You might recognize Dylan Liu from his pirate-talking pitch days. Dylan first noticed the glaring inefficiencies of esports marketplaces at his post-graduation job at Sparkypants Studios, where he tested collegiate teams and brand sponsorships.
Despite the fact that esports had already gripped the attention of nearly half a billion young adults around the world, the logistics around sponsoring esports events was complicated and inefficient, resulting in boring, cookie-cutter ad campaigns.
Aiming to slash the grunt work for brands, Liu launched Uconnect Esports, which automates esports sponsorship coordination. Esports teams get their events funded; brands get more time to dream up highly engaging activations.
Adaptability of the market has paid off
While in the Sputnik program, Uconnect grew on average about 20% week over week on both sides of the esports organization / brand sponsorship marketplace. Then came COVID-19.
At first, before anybody knew the pandemic would stretch through all of 2020, the team considered laying low to focus on product. But on second thought, they hypothesized that their community, which was already active on Discord, may be interested in taking events to the web. So they decided to make the bet.
“The pivot was relatively easy because our platform and the market were adaptable to change,” Liu said.
Now they’re better for it. Uconnect’s Summer production, Collegiate Rising Summit in partnership with Twitch Student, for example, was the #1 most viewed broadcast on Twitch in the Special Events category.
The platform was also able to catch the eye of several exciting new brand opportunities (under wraps for now) for 2021.
“A whole new ecosystem came out of COVID with lots of new collegiate collaborations,” Liu said, “and COVID actually increased our offerings and capabilities.”
Last week, Uconnect Esports announced their new partnership with Cloud9, the biggest esports organization in the world. Together, they will launch C9 University, a year-end program that will partner with universities and launch an event series for collegiate esports organizations.
After the pandemic, esports has the last laugh
By 2023, Newzoo predicts there will be 295 million eSports enthusiasts and 351 million making the total audience 646 million.
And Liu believes that the recent increase in online events is an expansion of the market, not a replacement.
“The potential is high, and once the pandemic is over, you’re going to see a lot of activity, “Liu said, “because people are itching to return to in-person events.”