Josh Harvey on L'Oréal and commercial partnerships in esports

Ben Scott
July 17, 2020

During these trying times, the entertainment industry has stagnated and live events have been heavily restricted, yet The Chiefs Esports Club has flourished. The team has signed multiple partnerships, both endemic and non-endemic, whilst going back to their roots of delivering entertainment online. 

Announced on July 5th, The Chiefs teamed up with male skincare and grooming powerhouse L’Oréal Men Expert. I had the opportunity to sit down with The Chiefs’ Marketing and Partnership Manager, Josh Harvey, to discuss how The Chiefs approached this partnership, how they plan to execute on it, and gained some insight into his thoughts on the state of commercial alignments in a COVID-19 world.

Speaking on why they decided to pursue a partnership with L’Oréal, Josh talked about their interest in the gaming space and the similarities of identity building between the two brands. 

“It all came about after a general conversation about esports with L’Oréal. They were super keen to learn about the buzz surrounding esports and gaming, and how brands normally work in the space and what the opportunity might be.” 

“L’Oréal has a strong brand presence and identity, so it was really fun to workshop ideas with our players and content creators. We’ve already made about three months worth of content before the campaign’s even launched, and I can’t wait to see it get released as we go.”

“It helped that I already used a couple of the Men Expert products before I even spoke to L’Oréal, so call me biased, but I knew it was a great product line to get behind – and that we could stand there and back it.” 

Josh closed this line of questioning by speaking about L’Oréal as a brand overall and their impact on the commercial space by stating “L’Oréal is obviously a huge global brand, so being able to work with them really excited us. The team has also been outstanding to deal with and open to creative ways of bringing L’Oréal to life. We have some cool opportunities within this partnership that other esports teams in ANZ haven’t had access to which will be revealed in due course.”

Whilst bringing non-endemic brands into this industry is the goal of many clubs, there has to be an intention behind the partnership. I asked Josh about The Chiefs’ intentions and how they plan to integrate the L’Oréal product into the esports industry. 

“A lot of males care about their skin and already use skincare products to look after it, and for those that don’t, we want to help change that. We want to help normalise the discussion around male skincare and raise awareness about products that bring lots of benefits to the user.”

“It’s not all just about that though, we plan to have fun along the way and L’Oréal wants to support ANZ esports. We will be running tournaments in association with L’Oréal, giveaway competitions and some other unique things that are yet to be revealed. Also, the Men Expert deodorants smell awesome so you can be sure we will be packing some of those bad boys for our next event and help everyone smell amazing.”

Chiefs League of Legends Captain, Claire (Source: Chiefs)

Josh Harvey has been a massive contributor to the success of The Chiefs Esports Club since ICON’s acquisition of the brand last year, so I was curious to hear his thoughts on the commercial state of this industry. First and foremost, I was interested to know if he thinks it’s harder to build commercial partnerships during these trying times. 

“I’d say yes and no. I think at the moment you just need to have a product offering that is outside the normal confines of what the esports team model looks like. Granted offline events are not there, but that shouldn’t be the main reason a brand wants to work with you. Because when you think about it, what if you don’t qualify anyway? I reckon the biggest thing is that teams and brands in our space need to look at their own media inventory, how they can build on that, and then find ways to sell it.”

“Also, most commercial pipelines are probably operating somewhere in the 6-12 month range from initial contact to partnership execution, so the things you see coming out now were more or less all underway well before COVID-19 struck. Sure, discussions would have evolved to address the situation, but that comes down to having a good relationship with the other party. It’s all about being honest, and when the landscape changes, you explore new ways to execute the partnership.”

“Our community brand activations would have already been in full swing this year, and at this point in time, we’d have executed 3 or 4 more around Australia. This was obviously built into our commercial agreements with brands but it’s just about having that honest working relationship and putting on your creative hat to provide them with other ways to get value.”

Closing our interview, I asked Josh what his overall thoughts are on the current commercial state of Australasia. He gave some insight into the way brands are thinking at the moment, the value of partnerships, and what he thinks clubs need to do. 

“I think COVID is a huge factor in this, as obviously brands are hyper aware of their spending during a global pandemic, and it’s definitely affecting ANZ. Budgets are certainly under review but this provides a unique opportunity for brands to feature in a digital-heavy landscape like esports and gaming. The partnership upfront with those brands may not be the same value as a 12 month exclusive, but what’s to say you can’t do an x month campaign to help them out during this time using a few assets from your media inventory.”

“But outside of those constraints I think teams probably need to realise what they’re actually selling in order to further commercialise their product or brand. As an esport team with content creators and players, we are an entertainment-centric brand. There are many ways to make things happen with this mindset, instead of being stuck within the confines of the traditional sport orientated model. To make revenue through commercial partnerships we are here to connect x with y and there are a myriad of ways to do that.”

Without a doubt, The Chiefs Esports Club have stood out above the rest during the COVID-19 pandemic on the commercial side of things in Australasian esports. All of which is a testament to the staff and club as a whole being able to adapt to the ever-changing environment. 

You can stay connected with the progress of these partnerships by connecting with The Chiefs via Twitter.