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Evolving the Gaming Industry with CouRage & Loaded | SXSW 2021

Bridget Davidson
VP of Talent at Loaded
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SXSW 2021
March 18, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
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Evolving the Gaming Industry with CouRage & Loaded | SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Bridget Davidson
VP of Talent at Loaded
Jack Dunlop
Co-Owner at courage.gg

Bridget Davidson is the VP of Talent at Loaded, a top management firm that represents some of the largest streamers and gamers in the world. Prior to Loaded, Bridget was a longtime veteran at Riot Games, maker of League of Legends, where she spent the greater part of a decade turning the game into a global esport, and helping competitive players forge successful careers in gaming.

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About the talk

Gaming is taking off and bringing new opportunities for creators, brands and entertainment companies. Loaded, the leading management company for some of the world's biggest professional gamers will host a special Q&A with leading content creator CouRage to examine the state of the today's gaming industry and how the creator community has evolved the business for the better. The talk will highlight key learning from CouRage's successful career, as well as spotlight how brands and other non-endemic companies can work with creators to capture both eyeballs and engagement.

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Well, thanks, Jack for joining us today. How's it going? So not only be, it'll be part of South by Southwest to also be interviewed by a friend for this works out. Well, this works out quite well today. Actually I've never liked Gamers, both came up on the east side of gaming, I was working for a game developer running up as a commentator host. Can you tell me about all kind of how you got your start? And when you decided, you could turn this into a career, I am currently a

streamer on YouTube and a crater across all different platforms weather, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok, obviously YouTube. And I currently have a following of, I believe, in total about 11 million plus followers on all social medias and it is my passion. Absolutely love it. But I asked her just mentioned it was first a commentator at Esports even before that I was a fan. I began following Competitive Gaming in 2007 with Major League Gaming just as a chubby kid from New Jersey that found out how much I really did love Halo 3 and competition since.

Well, let's be honest, I wasn't really going anywhere with real Sports. So again following Competitive Gaming back then, took over my life in regards to what I love to do. My friends, would bring their consoles over. We all play in game in my basement, with sleepover two nights of the weekend, some weekends. And we just have the time of our lives and across that time that people involved in the industry, got some great opportunities to be an intern at Major League Gaming in New York City cuz I was based right outside of their where I grew up and yeah. Rest was history fast forward now.

It's been a crazy 5 5 plus years. Since I got my first, get a foot in the door and now we're here. Can you kind of describe two people what the scene was like when you first started getting into it because of how you seen it involves even just on the East Forsyth 2007. Bridget this will be a long story but I think I think I've seen it go from what feels like the Grassroots kind of everyone just throwing pieces together to make the puzzle work to. Now, a really

sustainable and growing business that has eyes on it from across the world back. Then it was like e-sports was this thing that really felt like it it was it was Not all concentrated in one place. There was no mainstreaming platform. There was you, no different websites. You can go to, but it was like you, no different little sectioned-off communities, where they are now, you know, the hubs of where, to go to, you know, these Brands, you know, these teams, you do these games. There's memorable moments. New people are getting involved every single day. They're shining stars.

There's veterans they're all of Fame people. It it is built into its entirely own league and with the trajectory of where gaming is currently it's not stopping anytime soon. So at one point in time did you start streaming and kind of decide to go the content creator route instead of just continuing to host in commentate Ferguson Yeah, it is the decision to start streaming was one, that was a passion of mine, but it was also necessary, in my opinion. I first tried streaming and I tell the story of the times my viewers, because so many people want to become streamers Armada

become YouTubers. And it wasn't just that easy, you know, immediate Road. I had my first tried streaming back in college 2013. I believe it was 2012. A freshman year, I was trying to upload and play Call of Duty Black Ops II. And after doing it, for a few months, I'm pretty sure my Peak dealership was 440. Worst. One of, which was probably And I realize that I had to go focus on school. The fraternity, I was part of an end, spend my time elsewhere, it just didn't work out. And then a couple years down the road, I began getting

opportunities at Major League Gaming began. It felt a little bit of an audience through becoming a commentator and was able to utilize that existing audience in about 10 to 15 thousand followers on Twitter to kind of be the base because so many people that start at 0 0 have such a harder Road and people that even start at 10, you know? I never Casey neistat was a great Creator. Once said, you know, your first ten Jews is, is infinitely harder than your first hundred, you know Subs. Your first hundred Subs is way harder than your next Thousand Subs, your first thousand Subs is way

harder than your first 10,000 subs and it's because it becomes exponential, one more more eyes get brought in. And, and that was the experience. I have I began screaming because I got a job with ESL for the first year, the Call of Duty world league. And at that point, I had gone from being kind of, you know, top Thicke's, top 5, commentators to pay your now cut in the top 4 in this industry. And unfortunately, though due to some of the political and casting politics that go on in some of these different scenarios, I still wasn't being brought

