Not too long ago many Human Resources and team executives snickered when the thought of someone doing a job fulltime managing “social media’ was raised. Give it to an intern or some kid just out of school who seems to know how to use a phone and can text his or her friends, and we should be good. Then teams, some colleges who saw value, and especially leagues, started to change and actually carve out job descriptions. The first team actually in the mix was the Phoenix Suns, who created the job description and went into the marketplace with someone dedicated just to managing and maximizing the fan connection through social. There was also St. John’s University, who brought in a young first adopter named Peter Casey to be their “twitter correspondent” and use the relatively new medium to engage fans with Steve Lavin’s club on game days. Casey actually went on to do a good amount of the social for the New York Knicks, a natural progression for a first adopter, as the club started to see the value, and other teams followed to the point where most are manned with not just one, but two or sometimes three people who monitor, distribute and edit content to reach a growing audience, one which teams are slowly realizing how to monetize.
Snicker no more, senior hiring managers, social as we know now, has value and needs to be paid attention to.
So what’s the next job category to go mainstream? Try this: Director of Gaming.
We have seen some teams in the NBA like the Sixers and Monumental Sports, go into the market for young, engaged people to try and make heads or tails with the wild west environment and engagement with eSports (the Sixers have Team Dignitas under their umbrella, the Wizards and Monumental have Team Liquid). Owners are now trying to get their heads around and stay in front of a market if, and it remains an if, as to what the actual market is, as leagues like the NBA with 2K and potentially the NFL with Madden get deeper into the competitive gaming market, and other eSports ventures beyond that. All of that is still in its relative infancy, and frankly just like with the explosion of social media there are many professed “experts” but few who can understand the complexities of what goes on in a professional team sports environment mixed in with a gaming culture. Authenticity and an understanding of the intricacies of fan engagement and integration from one side to the other are important, and getting those who can meld all of the info together to work is going to be both complex and essential. Heck, teams that own hockey and basketball teams have enough trouble getting those cultures and businesses to meld, so how do you get a gaming culture to fit with the traditional? It won’t be easy, and as things shake out it may not work for all but a few who can find the right people and create a viable business opportunity.
However back to the new role that those in school, just out of school or looking for a self-reinvention should be watching, along with those doing the hiring and business structure. “Gaming” is much more than eSports, and filling an arena with “World of Warcraft” players once a year. As a matter of fact, many in the field make it clear to understand that competitive eSports makes up as little as one percent of the actual gaming business; the majority of which is gambling, mobile games, even things like Words With Friends.
Then you factor in a better understanding of the revenue side of something like Daily Fantasy, which has fallen off the map but remains a viable revenue stream, and the coming world of legal gambling and all the uses of the mobile device in-arena, and you have a very complex silo that has yet to be fully built.
What would one need for such a role? An understanding of marketing, mobile, social, sales and fan engagement and even coding and mass media to start, as unlike the current position of Director or Manager of Social, the Director or Manager of Gaming will have a key role in revenue generation. Maybe not on the eSports side per say, but in the mobile gaming environment and in gambling at some point.
So for those looking to get into a new niche in sports business, there is a look into the future that could be very viable. Sports Management students, parents, faculty and especially employers take note. What seems a bit farfetched is coming, and this new position will be on your org charts before long. Who fills it? Let’s start looking.