Signing gaming influencers to brands isn’t all that different from signing esports athletes to orgs, the team behind AFK Creators discovered.
The talent management and influencer marketing agency has been focused on esports and gaming since 2018, and has recently applied its expertise to esports athlete representation with the newly launched AFK Pros.
Esports Insider spoke with Alexander Davis, Head of Esports & Strategy at AFK Pros, to learn why the influencer marketing space translates so well to managing player contracts.
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AFK Creators had already been working with select players via brand partnerships, and began representing esports pros during org contract negotiations.
Joining the agency just a few months ago, Davis is leading the newly minted esports department with his experience working with agencies like LA-based Evolved, and esports orgs CR4ZY and SK Gaming. In his experience, there aren’t many agencies that offer “proper representation” for esports athletes.
AFK Pros is equipped with all the resources available from the established AFK Creators ecosystem, Davis explained. Social media and marketing executives are at the ready for esports talent to best benefit from AFK Pros’s representation. The esports arm is able to extend partnership opportunities to its represented players from brands that the influencer arm works with.
The agency doesn’t just work with solo players, but with entire free-agent rosters as well. As a recent example, Davis shared that the agency coordinated the signing of Cloud9’s recent Apex Legends roster. All three players — Zach ‘ZachMazer’ Mazer, Paris ‘StayNaughty’ Gouzoulis and Logan ‘Knoqd’ Layou — while signed to Cloud9 are represented by AFK Pros.
“We work closely with teams,” Davis said. ”A lot of the time, being an agent is having these conversations with these orgs to understand what their next moves are. So we work with [orgs] as well as work with the talent to get them the right home. It’s a great way to push entire rosters and usually it’s a lot easier having one representative for the entire team rather than three or four or five individual ones.”
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Davis said that AFK Pros finds opportunities for players to broaden their out-of-game skills and explore their career options. “We’ve got one of our North American coaches, [Daniel ‘fRoD’ Montaner], who was a player of the decade for CS:GO. What we’re doing with him is giving him a casting opportunity within European VALORANT with a charity event. He’s a great example of how we’re looking at different career options.”
The career paths of gaming creators and esports pros differ wildly, though there can be overlaps in opportunities. However, the end-of-career path, Davis said, is where the similarities most diverge. From his experience, creators generally can earn double what esports athletes do, not including brand partnerships and other incentives.
Well into their careers, creators tend to have more capital to work with thanks to higher earnings, Davis said. “Creators can go onto that analyst desk just like the pros. But they can also use the money they earned and start investing it — whether it be in a creative fund, whether it be in new creators. They can even go into campaign relations — like our team — and work on providing partnerships for new creators that are upcoming, which is a very good option.”
Pros then, according to Davis, generally have less options. “It really depends how prominent of a player you are,” he said. “And if, I suppose, they were respected more than just being a professional player, but they were respected for being an interesting player to work with.” He said that retired players that don’t make it to an analyst desk or upper management of orgs may simply pivot into getting a ‘regular job’ and leaving their esports careers behind.
For those that are willing to put it all on the line to pursue careers as esports athletes, foreboding threats of mental burnout, broken contracts, or unfulfilled payments cause undue stress for players. The professional representation of players in cooperation with orgs can help ensure that contracts remain airtight and beneficial for all parties.
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