With the latest iteration of Supercars’ foray into esports due to begin in September we talked to Gfinity Australia’s CEO Dominic Remond to get an insight into how Gfinity will boost a much followed, nationwide sports property.
Raced over six rounds across major Australian and global circuits, 12 racers will be battling to become the 2019 Gfinity Supercars Eseries champion.
One move that has already been applauded is switching the drivers from the console-based Forza Racing to partner with racing simulator iRacing as their platform and simulators will significantly enhance the realism and alignment between the Supercars series and eseries.
In this conversation we talked about the role esports can play, not only as an add-on to an existing business model, but how it can be intrinsic part of promoting Supercars. We discuss how the eseries can help Supercars evolve their digital strategy, introduce new racers and extend the footprint of the series and race teams involved.
How can Gfinity help Supercars reach new audiences that may not watch the race series?
Dominic Remond: “What we have to do is take this series to a new level and the important thing in conjunction with the Supercars team is bring in the production of iRacing, previously it had been console game based games, and a lot of feedback from the Supercars community were asking when we were going to bring in the real deal. That was the mission when we sat down with Supercars, ‘how do we take it to the next level?’ Firstly it was use iRacing as a platform.
“The second thing for us was to get the existing Supercars teams involved in the series. Getting them involved adds a degree of authenticity that the teams are supporting the e-series by taking positions in it.
“Thirdly it’s around trying to make personalities out of the esports drivers, it’s really important for us that these drivers are considered to be an integral part of the teams that they’re representing and to bring out their personalities. A part of what we do from a production perspective is to showcase them, integrate profiles into the series itself.”
It’s been done very effectively by other elite sports clubs home and abroad. As an example, the Australian E-League, those players are integrated within their A-League clubs. Is there a bit of a shift in educating teams and the wider rights holder that the drivers are vital members of the team?
DR: “I think there is a bit of a journey but Supercars teams see this opportunity. They understand from a lot of the research that they have done that there is probably a slightly aging demographic of their fan base and there’s an opportunity through this format to appeal to a younger demographic.
“It can also be seen as a true pathway into racing. You’ve got drivers such as Richie Stanaway who drives Supercars and is a former iRacing world champion. That proves that it is a skilful stepping stone into major racing.”
Looking at Supercars as a rights holder, can you give some insight into how Gfinity will work with them to develop their digital strategy around the series, boost the Supercars brand?
DR: “As a partner we’re going to be looking after all of the production and distribution for them. The key for them was to reach a new audience and we’ve got experience with a number of tournaments and events that we’ve run distributing content through the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, Instagram and Mixer.
“We will adopt a very broad distribution strategy because the audience on Twitch would be significantly different to those who watch Supercars on Fox Sports or Channel 10. That’s been a part of our positioning is to be able to take it to that audience. We have an established channel on Twitch, we have a growing social media base that is esports and gaming related. By sharing and boosting content through our platforms we will reach a new audience. We’ll also utilise the teams involved, each of the teams will take the broadcast and stream it live on their social media channels.
“The distribution and eyeballs will be very large. We’ve also been able to secure a broadcast on Fox Sports and Kayo as well – a broad distribution of content to varying channels and vast and differentiated audience.”
Based on early research and forecasting, what kinds of demographics are you expecting to reach through these channels?
DR: “I think primarily the demographic as we know from research that we’ve conducted is the millennial male, hence why the opportunity is of interest to brands because they know it’s a hard to reach demographic. That is primarily the audience we’ll be attracting.
“It’s interesting to look at and glean some research into iRacing here in Australia and it’s a slightly older demographic as to what we would deem to be a traditional esports demographic. The iRacing community in Australia is slightly older than that core millennial market. It would be fantastic if we can also expose the series to a female audience and again it’s understanding which platforms appeal to them best because it’s a big opportunity to broaden the Supercars brand to a wider demographic.”
Gfinity is a global business, so what learnings can be brought from overseas series’ such as the Formula 1 series into Australia?
DR: “We certainly communicate with Gfinity in the UK who have been very successful with the Formula 1’s. One of the things that we work closely with them on is business strategy and it’s around bringing out personalities. We’ve done very well across the Elite Series and Formula 1 series over in the UK.
“That’s one of our big differentiators, bringing out personalities and gives an added dimension to the broadcast it’s understanding who they are and how they got to this stage and we think it’s really important.”
One of the cool things with watching virtual racing is that there is a good alignment between the fan experience of watching both the virtual and live racing – the technical, the data, data for storytelling, the commentary, it does feel very complimentary.
DR: “Absolutely and I totally agree with you. It’s one of the sports as we know where a lot of the simulators the drivers use to practice on and the simulators have been used as a pathway for drivers to go through to form professional careers to full racing.
“It’s probably closest I’d say of video games that replicates their traditional ‘sport parent’ so to speak.”
You need not have to sit in a Supercar or have a track licence to begin your race training.
DR: “If you pull it back a little for me it’s a little bit like what pilots have done on flight simulators. To hone their skill and learn their trade in a simulated environment.”
Have you gotten into one of the simulators and had a go?!?
DR: “Not as yet unfortunately (laughs)!
“I’ve watched a lot of it, a lot of YouTube videos of different types of racing and simulators but not had a chance to race in one.”
What do you say to the naysayers that dismisses esports or virtual racing as not a ‘sport?’
DR: “I think esports is an incredible way of complimenting a traditional sport. For me it’s around the fan engagement piece and about bringing in new viewers, members and fans to a sport. People can be cynical but I feel it’s an excellent way of positively promoting your sport.
“People comment, ‘is it really a sport?’ It doesn’t matter to me because people who are engaged in esports are incredibly competitive, passionate, hard-working and are experts in their field, these are attributes that are more important than trying to pigeonhole it as a sport or a past time.”