ESTNN's Malik Shelp interviewed Atlanta Reign President and CEO Paul Hamilton and explored the Atlanta Reign brand and the upcoming geolocation of the Overwatch League with an eye to the future.
In 2019 we saw the Overwatch League achieve new heights by introducing 8 new expansion teams, Homestand events and an announcement for a full home and away schedule for the 2020 season. With Stage 4 in full swing, many are taking a look to next year and what we can expect from Season 3 of the Overwatch League. Last week ESTNN sat down with Paul Hamilton, president and CEO of the Atlanta Reign, to get his view on the Overwatch League, the Reign and where they go from here.
Reign President and CEO Paul Hamilton on The Atlanta Reign
Amidst the end of a milestone first year, Hamilton discussed building a new Overwatch League franchise, hosting the League’s second Homestand and preparing the Reign for Season 3.
The Atlanta Reign has had a tumultuous year so far with multiple ups and downs, just like any traditional sports teams. Daniel "dafran" Francesca exit and Andrej "babybay" Francisty’s subsequent entrance gave the Reign a new personality, while their July 6th Homestand showed that their team as a whole will always have life no matter the score.
While the Atlanta Reign may still be new, it has rapidly achieved a following of devoted fans. Building an Overwatch League team from nothing is hard, even more so when there are already twelve established teams that have the best players in the world and a majority’s share of Overwatch League fans.
"A big thing was getting the best talent but for us, we also wanted to be a fun team to watch,” says Hamilton. “We want players that aren't afraid to show emotion on stage and are very interactive with the fans. The other [difficult] thing is how do you connect with the city when we are in Burbank all season, so it makes it hard to connect with Atlanta".
Despite the lack of presence in their home city, the Atlanta Reign has done an excellent job of marketing and branding themselves to be a hometown hero for esports fans. On this aspect, Hamilton is proud of the work that the Reign has done.
"The single most standout moment I have had so far with the Atlanta reign is when we announced the brand. We put a lot of work into the branding and we knew we had the right name, we knew we had the right brand, and we were just excited to share that with the world. While we are a global brand, we want to make sure that we are catering to the South East and Atlanta specifically."
Being a hometown hero isn't easy when you are halfway across the country from the city you are trying to represent. The reason traditional sports have such a rabid following behind their teams is that they are actually located inside the city or state they represent. Sure, the Overwatch League teams may have cities in their names, but until we see a full home season and they play in front of the people they represent, the teams will struggle to become a staple in modern entertainment.
Many were shocked in the best way possible when news of home season was announced, but for Paul, he couldn't see the League any other way:
"That’s the way we saw it all along honestly, we didn’t understand timing but I think that was always the goal. The goal is to be a city-based esport where we can engage our regions on the ground live. Our goal is to sort of marrying things that have worked in traditional and what is working in esports and marry the two. I’m excited to travel and get boo’d and for people to come and experience our fans because the players will tell you it was almost unfair the advantage of all the energy. from the crowd."
The League’s Homestand games will be influential in the esports space, but it is up to each team to do its part to provide a quality Overwatch League experience. The idea of "home games” or a traveling season is primarily seen in traditional sports, but there are reasons why people love the halftime show or why the NBA brings fans to the court to compete in a variety of wacky games. The concept of customer experience is something that Atlanta wants to target and perfect, according to Hamilton.
"We’ve been embraced by community and businesses in Atlanta and working with Bud Light being the sponsor for the Homestand, they were amazing to work with. Coke Cola is based in Atlanta, and, for us, it was important to have that partnership with them as well. What was neat about working with Coke is that they felt the same way, that we would be the esports team to represent Atlanta.
It's really neat when both parties want to engage with each other and through their activations at the Homestand, Another big thing is activations, if your team isn’t playing or you just want to get up and walk around, we want fans to have the ability to get up and do other things,” Hamilton continued. “If you wanted to go see the Coke activation or take pictures with the cosplayers or even meet some of the Overwatch League casting talent, we wanted those things to be available. It's crucial to create an experience that’s not just the game. You see what it's done for traditional sports so one of the keys for us is to have our team on the ground in Atlanta after the season and we’ll be able to engage the fans a lot more. Then you’re starting to see somebody who the outside world looks at as a more traditional fan because they are attending home games and rooting and wearing the merch and representing their city. So moving to Atlanta will allow us to engage and connect with the fans in more ways than just digitally. "
Going into Season 3 of the Overwatch League, how teams present their fans with a Homestand experience could determine their success as a brand for a long time to come. So far, Atlanta's focus on the fan experience sounds like it is a step in the right direction. This is the Atlanta Reign's first Overwatch League season, and its first year had its fair share of high and low moments. One thing is for certain, however. The Reign have left a mark on the Overwatch League regardless of what they do going forward.
Images VIA: Atlanta Reign