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SportsBusiness Journal Article on Esports Featuring Issa Sawabini, Partner at Fuse

Heather Hennessy

Esports’ next big mission: Win over sponsors 

June 1, 2018 

Sawabini

Issa Sawabini, quoted in the article excerpts below, has been a partner at Fuse overseeing all client services. During his tenure, he has developed over a hundred marketing strategies for a range of companies for legacy brands like Harley-Davidson to innovative brands such as Amazon Prime Student. Issa has been cited in numerous media from the Wall Street Journal to Vice and presented at over twenty marketing industry conferences. In 2009, Issa was named to Sports Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” which honors the most influential young executives in sports.

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Issa Sawabini, partner at the youth-focused brand consultancy Fuse, said prices need to come down.

“For more brands to get on board, there needs to be more entry-level pricing and options for brands that can kind of get in, and walk before they run, and grow into these relationships,” Sawabini said. “The starting point has got to come down, and lots of properties have realized that.”

Of course, there are plenty of non-endemic brands already involved. The properties that have been the most successful have been creative in building 360-degree marketing engagement opportunities without waiting for true “home games,” aggregating assets into portfolios that give buyers options and scale, and crafting their business to resemble those from traditional sports.

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A significant part of unlocking esports sponsorship is simply aligning the business practices of sponsors and the video game industry. Brands that were already involved in casual gaming treat it as a lifestyle business, closer to live music than sports. But three of Fuse’s clients are in the process of shifting esports from lifestyle to their sports marketing division, Sawabini said.

“The term esports has brought a competitive nature and traditional sports framework to a lifestyle,” he said. “I think more and more you’re going to see this handled by sports marketers on the brand side, and I think that will help brands get in and better understand where the right level of spend and the right balance of activation of sponsorship are.”

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Esports’ next big mission: Win over sponsors 

By Ben Fischer, Sports Business Journal

Last year, Nielsen’s brand clients were clamoring for more information about esports. We’re intrigued, they said, but all the data is coming from the video game industry, it’s different in every meeting and we can’t tell hype from reality.

“It was just under-developed,” said Nicole Pike, managing director of Nielsen Esports, a new business line launched last August. “The industry happened so quickly, and grew and grew, and there was no time for standards to be created.”

In response, Nielsen invested in esports and convened a task force of senior thinkers from esports properties and brands to tackle the problem. Nine months later, though, the corporations that have made up the non-endemic sponsorship backbone of the American sports industry for generations remain hesitant to fully commit to esports.

Interested in reading the entire article? Click here for the full version.