A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the new Team Liquid Alienware Training Facilities, the newest Team Liquid headquarters in Santa Monica. To readers unfamiliar, Team Liquid is one of the largest and most prolific eSports organizations based out of Los Angeles; they have a storied history in games such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Starcraft 2. Originally launched in 2017, the Alienware Training Facilities were recently upgraded this year, and a select number of reporters were invited to visit the facilities mid-August.
In addition to the visit itself, I was lucky enough to be able to interview Josie Brown, the Senior Vice President of Brand, Content, and Marketing about brand partnerships and the way that Team Liquid is planning on expanding its partnerships within the next 18 months. Brown, who had previously worked at Hulu as their head of brand and culture lab marketing, hails from New Zealand and joined Team Liquid earlier this year to head their partnerships team. Responses were edited for clarity and length.
Kenneth Kim: Hello! Could you please introduce yourself?
Josie Brown: My name is Josie Brown, and I’m the senior vice president of brand marketing and content at Team Liquid.
Kim: What does your day-to-day life look like as the senior vice president?
Brown: Well, I am the head of marketing, branding, and everything that the team develops when it comes to our marketing and our content. This includes everything that we produce with social media, including videos or content for our partners. I’m kind of where the buck stops here for all of the marketing.
Kim: In the five to six months since you’ve been at this position, do you have any particular examples of content and marketing that you’re particularly proud of having overseen?
Brown: Yeah, there’s a few things that are coming out, and a couple of things that I can speak to that are already out. One of the things that is coming is our brand campaign that we’re launching on September 7, and it’ll be a first. It’s the first time we’re connecting seven of our games and seven of our teams. Typically, when we do marketing, we focus on a specific game or team; this time around, seven different games - Dota, League of Legends, Apex, Counter Strike, Valorant, and Rainbow Six - will be covered, which spans across Europe, Brazil, and North America. It’ll be a really fun experience to put all of these teams together, so that everyone can feel like Team Liquid is an interconnected community as opposed to silos of communities who are focused on a specific brand or even just a specific player.
Of course, a lot of fans are really focused on our standings. Are we winning? That’s when the fandom is easiest won. One of the things I’m really proud of is that what we do when we’re not having an easy season, when the games are not coming as we want them to come. Sometimes, when you’re having a bad season, some players and some teams behave in certain ways; one way, for example, is to just put your head down and grind it out, focus, shut everything out, and concentrate. Although that’s a natural reaction to have in the moment, it really shuts out the fans. Recently, one of the things that we’ve published is a League of Legends: Squad episode. One of the recent ones, titled “We’re Not a Super Team”, is really revealing in terms of what the games mean to the players when they’re not doing so well. What do they talk about when the game is over? When there’s tension in the room, the harsh words and softer moments are vulnerable, and I think that was a really important piece of content for us to produce. It shows these moments of how wins and losses happen for all teams.
Kim: I’m a big fan of Team Liquid myself, so I’ve made sure to watch that episode. Do you think that marketing plays out differently in the eSports scene compared to your previous work with the wider entertainment industry, such as Hulu and whatnot? Do you think the marketing plays out any differently or does it just boil down to the same essential steps?
Brown: I think the practice of marketing can be boiled down to some of the same essential steps. I think what changes is the audience, and you have to be audience-centric. The eSports space is young, it’s dynamic; they’re more demanding of the brands that they lean into. How I think about marketing now is very different to how I used to think about it five or 10 years ago. I think that’s the most important part: understanding who your audience is, speaking to them, and engaging with them in a way that’s specific.
Kim: When you joined Team Liquid, was there anything specific that you saw that you wanted to improve on?
Brown: Yeah, one of the things I wanted to achieve when I got here was to really harness the endemic knowledge of the people that are here in the marketing department. There is a huge number of people who have been with the company for many, many years and have been in the eSports space for a long time. It’s probably a lifelong dream for some of them to join a company like this and work for a team that they’ve been a fan of since childhood, which has produced a really amazing workforce. Some of what is missing is the idea of how marketing is done for big brands, of how marketing is done at a scalable level. Bringing a little bit of that thinking into a workforce that is very, very focused on a team that they’ve loved for a very, very long time. Sometimes, that means addressing things that are really hard to talk about, it means confronting, shifting, and changing. That’s not always easy to do when you know you’ve loved this team since the beginning.
Kim: What is like a piece of advice you would give to college, like juniors and seniors that are like studying marketing and maybe want to break into e-sports or just larger marketing in general. What is something like that you would tell them once they graduate?
Brown: Wow, this is a hard one. *laughs* I’m projecting a little bit, but I think the first step is to just get into your first job. Don’t worry about what the first job is, there’s plenty of time to get to the dream job. The dream job does not have to be the first job. For so many of us, the dream job is something that you’re better off working for, and sometimes, people aren’t even ready for their dream job. I don’t think I was when I graduated college. Once you get your first job, just throw yourself into it, whatever it is, and show that if you can be great at anything, you’ll certainly be great at your dream job.