While there is no doubt that the UK esports industry is evolving, it can often be heard how those dealing with industry circles are ruefully yearning for the burgeoning growth in Asia, North America and even mainland Europe. Usually, her wistful gaze focuses on a piece of the puzzle that is considered missing: investment.

Then, this April, the UK League Championship (UKLC) announced a sensational headline sponsor : Barclays ]. Just over a month later, the banking giant doubled British esport in a partnership with National Student Esports (NSE) . With two dives, Barclays established itself as one of the most important partners in local tournaments.

We spoke to David Gowans, director of creative technologies, games and esports at Barclays Ventures – the venture capital of the company Einheit – about his vision for the future of Barclays in space.

  David Gowans unveils Barclays Ventures' esport vision.
Photo credit: Barclays, David Gowans

Esports Insider: Can you give an overview of your goals and thinking? Process behind these partnerships?

David Gowans: Ventures & # 39; goal – it was founded about two years ago – is to explore new opportunities and new ways of working for the company. You know, Barclays is a 330 year old organization that is spread all over the world. To make change and move forward, you need a business unit that can. This is one of the goals and objectives of Barclays Ventures: to make progress and provide positive new activities for Barclays across the Group – within the UK bank or in the other areas of activity worldwide that Barclays has.

My Team The Creative Technologies, Games and Esports team at Ventures is even newer. We have been in action for a little over a year now to support and find out what we can do to support two industries.

The first is the video game industry: how can we drive activities to support the industry? . And then, separately, it's sport. Although related, it is absolutely its own business, its own organization, its own needs, and we are considering what we can do to provide support and help the industry grow.

The entire team has an interest in games, technology, innovation – I've played games all my life, I connect with friends through online games that are common around the world after we all graduate traveled to different parts of the world to find work! – and you know, it is very important to us that we authentically approach what we do and we examine how we can offer support.

“It's not just about sticking our badge on. We want to become partners and research activities because we are still learning. “

And Barclays, you know, we have a long history in sports. From the Premier League to the Barclays Center in New York, the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, tennis, golf, the whole story there. And sport has always been a goal, and that's where we see growth. We see the potential – even when visiting the [League of Legends] World Final last year in Paris – that it is such a lively and special sport. We thought about what we can do to support this in the same way. It's not just a matter of putting our badge on. We want to become partners and explore activities because we are still learning.

The first steps towards this are the UKLC summer tournament, which we are currently sponsoring. It was great to see how the BBC received and broadcast this the first esport for them. And then the NSE cannot be together, especially now that students cannot study. They connect through games, which is fantastic to see – can we support and strengthen the university leagues in the UK too?

So we do a lot, we try to see what we can support in the right way and create added value and find the place where we can operate. As a brand, we really want to work with the Esport leagues and teams as much as possible. And learn from it.

ESI: Given that sport is a very international issue, why did you first choose the local, national approach with Britain? Why are you going to UKLC through the LEC?

DG: We have a strong focus on Britain as Barclays. We are a British bank and I think in discussions with the teams and the UKLC we saw a great opportunity to spotlight British esport. I think the UKLC has really turned out to be the place where we as Barclays can create more value and learn more from it.

I think with the UKLC it is not only an amazing, fantastic league with brilliant teams, but also a fantastic place for us to start. And that was the goal of this sponsorship this summer.

ESI: Instead of reducing your focus on sports and putting your money into sports, is it about adding esport to your portfolio for sponsorship and support?

DG: On our side we have an amazing team of sponsors, some amazing activities that take place in Barclays, especially in the football field – many of the monetary skills, the range that we have as part of this Program is fantastic. It is something additive, something new for us, where we want to learn and research and where we feel that we can bring something of value. And maybe explore some of our knowledge that we have made with our traditional sports partnerships for sports. They are similar companies. There are some areas we can support. I think a fine example of this is the work we do with athletes and sports associations in terms of wealth and well-being. Can we repeat that in the world of esports? Can we support the teams and organizations in this way?

So you know there is certainly a place we can explore. And with the UKLC and the NLC, this is the beginning of this exploration.

  Fans at last year's UKLC summer finale. Photo credit: Joe Brady / LVP
fans at last year's UKLC summer finale. Photo credit: Joe Brady / LVP

ESI: What do you think is a rewarding activity at UKLC?

