Influencers’ power in esports is rising

Content creators like Ninja and Shroud are notable for having set off multi-million-dollar bidding wars among the main streaming platforms, but the world of esports appears to be entering a new phase – one in which the industry’s top influencers are leveraging their stardom into esport ownership, management, and brand deals.

The latest example of this trend is Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter and Jack “CouRage” Dunlop having become new co-owners in LA-based esports org 100 Thieves. Valkyrae and CouRage have been streaming for 100 Thieves since 2018 and 2019, respectively, and they will now both receive equity in 100 Thieves and play larger roles in the org’s growth and business strategy, including “helping identify and bring on new talent, building new programs and other initiatives.”

Details of the equity agreement are not public, but it’s likely that the co-ownership stakes for Valkyrae and CouRage are to ensure that they remain a part of the team rather than wield their combined 6.6M followers for their own interests.

Companies are increasingly signing top influencers as brand ambassadors as well. Herman Miller recently signed Tim “TimtheTatman” Betar (6M followers) as its global ambassador, while apparel company H4X is working with FaZe Clan member Nick “Nickmercs” Kolcheff (5.5M followers) on exclusive apparel. For sponsors, who have become far more savvy in terms of how they spend their money and desire sustained sponsorship, esports’ top content creators provide a better bang for the buck through consistent streaming. Teams that don’t sign popular influencers – or cultivate their own – are running the risk of losing out on sponsorships they need to survive. Interpret’s New Media Measure® shows the value that content creators command in esports, as 44% of esports viewers contributed to a streamer in 2020 compared to 21% of general gamers who did the same. For more esports research, be sure to inquire about our twice-monthly insights report, Esports Replay™.