to certain events just because hey, they only needed for 5 casters. And and I was right on that cut. I was just a little on the outside and I realize that, you know what, between by lower pay that I was getting for being in Burbank and, you know, living out here is a place to live. Plus not being a shoo-in for every single event to cast. I knew I needed to do something and that was streaming. I wanted to make my brand and me be synonymous with called the events and Call of Duty ghosts system and it worked out. But my channel begin being used as kind of a centerpiece for

different things and call Danny Sports, you know, start the year. I had zero followers on Twitch that year and then by the by the end of that Call of Duty World League season, I was hosting like the Call of Duty Champs pre-show on my channel on behalf of Activision and Call of Duty. So it was quite a whirlwind and it helped me realize the great Creator I can become if I really went full-time and it one day Did the growth of almost two hundred billion by 2022. The number of active,

where you started? Where have you seen your gross go to? And where do you think your ceiling is? But at the same time, I'm not surprised. The reason it's been my passion, it in my favorite thing to do is because it is so much fun. There are brilliant games being made by brilliant people, every single day and there was always a Knicks game on the horizon. And we've seen countless opportunities were a new game comes out and it takes over or an old game finally gets the the eyes that needs from certain streamers think Among Us or rust and boom, it said that into the stratosphere. So

those opportunities are exciting for everyone involved in their exciting. For people that love games. Are people they're sending through that, make games and you just never know what could happen, and it's the same. Content creation is kind of a match made in heaven. You never know when your big break is going to be. So with the trajectory of War games are exactly why. It excites me fly more more. Big brands are entering into the space because aiming is the biggest form of entertainment in the world are not everyone loves to play games. People have technology all around them,

there's more more ways and more more accessibility options every single day that you can play games, mobile gaming continues to dominate. You know that, I'm sure we get a new Apple products like backbone who I'm now an investor in. Do you know? That's a great Mobile gaming controller. You've got AAA titles through Cloud now, available on, on mobile games. You got more developers than ever before, offering the game across all platforms of cross play, because it's necessity. You know, it's all about access and the more people you give the option to play your games. Do the more successful see.

Twice free to play. Has begun to dominate and we've got rid of loot boxes for the most part some of these games because People want to spend money, they want a store where they can pick and choose their favorite item. In a lot of this is all thanks to the efforts made by epic games at fortnite and and is super excited. Yeah. Game developers and Publishers and Brands, right? I think are really, really coming into the space and recognizing the power and influence that, you know, gaming creators have engaged audiences, right? Like a stupid to see her interactive experience in

a relationship that you have with the people tuning in to watch you. And I think that that's see now is really valuable. I kind of want to hear about your first couple of sponsorships and partners that you had and kind of how maybe your approach to working with brands has changed over time. You know, that I've been blessed to work with my manager agency loaded, who is been so good to me and work together on so many great different projects and they brought me some opportunities. I really still to this day, can't even believe for possible, but back when I first started in gaming,

the prefaces I was, I was an unpaid intern at my first-ever, you know, job with Major League Gaming in New York City. But one of my mentors on the man that brought me into this whole mystery. Chris pocket. One stop becoming very invaluable which was the basically know your value, right? I knew that I brought my expertise, my excitement, my my passion to Call of Duty broadcast and eat it at my first event, I was offered money for the weekend, the cast. And from then on out I knew that there is a value. In what I bring I want to make sure that I am paid

accordingly and that is always been something I wish for I am always Decided to help other streamers know their value help present industry know their value and because of that I'm also really confident in how I push and promote these Brands. And I work with back in the day it was a lot of learning and experiencing You know how how, how do I want? I got this opportunity came up. I am I going to help my audience engagement and then I realized that, you know, your audience also wants to engage with with, with these products, right? I only do sponsorships and

I'm really proud to have worked with a lot of great Brands whose products I believe in and used every single day. If you look at the title sponsors, I work with. They are products that I love and have used prior to working with them in a razor, for example, of heads that you see on, how do you stretch your promises 2010? Like my, my whole gaming life has been the Death. Adder is my mouse. The BlackWidow chroma is my keyboard. And because of that, I've had great Partnerships that have for the most part, all lasted multiple years because there's such a valued for the brand, but it also says, your

value for me and you get to do giveaways. And, you know, my mind, Best things to look forward to to get discounts. And and I think the best brands in this industry, no to work with these traitors, but then let the readers really let their creative Juices Flow. They are creators and full-time in this industry or or successful in this industry because they know what works with are all. They know what works for what they do on stream. I think the the brands that really struggle with certain Partnerships is only trying to step on too many toes when too many. I

