior steps. Not to be confused with a sponsorship pitch deck, the presentation is custom to the individual opportunity. As such, it should: contain specific references to the sponsor, address sponsor business issues/motivations, and follow a theme that aligns with prior dialogue.
Alex Fletcher is the founder and president of Entiva Group (http://www.entivagroup.net), a consulting agency which offers strategic consulting to help navigate through the eSports market.