With a look-back to 2021, we can see the impact that esports and gaming have had on the way that companies think about branding.
Nibble Esports is arguably one of the most successful esports organisations in South Africa - and has recently been doing a lot of work with reputable brands to bring to the fore this impact.
We spoke to Glenn Kisela, creative director and co-owner of Nibble, to find out more about their work, the future of the esports industry in South Africa, and how brands can collaborate with esports organisations to make the difference…
Tell us a bit more about your role and what your day-to-day looks like
Primarily, my role is that of creative director and thus leading the creative team in the agency side of the business. Reviewing work, brainstorming with the team, meeting with clients – all the day to day functions of any normal agency.
As co-owner, I also have to strategise around the direction of the company. This includes ensuring we hit our financial targets, looking at business development, lead generation, HR and any other miscellaneous roles the company needs, alongside my co-owner Keegan Stewart – who is also the founder of Nibble.
What led you, in your career, to this point?
I follow the rather cliché story of falling in love with games since I could hold a controller or mouse in my hand. This passion lead me to become a games journalist for over 15 years, and that was my connection to the gaming world. I got into advertising through being accepted into the Ogilvy Grad programme back in 2015. Merging both worlds into my current role at Nibble seems inevitable, looking back at it.
Tell us a bit more about Nibble and your vision for esports in South Africa.
Nibble was founded on the basis of friendship and prioritising community. That is the ethos that attracted me to the organisation in the first place. At Nibble, we champion a movement of More - which is about being more inclusive and creating platforms for everyone in the gaming scene to have a voice. Esports often gets the most attention because it is the flashiest but the ecosystem that makes up gaming goes far beyond that and it is those stories we want to showcase in our movement.
At our core, we’re about storytelling. That is our movement.
What value do you find in connecting brands with esports?
Going back to the point I made earlier, I think esports shouldn’t be the only avenue brands look at when they’re looking to engage the community. Esports is a viable option for some and it provides a lot of high-value entertainment at a fraction of the cost of, say, a live event - but I think there’s even more untapped potential in leveraging the greater gaming community.
I’d hazard a guess that gamers are one of the most switched on and digitally engaged audiences in the country. They’re all creating and consuming content at a high rate – there is so much opportunity for brands to engage in a fun, authentic and affordable way with consumers who can keep up with some of the best agencies in this country with content. That paves the way for high end, high-value authentic engagement. Any brand’s dream.
What kind of messaging do you find is essential for a healthy esports industry?
Above all else, make sure the messaging is inclusive. Esports can often leave a lot of people feeling sidelined but there’s no reason that the beauty of gaming at the highest level can’t be enjoyed by all. I’m a massive fan of esports - with the right messaging, even more people can fall in love with it, which results in brands being able to speak to a far larger, more meaningful audience.
What has been your most successful collaboration, in your opinion, so far, and why?
In the short year and a half that I’ve been at the helm, alongside Keegan, we’ve gotten to work with some amazing brands, from McDonald’s and Scoot to Cipla, the pharmaceutical giant. The most successful one for me and a personal favourite was the PR stunt we did with Syntech and Incredible Connection. The campaign led to us having one of the most retweeted tweets by a gaming org in a campaign in South Africa.
The campaign was around garnering support from the amazing community for one of our competitive players to get a gaming chair. The success of the campaign came primarily from our partners trusting us to tell our narrative authentically and in our own way. The community rallied & helped create an amazing, memorable moment in the scene with a big brand finally getting involved in the scene.
Since then, Incredible Connection has put on a ton of tournaments and is fast becoming entrenched in local gaming culture.
What challenges does the esports industry in South Africa currently face?
The scene still has massive barriers to entry for the majority of this country - and that’s not just with esports. To be involved in the gaming industry you need lots of data, high-end machinery, stable internet and a consistent place to play games or watch streams.
In a country with massive inequality, unemployment and data costs, these are huge barriers to overcome. Thus, the scale of the industry is restricted which makes it hard to deliver significant ROI to brands that get involved without serious planning and innovative solutions. Only a few years ago, we were hosting tournaments with prize pools over R1m, which just wasn’t sustainable - so the industry started to correct itself.
How can brand collaboration assist with facing these challenges?
Brands that really want to see the industry grow need to invest with the right mindset. Despite the general upwards trend of the industry in terms of growth and scale, it’s still in its infancy. There is a lot of work to be done before this can become an industry that can sustain full-time employment and significant brand collaborations.
In the meantime, brands need to come with a long term focus. The opportunity is that they can spend a fraction of the marketing costs in other industries on gaming and help to organically and sustainably build this industry. It’s investing now for a market that will reap massive rewards in a few years.
The reality is though, it won’t be achieved in the next year. Despite the bittersweet promotion Covid has had on gaming as a medium for brands and consumers to engage in, there is still a long way to go.
What future trends do you see emerging in the South African esports industry?
I’m already starting to see it and I genuinely believe that we’ve been massive pioneers in this regard at Nibble – weaving in lifestyle and culture in everything gaming. From apparel to music to bringing in non-gaming content creators, there is a wave where gaming culture is starting to leave its mark in culture across the country.