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Brazil’s paiN Gaming has boosted its non-endemic brand partnerships of late, signing a team sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola earlier this year and partnering with Gillette for specific players and influencers. In October, the organization added another significant brand to its lineup, announcing a partnership with automaker BMW Brazil.
The deal came just months after BMW marked its first-ever esports team sponsorship with Cloud9, and according to paiN Gaming CEO Thomas Hamence, it also comes on the heels of structural changes to focus on recruiting additional non-endemic partners.
“We recently just expanded our commercial team, looking for new opportunities with non-endemic brands. We started feeling out the market for automobiles, and to our surprise to be honest, it ended up working out with BMW—which was really awesome,” he told The Esports Observer. “It’s a whole movement that we currently have going on here at paiN Gaming, because of this restructuring of the commercial team to look for non-endemic partners.”
BMW is only months past its first significant engagement in the esports industry, but Hamence believes that it’s an ideal brand for the space. He said that BMW has gradually worked to shift its perception to be that of a more technology-forward brand, and that the engaged, tech-savvy esports audience is an ideal match for that.
According to Hamence, the companies are still working out the details on exactly how they’ll activate the partnership. The initial announcement pointed to a large BMW logo on the front of paiN Gaming jerseys, along with a focus on BMW’s i3 and i8 electric and hybrid car models. Collaborative event activations are also in the works.
The paiN Gaming partnership is regionally exclusive and separate from Cloud9’s deal in the United States, but BMW Brazil Head of Marketing Jorge Junior suggested that it still shows synergy in BMW’s global mindset towards the potential of esports and its audience.
“We, as BMW Brazil, see esports as a really relevant experimental platform, and an opportunity to get in touch with a younger audience and take part in this enormous and digital industry is crucial,” said Junior. “As BMW is one of the most desired and innovative brands, and is leading the e-mobility transformation, we [are] really attractive and relevant to the esport industry. We are fully aware of the Cloud9 activities in the U.S. market, and that [clearly] shows we are fully integrated as a brand with our strategies and new audiences.”
Junior pointed to the aforementioned BMW i3 electric car and BMW i8 hybrid model, calling BMW Brazil “a pioneer for the market electrification.” The company has established charging stations in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to help push adoption of cleaner auto technologies in Brazil, and sees paiN Gaming’s pro players and influencers as a way to help spread that message to younger audiences who might be receptive to it.
“As a pioneering, young, technological, and connected company that has reinvented itself for over 100 years, we have a strong affinity for esports—which promotes technology, adrenaline, diversity, and healthy competition in a modern and highly connected way,” said Junior. “Esports is growing each day and is already one of the most relevant industries on the planet, and paiN Gaming is the biggest esports team in Latin America: they are diverse, competitive, full of energy and passionate about what they do.
“Therefore, we understand that it makes perfect sense to be alongside a brand that, like BMW, brings pioneering, youthful, and promising and exciting prospects among its values,” he added. “Brazilians are passionate about cars, games, and technology, and this is really a good link to put all the passions together in a very [strategic] way.”
“Passion” is a key point that Hamence echoed on his side of the partnership. Asked how the Brazilian market and audience differs from those in larger markets like Europe and North America, he suggested that Brazilian fans take their passion for esports to a higher level.
“I think the main difference in the Brazilian market is fan engagement. Fans and audiences in Brazil are really engaged with esports, and that difference can be felt really easily. It’s no coincidence that you see North American teams come down here and bring Brazilian streamers to their roster,” he said. “It’s not because North American fans or European fans care less, but I think that we just care more, you know? They’re much more engaged, and the numbers are much more inflated.”
paiN Gaming founder Arthur “PAADA” Zarzur, a retired Dota 2 pro player himself, said that the regional fan engagement was something that they recognized value in long ago. “We knew it was something that would have a lot of value and be very special for the future,” he said.
The organization’s recent shift towards seeking out non-endemic partners brings potentially significant benefits to the team, including money and mainstream exposure. However, it can also require a lot of insight from paiN Gaming to help brands understand and maximize their investment into a potentially unfamiliar space. Hamence said that the organization has embraced that role.
“Obviously, we pay close attention to the esports market as a whole, and to be quite frank, the non-endemic brands are where the money is,” said Hamence. “It was a natural move for us to eventually get… not out of the underground per se, but to get out of our own ecosystem and bring forth other partners. It was a natural course for us to bring professionals from outside the esports circles, guys that were already involved with other brands or guys who were already working in the publicity and advertising brand, to try and put us in the mainstream.
“When we come into these kinds of deals, we not only offer them sponsorship and visibility, but we offer them a consultancy in the market as a whole—because these brands are still not quite sure, at least in the Brazilian market, on how to engage the esports audience as a whole,” he added. “When we approach them, our pitch is always: we know how you can activate this audience in an organic way, and not make something look too forced in any kind of way.”
Planning for Growth
Hamence said that big brands are still “testing the waters” for esports in Brazil and trying to get a sense of the longer-term opportunity there. Gradually, that interest has grown, although he said that some global companies are still hamstrung by marketing budgets that are “infinitely smaller” than those wielded by their respective North American and European divisions. Securing a partner like Coca-Cola is obviously huge for paiN Gaming, but Hamence said that there’s a potential domino effect that could benefit other Brazilian organizations too.
“[Brands] bring in immense value to us, and the way that we are doing business right now, we are not only thinking about ourselves. Obviously, if we strike a deal with Coke, that leaves a huge opportunity for our major rivals to jump in and try to cut some deals with Pepsi, for example,” he said. “That’s how we feel, and that’s the direction we are taking in trying to open up the Brazilian market and show these brands that we are a big market. We are third in esports in audience, so there are a lot of opportunities down here.”
After working with such major brands as BMW, Gillette, and Coca-Cola, paiN Gaming is still eyeing potential partnerships in other industries—such as the financial sector. The organization’s larger-picture focus, however, is ensuring that it is ready to continue making larger steps ahead, whether that’s with additional partners or expansion via outside capital.
“Our main focus right now is to structure ourselves internally so that we can in the future be prepared for what’s coming next, whether it be investments from venture capital or private equities, and so on,” said Hamence. “Our main focus right now is gathering and putting all of these great partners that we have at the moment into sharing our dream, because that’s how we feel. It wouldn’t make sense if these partnerships were just solely about money.”
Hamence added that the team has recently discussed future plans with Coca-Cola about ways to better engage with the paiN Gaming fan base and community. “They’re really committed to building something more than simple logo placement and exchange of money,” he said.
In an era of enormous eight-figure funding rounds for North American and European teams, the privately-owned paiN Gaming is an outlier. Hamence believes that the organization has “lost a lot of space compared to American and European teams in the last few years,” due in part to those large investments and the growth that followed. However, paiN Gaming’s current moves of recruiting non-endemic brands and restructuring its business all point towards that kind of future for the Brazilian organization.
“We have not yet opened in that kind of sense—we’re still 100% family-owned. We are structuring; we want to be more prepared than those teams were when they actually started opening for investments, and that’s where the brands bring in more value,” said Hamence. “They are helping us build a better company, not only towards structure but also fan awareness, of how can we interact better with these fans. We’re pooling resources together.”
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