Professional sports can’t exist without feeder leagues. The NFL has college, MLB has the minors, and so on. Each of these minor leagues rely on several levels of youth sports to nurture and mature young athletes. It wasn’t always this way, but as these sports matured, so did their system of acquiring athletes.
Esports are maturing, too. Teams have developed rigorous training schedules, carefully designed eating plans, and some even have professionally dedicated training facilities.
One of these is Team Liquid’s 9,000-square foot Alienware Training Facility. The building includes “scrim rooms” for both the Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and League of Legends teams that are designed to replicate tournament conditions, feature several open offices, a kitchen and cafeteria, and, of course, a server room.
Photo Credit: Gaming Trend
“You have a kitchen, a very well-designed nutrition plan for these guys,” Frank Azor, cofounder of Alienware, said in an interview with GamesBeat. “They work out every morning at 9 a.m. The separation of work versus their living environment has been a huge shift in mindset for them as well, a very good work-life balance tactic for them. I’d like to take full credit, but their performance in games since we built that training facility has been the best it’s ever been. They won the Miami League of Legends championship. They’ve come in second in basically every other major championship they’ve competed in.”
It also seems like the collaborative relationship with Team Liquid spurred a bit of an esports sponsorship epiphany. Alienware has been involved with esports for a decade and has seen the evolution and maturation of the sport first hand.
“We’ve been sponsoring esports teams and events for 10 years now,” said Azor. “We spent a lot of time brainstorming with Team Liquid around how we can add more value to what we bring to them, and also what they can bring to our customers. That’s where you saw the Team Liquid Alienware training facility emerge. The goal there was, can we build a professional training facility similar to what basketball and baseball athletes have?
“From an athletics perspective, building that training facility and partnering with them in that way, the dividends that it’s paid to them, it’s been phenomenal. That’s exactly what we wanted to do. But on the gamer side, we wanted to do some things that are unique as well to add value. Putting stickers and logos and stuff on jerseys, that’s been done for a decade now. What could we do that could help gamers benefit from our partnership with Liquid?”
Photo Credit: Corporate Best Buy Blog
The answer was the Alienware Academy. A partnership with Tobii and Team Liquid, the Alienware Academy is a virtual classroom available to any player interested in improving their game. The Academy is launching as a closed beta and plans to launch later in August 2018. Initially, it will focus exclusively on CS:GO, but there are plans to expand the curriculum to other popular competitive games.
The Academy’s first course, administered by Team Liquid, is 10 lessons in CS:GO that includes custom maps and objectives to test mechanical skills and strategies. The lessons are designed to help players, not just develop new skills, but commit those lessons to muscle memory.
A reviewer at Gaming Trend was given the opportunity to test drive one lesson: “I got to participate in one lesson where Team Liquid taught some basics around how to compensate for recoil while shooting and how many shots it takes to kill an opponent, both with and without armor. With the tutorial completed, I got to try my hand at my first Alienware Academy lesson, a custom, private practice arena housing an exercise which involved keeping my eyes on the center of the screen, then identifying and shooting the red target (and specifically not shooting the blue one) when it appeared. On easy mode, these figures appear at pretty much the same distance, with the only variable being their spawn location. The harder the difficulty, the more varied their spawn locations, which could include their spawning further back as well as appearing higher up and on top of obstacles.”
The Alienware Academy also makes use of the Tobii eye-tracking technology, which is integrated onto some notebooks including the Alienware 17 or can be purchased as a peripheral. The eye tracker records and analyze games to provide useful data that should help gamers improve. Again, from Gaming Trend:
“Upon completing the testing, I got to see my reaction times and, because I was using a Tobii eye tracker at the time, I was able to see not just how long it took my hand to react, but how long it took my eyes to move to the target. This is an added benefit for those who own a Tobii eye tracker, you not only get an additional set of stats, but you can actually record your games and upload them to the Academy. The Academy will provide software that will be able to analyze your eye movements throughout the game and provide valuable feedback, such as encouraging you to train yourself to check your health or the mini map more often.”
Photo Credit: Digital Trends
One metric that Alienware has wisely latched onto is the community that has built up around esports. By providing a resource like the Alienware Academy, it is delivering value to a community that appreciates it. One of the main reasons that people watch esports is to see what the pros do in hopes that it will improve play (a 2016 survey stated that 89 percent of respondents stated that they watch esports to get better at playing the game). This is exactly the sentiment that Alienware is tapping into.
“We went out and interviewed about 5,500 gamers across 11 countries. We wanted to create a new demographic mapping for folks — we published it publicly – around how the gamer has changed over time. There’s a lot of stigma around, oh, if you’re a video gamer, you’re a male in your teens or 20s. You live with your parents. All these stereotypes. Maybe at some point was true, but it’s changed and evolved so much,” said Azor.
“The demographic is very evenly distributed. If you look at the pie chart of the demographic of gamers, there is no predominant age group. We have almost everything evenly split from teenagers to 20s, 30s, 40s, 60s, 70s. The other thing that’s interesting is the pride people have in gaming. It used to be a bit embarrassing to say you were a gamer. I’ve been doing this a long time. That’s changed a lot now. People are proud to say they’re a gamer. They have a billion other gamers around them, surrounding them.”
Photo Credit: Gaming Trends
By helping to tap into that pride, Alienware is wisely shifting its sponsorship from “Putting stickers and logos and stuff on jerseys” to being deeply ingrained in the esports scene. By providing a service like Alienware Academy, the company is delivering value that few other entities can compete with (Team Vitality provides esports education at their new facility, but it is an in-person experience). It’s an inventive move that may signal the future of esports sponsorships.
“That’s where we came up with the Alienware Academy,” said Azor. “How do we leverage the experience and the skill set that these guys [Team Liquid] have, which is the best in the world, and help them pass some of that on to the aspiring esports athlete? We created Academy to do that.”
At eGency Global, we’ve been around the esports industry for more than a decade. Our experience can help your brand integrate deeply in the scene, so you are providing real value to esports fans – and getting real value in return. Give us a call at 972-323-6354 and discover how we can help you.