Jersey Gate 2011

BY Andrew Miesner / September 2, 2011

Jersey Gate 2011

by Jason Bass

Before I get started I think a little introduction is due. I am Jason Bass and I am Co-Owner of complexity gaming with Jason Lake. I typically stay behind the scenes and deal with our sponsors and finances as well as players from time to time.

It is very rare that I write an article anymore. I used to write quite frequently when I was with GotFrag many years ago but in the past 5 years, I really have not done a lot of writing. When you are in a position like mine there is a risk of sharing your opinion publicly. You risk the relationships you have in the industry and you risk upsetting the people that you are talking about. So it is very rare that I share my opinion publicly but I feel like this is such an important issue that it is necessary for me to voice my opinion on the topic. I woke up very early this morning with this whole MLG Jersey issue on my mind. As of last night it appears to be a non-issue for at least the rest of the 2011 season but it seems pretty clear that MLG does have the intention of making this a point in 2012. Now, we could debate whether or not this was a mistake that was not supposed to be sent out or if it was a decision that was made and MLG didn’t like the feedback they got so they have backed off, but honestly that really is not important to what I plan to cover today.

The real important thing is why does MLG feel the need to hide the sponsors of the team?

The easy answer is some of the MLG League sponsors are complaining about seeing competitive brands. Most of the MLG sponsors have been around the sponsorship block and know how this works in sports and almost everywhere else for that matter. How many times do you watch an NFL game and see that this game is brought to you by Pepsi and then they go to commercial and you see Coca Cola ads? It happens all the time. It is the nature of the beast. The reason it happens all of the time is because there are several entities that need to cover their costs. In the NFL example, you would have the team looking for sponsors, NFL selling game sponsors and then the network selling TV ads to cover their costs. These sales efforts will rarely line up without running competing brands. Obviously, I am simplifying the NFL process but hopefully you get the point. The sooner companies realize this, the better off we all are.


MLG’s New Regulation Jersey

It is my opinion that the most important thing that MLG and their sponsors need to realize is that there is a symbiotic relationship that goes on between the teams and the league. In other words, we need each other. If my team does not have a league to play in then I have no fans. On the flip side, if the major teams did not send their stars to MLG then their viewership would drop off significantly because you would have lost all of the big player names and the fans would lose interest. No one wins if this were to happen. It is bad for eSports in general and I hope that something like this never does happen.

MLG and their sponsors also need to start to respect and understand how teams make their money. We make our money in very similar ways to the league. We have companies that believe in what we do and they make sending the players to the events possible. Any league that forgets that and simply says we are going to remove the biggest viewership opportunity your brand and your sponsors brands have (wearing our jerseys on the main stage), is threatening every teams ability to provide value to their sponsors. This in turn threatens our entire business model and very existence. In the MLG email, it stated to please keep in mind this is ONLY for the stage, everywhere else in the venue is fine to wear our jersey. The problem with this, and MLG knows this, is if every single person that walks in and out of the venue over the course of a weekend sees our jersey then, if we are lucky, 20,000 people will see it. One time on the stage and 150,000 people and growing will see it on the stream. The stage is the biggest value proposition for teams to send their players to MLG. So, I would hope that MLG would keep that in mind.

The next question is what do the sponsors of MLG really lose by sharing a fraction of the screen time with competing brands?

DRG on stage. Courtesy of zemotion

In my opinion they lose nothing. If MLG is doing the stream right, their sponsors will be on the overlays, bumpers, scoreboards and advertisements. The MLG sponsors will, and should, get the vast majority of the branding time on the streams. Sharing that time with some jerseys should not, in any way, threaten them or the investment they are making in MLG. MLG has been producing increasing numbers event after event. The value their partners are getting is growing each event, but so is the value that the teams’ partners get. This is important for the teams and we cannot simply say “ok we will accept a microscopic partner brand on the lower half of the back of our jersey.” That cannot work and will not work for the teams that pay for the stars to come to these events.

If any league destroys the team business model, it threatens everything that is being built here. Sure there will be some players that can go out on their own and obtain the support they need to attend events, but that field of stars will vastly diminish. Businesses should always strive to stick with their core competency (ie. what it is they are best at). For a league, it should be running the league and the broadcast. A player should be able to focus on playing, and a team will focus on taking care of their partners so that the players can focus on playing and the league can focus on making the event happen and not having to worry about whether the 20 best players in the world are going to show up. When companies try to be everything to everyone they end up doing nothing well. They have to focus on what they are best at and in turn be the best at that. Having to divert your attention in too many directions is a recipe for failure. This makes our world go around. We need each other and should be working together and not against each other.

I have always respected the way Sundance and MLG have organically grown and have always listened to the community to make their event better. Doing this is far superior to simply throwing money at something and saying my way or the highway. Over the years, many leagues have taken this approach and none of those leagues are still around today. The CPL and CGS are classic eSports examples of what happens when you don’t listen to the community you are trying to capture. Each of them had significant flaws but this was the root cause of both of their demises. Once you lose the respect and adoration of the fans, the league will crumble and everything you have worked for will fall apart.

The point of this article is to hopefully open a constructive dialog amongst the community, the teams and MLG. Many times people run their business and don’t necessarily understand all of the ramifications a decision can make on others. It is my hope that this article can set the stage and illustrate those ramifications. MLG is not an evil empire and I believe that they have the fans’ and players’ best interests at heart as we all do and I am hopeful that we can all come together and have a productive conversation and find a resolution that makes everyone happy.