"There will always be brands that can’t align themselves with a shooting game."
In the interview, Jakob Lund Kristensen, founder of RFRSH Entertainment, talks about the commitment of non-endemic brands, the Danish recipe for success and future plans.
The Danish Super Team of Astralis has again won the ESL Pro League Finals. With nearly 2 million social media followers and over 60 million impressions per month, Astralis is one of the world's largest team brands within the tactical shooter Counter-Strike (CS: GO). RFRSH Entertainment represents and manages the strategic and commercial activities of Astralis. RFRSH Entertainment also owns and operates the BLAST Pro Series, including all media production around the teams and brands.
Denmark has produced some of the world's most talented eSports players in CS:GO. Why is that?
Kristensen: First and foremost I think it is worth mentioning that CounterStrike is far from the only game where Danish players are dominating. We have amazing players in many other games including League of Legends and DotA 2. I think Denmark has been very lucky to have a strong internet infrastructure and grassroots opportunities around esports from early on. In Counter-Strike specifically there has always been amazing talent in Denmark but we are now also at the forefront of adding that extra layer on top of just the talent. With the work currently being done with Astralis I think we will set a blueprint that will allow Danish players to continue their dominance in the coming years.
The german eSports is growing, but compared with Denmark, Germany is rather behind. How do you rate this?
Kristensen: I think its mainly a question about disruption. We have always had great players in Denmark across the titles but no one ever really broke through to the mainstream before Astralis. With the willingness of such noted investors and entrepreneurs as Tommy Ahlers, Rene Rechtman and Nikolaj Nyholm to be backing the project in a very public manner, they set a whole new tone around esports. The willingness to invest into an organisation that wasn’t purely based on esports people but brought together the best people from professional sports, media, entertainment and the commercial world. This created a movement that has since been picked up by everyone from politicians to media outlets and the mainstream audience.
You said that there are a lot of enterprises, wasting there money in eSports. Which advise do have for the first engagement in eSport?
Kristensen: I think the main thing people need to ask themselves is what value does their engagement in esport bring. If you can identity this crucial part, it is quite easy to align the rest of your communication around it. Let me give you a very good example of how do this right. Jack & Jones has a partnership currently still running with Astralis. Jack&Jones really wanted to bring what they do best, clothing, to a new level in esports and they created the first every esports jersey truly build from the ground up with the players. This showed their passion and seriousness towards not only esports but also their own product. That jersey is now the most sold sports jersey of any team in Denmark.
RFRSH Entertainment has put the Team Astralis into a partnership with Audi, Jack&Jones and so on - how difficult is it to convince non-endemics of a game like Counter-Strike?
Kristensen: There will always be brands that can’t align themselves with a shooting game. That is just the reality of it. I think the reason Astralis has been so successful with mainstream partners despite this is because the brand itself is so clearly defined and tangible. Most other esports organisations have so many teams, players and games going on that its impossible for a non-endemic partner to fully understand exactly what they are and who they are talking to. With Astralis its perfectly clear. These five guys have a set core of values including performance, professionalism and dedication to their craft that many brands can work with and stand behind.
What ist the big problem of eSport-Events? Can the Blast pro Series solve them?
Kristensen: In my eyes the big problem with the current type of CounterStrike events out there is that it made by really core people for really core fans. The system simply doesn’t allow for an outside viewer to really engage with it or understand what is going on. A good example of this would be the play off format for most events where you have to spend 10 hours in the arena both friday and Saturday and even 5-6 hours on top of that Sunday. No one outside the most hardcore fans can do that. I am in no way saying that the BLAST Pro Series is the shiny golden solution to all problems. It is simply made with a different goal in mind compared to many other events. The best possible one day experience in the arena, the opportunity for outside and non-core fans to engage and the best possible product for linear TV. If you look at your results so far, we have succeeded.
What are the next plans for RFRSH? Which are the next big goals?
Kristensen: We will be bringing out the big global tour of the BLAST Pro Series in 2019 with 8 stops around the world. Furthermore we recently expanded our RFRSH Teams business with a slot in the LEC (League of Legends European Championship) under the Origen brand. So we have our plate full and it should be an amazing 2019.
Why should people dive into the eSPORT.BUSINESS.FORUM? What may our guests expect from you?
Kristensen: Even though I am an industry veteran I bring a very different perspective on a lot of things. We at RFRSH Entertainment work with the mentality of everything can be challenged and done better. We strive to push the boundaries of what esports can become. I am really looking forward to explaining more about our work with both the BLAST Pro Series and with Astralis both from an operational viewpoint but also commercial.