got a good way to put it is too many chefs in the kitchen right? Get give give your guidance on what you'd like to see but then if he is the creator of your trust and say hey I know that you know how to work with your audience, your audience loves to participate in what you do just wrap us. Well and and here if you'd like to see but give it your all and nine times out of ten ninety-nine percent of the time actually even better, it'll pay out way. Way more than some people who try to put a blanket type of creative approach to these things. And don't really get a one-on-one approach that

they should have with the certain opportunities. I think we seen that right. I think we seen you come into the space and they're kind of taking this like shotgun approach and just trying to be everywhere and trying to get everyone to just kind of hit those marketing piece. And, you know, the gaming audience is, is smart and their passion is see right through that stuff, may want authenticity. And so, you know, it's really about Partner and you know, it's it's really selective about who they work with as well and making sure that like you know you don't lose credibility with your own

by making kind of the wrong decision of Huda and Doris and and who to promote and it really just speaking to the stuff that you really do love. So wide, a range of partners that you said from the endemic Brands, like razor to Blue Chip friends like Chipotle and Angela and twisted thing go wrong. Yeah. Again, I've been so blessed her with so many great businesses and Brands and have help legitimize my business of help you do push the courage brand to the next level and I've also seen the impact. It's had on the courageous, invite my great audience out there with, you know, so many of them who are

just now getting into gaming, for example, and with games, like fortnite, we're taking off and there's a lot of people were playing PC on PC for the first time, the council the first time while they're looking for, what headsets are they get, what what mouse should they use? And I love these products are used in my whole life, it's easy, it's natural for me to promote these and what ways are to be successful because they treated me so well. But that also, I want people to use these products because it's been one successful for me. And then next, you know, I get rave reviews back

from my audience, who uses the products and has great experiences. And the next time I work another great brand, my audiences pay last time, I, you know, It's coming a jack promoted and I loved it. Well, let me try this time around. And, you know, for example, games feel like I have now entered your, to my partnership with them. They've been a great partner. We we've given away tons, and tons of cases. We've done such unique things on stream. We've had a unique overlays that have been made and and 111 at work with James to Liz, they want

to expand into gaming but also show a tunnel of across-the-board, like they are passionate about gaming, have a great product that I love to drink what I play. And because that it's just a natural thing for me to promote, you know, I'm very much in the boat weight loss, trying to trying to be wary of my weight. You know, game Fuel has their zero, zero calorie zero sugar drink. That's what I drink and I love it. They have that healthier option for people out there, so I just try to make sure that no matter what, I'm working with the brand, it needs to be something that I enjoy myself

and would play or You know, ref or or drink myself if I'm going to promote it. That's one thing that I found this really really successful as it has to be products that I resonate with myself or else my audience to see right through it. And and it's, it's been that way since day one in regards to things that, that, that that maybe don't work as well. For me it's it's it's what it comes down to the certain posts. That a lot of these places are a lot of these Brands will want They try to strip things really, you know,

really really tightly. They tried to Do certain things that don't attach a picture to this or or post at this exact time and it's like that doesn't work the same way for everyone. Like, I know, for example, that if I post a picture with something, it gets twice as much engagement that I post. A selfie with my going live, tweet instead of just going live, watch here, it gets. Double two likes, double the replies that if not more. So if I'm posting about Any product or anything along those lines, nine times out of ten, you'll see a photo with it unless they tell me they really

don't want that because I know it'll get more engagement, more eyes will be on it. So I think that one thing that is a negative that can sometimes go with. This is when again they step on it, when brancheau to step on too many toes, let let me do what I do. Best have trust in me as a new part that you're going to work with to promote your product in the right way and I'll send things through for approvals and stuff like that. Sure. But I'd much rather send things in for approvals and have to tweak it a little bit to be put out in a way that I think will be successful with my audience and just

be told this way, or the highway and have less engagement less excitement and an overall, a less positive experience working with like a gaming Creator vs. Like an accident, right? You know, your audience is asper in who these people are and and how they want to be spoken to and what they like. And don't It's very different than just hiring someone to say the words, right? The other advantages that there are with working with gaming creators opposed to like actors

of traditional celebrities. What is a perfect example of a traditional celebrity that does a brilliant job with it, is The Rock, You Know The Rocks. One of the largest Instagram followers in the world, his beloved by his fans and audiences everywhere. And he does such a great job with his with his Instagram that you know you can see right through certain actors or celebrities who have teams that run their accounts, the Rocks account. It seems like it's ran by him every single day which I wouldn't doubt it and the promotion in the way that they do things for the different companies are

movies he's involved. In feels really natural and you want to engage with it. I mean, he posts his excitement and it's, you feel that rock Siteman in and it makes you want to engage with the post and hear more about the project he's working on and I think that what it comes to gaming gaming creators, we get way more under that umbrella, that then most traditional celebrities we understand social media. It's our entire life. We understand what works across different platforms. I know that if I'm going to do a post on Twitter, engage you with some sort of photo