DG: They were around for a long time; League of Legends is very well established as an esport because it is currently the most mature game in esport. It is certainly one of the largest, if not the largest. So it was just a natural good starting point for us.

And the boys did a fantastic job exploring what this partnership and sponsorship can be and how we can learn – and how we can take these lessons and learn that. We come from sport. It really helps us understand what we can do to better support the sector.

ESI: Esports has a very young and later desirable population of fans, but they are not known for their keen interest in corporate business and wealth management or investment. How big is this in terms of customer acquisition, rather than just supporting where you can and keeping your brand attached to it?

DG: The audience for the sport is fantastic, I think it is an incredibly dedicated audience – and I would hope that the audience would of course see that Barclays really cares cares how we do this, also in sports and in the games industry.

"It was fantastic. See how Esports can adapt, how agile it is. “

When you get out there and get connected to the UKLC and League of Legends, of course it's a fantastic plus for this audience – it's great to see just a few of the streams on Twitch! And being part of it is fantastic – but for us we are currently on this learning journey. And working with the UKLC to find out how we can support and collaborate with Esport as it continues to grow.

And it was fantastic to see how the esport can adapt and how agile it is. We held an esports event in our headquarters in January. We invited a number of teams: we had a Barclays team and we had universities in Warwick, Roehampton, Kent. It was fantastic to see Barclays executives on sport and teach them how it works and how lively it is as a sport. And I think since January, when we could have these physical events, it has been great to see people turn to sports when people have been unable to attend physical events for competitive activities.

ESI: Why are you? If you look specifically at the student market here with the NSE and what do you want to bring them?

DG: [The event we ran] really helped our executives in Barclays to demonstrate the vibrancy of It was great to have just one live event at our headquarters. Obviously, students cannot currently be at the university together. It was just great to see that university sports could take place and that students could get in touch with their friends through these esports.

We were keen to see how we can support and work with the NSE to help them achieve their ambitions by sponsoring them through 2020-2021 next year. That was really the goal. As much as we learn with UKLC and educate ourselves in professional esports, I think that at college level we examine how we can support and learn what the NSE does for students across the UK and add value.

  NSE started activation at last year's UKLC summer final. Photo credit: Joe Brady / LVP
NSE started activation at last year's UKLC summer finale. Photo credit: Joe Brady / LVP

ESI: If the current situation is over, would you like to continue with live events and help with such productions in the future?

DG: I think everyone at Ventures is interested in reconnecting with people when the time is right and it is certain. With Eagle Labs, we have the largest incubator network in the UK within Ventures – we have 25 locations across the UK. And some of these locations had a program to support game developers or people working in games before the ban. We even have some of these labs that have full esport setups with machines that teams can participate in.

We also have a number of esport companies that operate within this lab network. Before the lockdown, I was in Belfast with G-Science, who work in our lab networks. There are a few parts: We want to support companies and people working in the room through our Eagle Lab network. And we are also at physical events. Within Ventures, we partnered with a company called Fortress, the UK's largest stadium access provider. Obviously we have a good, long tradition of sport; We are the only Premier League financial partner and we have the Barclaycard Center and the Barclaycard Arena, both of which have held physical esport tournaments in these rooms.

So it would be great to support the activities that take place when the time is right.

ESI: Do you now have an idea of ​​where the long-term future of Barclays in sports could be?

DG: I do, but I think we need to learn more! I have some ambitions that I'm not going to share – I think everyone on the team is doing this – but look, it comes to a really simple point: have we found the place for barclays in sports where we can help and support?

We start at this base. We want to deal with the industry as authentically as possible. We're here to work with the industry, and I'm always happy to have someone of any size turn to the team to find out if there's an area where we can work together and explore activities. Or even address some of the weaknesses the sector has.

As I said, this is also a learning journey for us within Barclays. We train our teams within the company, like at the event I mentioned in January, to understand the needs of sport and how we can best serve this industry with what we can offer. So it's going to be a continuous journey and we have absolute ambitions to do as much as possible, but I think you can cut it down to a really simple line: we want to be the bank for the sector through the activities we do We did it by providing the best services and support for the industry.

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