June 26th marks the day our local esports industry was hit by a massive shock-wave, as one of Australia’s most well-known brands, The Chiefs Esports Club, was acquired by a new organisation in the space: Team ICON. As The Chiefs move into their fourth month post-announcement, it’s time to take a long-overdue look at what progress they have made in the first three.
What has changed?
It was made clear from the outset that The Chiefs were to keep their branding, and the company remains the same in the eyes of the public. From a business standpoint, a new ownership team called the ICON Group has been tasked with driving The Chiefs further than they have already climbed.
The diverse group of investors is made up of members with backgrounds in sports marketing, ownership, finance and investment:
• Ed Abbott - CEO of QMS Sport
• Matthew Davey - Founder & CEO of Ticketdirect
• Adrian Whittingham - Executive Director, Pinnacle Investment Management
• Nathan Taylor - Managing Director for Capital Markets at Commonwealth Bank
We reached out to Adrian Whittingham, and asked about his involvement with esports and the value he sees in the acquisition.
“Establishing ICON was at the core of creating an esports and entertainment group focused on community engagement, and one that continues to grow awareness of the sector. I was incredibly curious (I’m also an active gamer) and had been researching the space for a couple of years, which means I’m also very aware of the risks involved,” Adrian says.
To mitigate the potential risks, Adrian helped map a pathway to success to ensure ICON and The Chiefs were headed in the right direction. “We look at success on multiple levels and stay focused on our medium-term goals over the next one to three years. Having said that, I’m extremely confident we’ll hit the targets we’ve set. The talent in The Chiefs teams and The Chiefs brand would be considered as the strongest in the OCE region.” Adrian explains, “It provides a great platform to raise awareness of The Chiefs and OCE on the global stage, and to be considered the premier group for talent development, community engagement, and expertise in this sector.”
Who is Team ICON?
Team ICON first made their move into the local esports space by acquiring Tainted Minds, one of the regions most established and long-tenured organisations. Just how The Chiefs would merge with Team ICON was a hotly debated topic.
As things transpired, Frank “Sangy” Li, founder of The Chiefs, remains the Chief Executive Officer for his brand, and now also holds the role of Director for ICON following their staff restructure. With that being said, three new management members enter the fray:
• Nick Bobir - Director & CEO of ICON
• Joshua Harvey - Chief Marketing Officer of ICON & The Chiefs
• Michael Stewart - Operations Manager of ICON & The Chiefs
All three of these names will look familiar to anyone within the esports space, as they were previously a part of Tainted Minds, but are now an integral part of Team ICON. We got in touch with Joshua Harvey to get his take on The Chiefs merger, and what it means to him.
“This acquisition was a logical step in our organisation’s growth and a reminder that we are on the right track as a business. It lets us create the product that we are developing under ICON, and ensures the entity feeds back into the esports and gaming industry. All while retaining our presence and support for the sector that we’ve been in for such a long time,” said Josh.
He was especially looking forward to helping The Chiefs become an even bigger force on the esports landscape. “It’s been great to be able to apply our resources and expertise to The Chiefs, who are already a large esport brand in the ANZ region, and to accelerate the growth of the brand and facilitate expansion in the years to come,” he said.
But Josh knows that fans are the key to any organisation’s success. “The Chiefs already have a really passionate supporter base and a huge amount of history in the region, so we’ll continue to look after these supporters and give them as much access to the players and brand as we can. This also involves giving them the best experience and value for being a Chiefs supporter, and that’s something we are constantly developing product-wise.”
So, what does this mean for the teams?
With this move, an organisational restructure was inevitable for The Chiefs, as Team ICON (previously Tainted Minds) already had multiple teams representing their brand. Some of which clashed with teams competing under The Chiefs banner, such as Rocket League and Counter-Strike.
Prior to the Team ICON acquisition, we saw The Chiefs announce the departure of their long-standing Rocket League roster. Many questions were asked about how this would shake up the local Rocket League community, as The Chiefs had been a major factor in the community's success over the years. These questions were answered upon the announcement of Team ICON moving in, as details emerged that their existing Rocket League roster of CJCJ, Express, and Shadey would be representing The Chiefs brand at Dreamhack Valencia on 17th-24th of July.
In March, we were made aware of ICON’s Counter-Strike players, Ofnu and Zewsy being loaned to The Chiefs, but they officially signed two weeks before the brands merged. Funnily enough, both Tucks and Ferg have competed under ICON’s Counter-Strike existence, Tucks being a player and Ferg coaching the line-up.
As it stands post-announcement, The Chiefs now look like this:
It has been mentioned in press releases that they plan on signing more talent in the near future.
Commercially, ICON has brought in a new wave of partnerships for The Chiefs, implementing a strategy that brings high-value, non-endemic brands on-board. Most notably would be YouFoodz, the Australian ready-made meal delivery service that’s now the Official “Health Food” Partner of The Chiefs.
The YouFoodz partnership isn’t just a cool little deal that will bump the revenue for the next ICON board meeting. It’s a fully-fledged partnership that will deliver real value to both YouFoodz and The Chiefs brand. Sure, The Chiefs are gaining a real partner that’s injecting cash for a spot on the jersey. But with their OPL team recently receiving a mega shipment of food, the team has a clear-cut opportunity to deliver genuine content to bring awareness to YouFoodz.
With social media now being a huge selling factor for partnerships in the marketing world, we were curious as to what ICON's approach to social media is now that they have an even stronger brand to represent. When asked about how the acquisition has helped increase previous engagement and what they plan on doing to tackle The Chiefs accounts, Josh Harvey went on to say "Following the month of July, all previous records of digital engagement were doubled across both The Chiefs Esports and ICON accounts." Following with,"Our audience lives and breathes digital platforms and we are continually developing new strategies and creative resources to actively engage our fan base; such as Twitter and Facebook GIFS, Instagram Story GIFS and Geo Filters at events on Snapchat."
Team and Talent Highlights
Since the acquisition took place three months ago, The Chiefs have already achieved a number of accomplishments:
Also as an ongoing achievement, one of their Fortnite players, Parpy, has linked up with two Legacy Esports players in North America; securing first place in week four of the Trio Cup, bagging $60,000 USD. Their team looks to boot-camp over in North America for a long period of time, thanks to the support of The Chiefs Esports Club and Legacy Esports management teams.
Although it’s early days for The Chiefs and ICON, we can already see the value that this move has made, both with team development and also the progress towards a sustainable future in the local esports space. Given the quick success of not only qualifying for events, but also acquiring talent and sponsors, it’s a given that there is a lot more to come from this partnership in the near future, and beyond.
Written by Ben Scott
Edited by Adam Taylor