will too fast and then when I head on over to post a Tik Tok, let's take the Kratom bad for Tik-Tok the best thing to do. Their what is a viral type clip that ends in may be a stinger or something along those lines of up the part of the ad, right? Play into the biology of Tik-Tok if I'm going over to Instagram and I'm doing the clip, you know, make sure that it leads with the exciting moment that people don't just click away. Don't have a black screen to start your Instagram ad, because the preview on Instagram will just show the black screen and go get way less engagement. You need to know

how to kind of shift your approach. No matter what platform you around, I think that gaming operators can do that better than I I agree. I agree. You know, you guys were so many hats. Your performer is your host, your producers directors. Editors writer's Community. Builders like there's so much versatility with what you have to do because you do it all, and you don't have a team and you don't have, you know, a big production around. Do you have to pretty much everything yourself? How did the pandemic of fact? You, you know, like it. The Halls on any of your business? There

are many different ways. I think it's been very weird to say, but gaming has arrived from the pandemic. When when the pandemic happened and everyone was stuck at home. The best thing to do when you're at home is play video games. I will say firsthand that. If I didn't have video games during this pandemic, it would have been a way or boring. I think way less Joy, not Joyce full, but I would have had way less opportunities for Joy. During this time away from friends, I am away from family

and I live across the country. From all those people that connecting via Discord and playing games together that we shared a passion with, for the past twenty years has given me something to look forward to every single day and her people. If you remember, it was first animal crossing people don't never play these games for Hawthorne Animal Crossing cuz it came out, right? When the pandemic started Warzone skyrocketed to the came out, right? When the pandemic started, again, these games that people are, are, are, are looking forward to. And then now, more people are looking to be

play games than ever before. And you're seeing, I'm seeing people that I could never imagine friends of mine that I've never seen in a Discord Channel or playing games together online are all doing that, especially in the first half of the pandemic, when everything was shut down. So, for me, it's, it's, it's been a blessing in math more people. If you wanted to watch, have been engaging because what else is there to do, right? But at the same time I've realized that going to events seen. My, my break fans the courageous in

person casting and bring joy through. What I can just do with my voice for some of these gaming in any sports moments and and and overall just getting a break from the monotonous day. Today of signing on getting to my computer. Figured out. What I'm going to do for the day though, still talking to your needs to break out of the mold or what. Brought me so much joy brought brought so much joy. It would also motivate me to keep working hard because I want to make those people that I meet face-to-face proud. I want to keep having these incredible

experiences so that's been a bit tough. I felt, you know, my anxiety spike a bit this year. I've been pretty vocal with my audience on that. Sellers been pros and cons for sure. But I think the gaming industry, ironically enough, for the most part, has seen more positive than negative come from the pandemic because gaming is Thrive from it. I think we're very fortunate to, you know, in an industry in a community. That's not restricted by location and, and physical, accessibility, and things are really tough for everyone this year. So, yeah, I mean, I guess I want to wrap up and just

ask you, if you know what's next for you. And what are you excited about down the road condition to be parked by your organization 100? Thieves surrounded by a fantastic team. You know, still to this day gaming with my day, one friends that I've known since we were elementary school kids that are play video games. Have been, I've been in a really blessed position where now I want to continue to adapt. You know, gaming for me, games are in a little bit of Lowell right now. I think a lot of the industry's feeling that the games that came out towards the end of

2020, just really didn't hit or were postponed ace off of things with the pandemic that were just kind of in that holding pattern waiting to see what's next. So, I'm trying out a bunch of new things, which is really fun, a lot more in real life content. You know. I'm in a unique situation where I'm in a house with Brooke, a b Symphony nail shop in Ocala, Chris, right down the street. I got so many friends in this industry that I want to go and begin to do more with them in person. So that's one thing. I'm looking forward to have also been doing a lot more of doubling down and how much I

believe in this industry by now with the success I've had going and investing in companies that I think will push us into our. And I'm now colder and multiple businesses that will be more public soon. One of which has a backbone that I just invested in last week, which is been great. So, I want to continue to build that out and discover what's next in gaming is what, what companies, I think, will really thrive in the, in the, in the coming years. And then I'll just try to remain healthy trying to work out. I think it really helps with my mental, my mental state, and just keep

trying to be a role model for people that wants to become a YouTuber streamer Creator in their own way. And and something that, you know, so you just you did because you cared about it to really be coming now and entrepreneur in the space. So, thanks again for sharing all that with us today. I'm just going to keep on going and hopefully next South by Southwest. We can have a panel in person with some other group members of this community and continue to push gaming and That would be great. I look forward

to that too.

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