The State of Personal Esports Branding: Why it’s bad, and how you can improve

It’s pretty well known in the North American Counter-Strike community that most players don’t have a very strong handle on what a personal brand is, or how they can utilize it to get them signed. Your average North American ESEA Premier/Advanced player spends most of their time gaffing with their friends on Twitter, or even better, only posting when they win a big match or a big change happens. The issue with this approach to things is that it typically means that you have almost zero online exposure to not only potential orgs, but also in a lot of cases, a relatively negative personal brand impression from an outsider’s perspective.

To take a step back; what is a good brand image, and why should you have a good one? In esports especially, networking is almost the only way you can work your way into the industry. Given that the esports industry is a particularly young one, it is rife with people looking to scam and/or take advantage of people. So as a consequence, most people will only hire or work with those that they trust, and know they can work reliably with. This is why networking is so important, and given that most esports teams, players, or fans aren’t on LinkedIn, you have to take your social media brand image seriously.

So now that we’ve established part of why it’s so important, let’s move on to what this looks like from an esports org’s perspective. Say you’re a general manager of an esports org, and you are tasked with bringing on a CS:GO roster, but you have no previous experience in in the scene (as many don’t); where do you start? Usually in that position they would start by looking at raw performance, but we all know that someone looking at an ESEA team page/standings doesn’t really get the full story on the team. After raw performance, they probably will also ask their friends who may be familiar with the scene to get a better picture, and if you are well known, then you are more likely to get brought up in that conversation. This part of the process is a relatively simple concept.

The next part to consider from a general manager’s perspective is that they are looking for players and teams who bring content and value to the organization. Esports teams make a very good part of their revenue from brand deals/sponsorships because their business models typically revolve around exposing their fanbases to their sponsors in ways that are more effective and drive more conversions towards their products/services than their typical marketing. So a player who doesn’t actively use their socials, or help drive the community or fanbase towards more interaction with their brand will likely be passed over without consideration.

An example of good personal branding in NA Esports

Alright, alright, so you’ve listened to me babble on about how much having a brand is important. But what does that really mean? In the case of esports, it means either having a pre-existing community, or a personal product that is easily scalable/marketable to the brand’s already existing audience. So, what is a personal product that is easily scalable/marketable? To list some examples: consistently streaming, having a consistent tone on social media that you use to interact with the community, creating demo reviews or other YouTube content, or being outspoken in a way that you drive (healthy) discussion in the community.

The overarching point is that you should be striving to make yourself notable; and while there are no specific ways to go about this, there are plenty of examples of personal player branding done right. You don’t get anywhere without putting in the effort, so whatever it is that you identify with or enjoy doing, try to amplify that in a way that you find enjoyable in order to best capture a community around your personal brand.