Esports Education 2020: management and marketing programs respond to industry demands


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Who needs esports education?

If you have any lingering doubts about the status of esports as a Very Big Deal, consider some recent developments in the industry.

Earlier this month, for example, Toronto-based Enthusiast Gaming Holdings Inc. announced its acquisition of Omnia Media Inc. As the owner of Luminosity Gaming as well as the Seattle Surge and Vancouver Titans (of the Call of Duty and Overwatch Leagues respectively) Enthusiast was already a major player. Its purchase of the multi-channel YouTube platform Omnia made it even bigger. According to an August 6 press release, Enthusiast is poised to become “the largest gaming media, esports and entertainment platform in North America by users, with 300 million video game and esports fans monthly”.

Consider, also, the status of those who have been drawn to the esports business from the traditional sporting world.

In 2016, for example, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban invested in the ESports betting platform Unikrn. Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is one of the owners of esports branding juggernaut 100 Thieves. Rogue counts Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert and Landon Collins of the NFL team formerly known as the Washington Redskins among its high-profile investors.

At the end of July, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner joined the ownership group at OverActive Media. (OverActive is the parent company of the Overwatch League’s Toronto Defiant and the Call of Duty League’s Toronto Ultra.)

And just last week, Major League Baseball deputy commissioner announced he was leaving the MLB after 12 years to become president of sports and entertainment for Activision Blizzard, effective August 17.

Who needs esports education? Well, if you aspire to walk among industry titans like those named above, maybe you do.

What the industry needs

There are a handful of institutions across Canada that offer programs on the business side of the competitive-gaming world. Seneca College, for instance, launches its eight-month graduate certificate program in ESports Marketing Management this fall.

The program is based out of Seneca’s Downtown Toronto campus. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Seneca has scheduled all classes to take place online.

Chris McCracken, who chairs Seneca’s School of Marketing, tells eCentralSports that the curriculum was created in consultation with industry professionals.

“We talked to our industry advisers—we call them a program advisory committee—and said, ‘What’s missing in the industry? What do you think you need in the pipeline over the next few years? Do you think a marketing program like this fits that bill?’ McCracken said in a telephone interview. “So that’s really where we started with it, and came up with the idea that this is a really specialized area in esports, and it’s a needed area. So we created our curriculum based on the advice from our PAC and what the industry needs and how we can fill that gap.”

McCracken says marketing professionals who specialize in sponsorship and branding are in high demand in esports. To help meet that demand, Seneca’s ESports Marketing Management program centres on developing business strategies and marketing plans for branding, advertising, and sponsorship opportunities.

Seneca’s fall semester begins on September 14. Prospective students can attend an informational webinar on August 20.

A natural destination

Durham College in Oshawa seems like a natural destination for anyone looking for an esports education. After all, the school already has its own gaming arena. It also has varsity teams competing in Rainbow Six Siege, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Rocket League, CS:GO, and League of Legends.

ESports education at the Durham College gaming arena.

Durham offers a two-semester Esport Business Management graduate certificate program. Due to COVID-19, however, students might not see the inside of those state-of-the-art facilities in September.

Sarah Wagg manages the arena. She told eCentralSports that all classes will be virtual—to start with, at least.

“We’re aiming to do this online, and once we get the go-ahead to bring students back to campus, we will transition to physical, in-class learning,” Wagg said in a phone interview. “Thankfully, because esports is done predominantly over the Internet anyway, all of their project and hands-on experiences can still be transitioned to virtual as well. If they’re running events, they can do those either in-person or virtually. The basics are still there, so we think the virtual model will do surprisingly well for esports academics.”

Durham grads will be well-positioned for any number of careers within the esports biz. These range from team recruiters and league organizers to marketing specialists and bran managers.

“We have quite a few options within this specific program just because of the wide variety of classes—we cover everything from IT and tech all the way over to HR and law,” Wagg said. “We dip into some of the business—project management, advertising, and marketing. And then we tie it all up in the second semester with a capstone project where all of the students host a large-scale esports event in our esports arena—given we’re okay to come back to classes in the second semester.”

Esports ecosystem

On the West Coast, the Esports Diploma Program at Vancouver Animation School focuses less on marketing and more on developing what VANAS calls an “esports ecosystem”.

Students will learn how to development and manage teams. They’ll also learn how to create small and mid-sized tournaments, how to create content, and how to attract sponsors.

VANAS offers all of its courses online. Students in the Vancouver area, however, have the option of attending classes at the school’s facility in south Burnaby.

“We offer a combined-delivery option,” VANAS marketing specialist Alina Shamina told eCentralSports. “That means that two hours a week they take online, and on Friday they come to our school, and they spend four hours every Friday here, learning and collaborating with other students.”

For the more technically inclined, Vancouver Animation School also offers a 12-month diploma program in Video Game Design.

Classes start September 28. The deadline for applications is this Saturday (August 22), and VANAS will host an admissions webinar on Thursday (August 20).

More options

Other postsecondary institutions in Canada that offer esports education include:

  • Lambton College (Sarnia, Ontario)
    Esports Management: “Specifically tailored, hands-on courses include the history of Esports, industry hardware/software, game design and live streaming. In addition, the business models behind team management and tournaments are studied in detail, with the culmination of learning in the practical project course where students integrate the knowledge obtained throughout the program to plan, manage and execute real-world Esports projects.”
  • Mount Royal University (Calgary, Alberta)
    Esports Management Extension Certificate: “You’ll gain practical communications and project management skills tailored to planning and executing an esport event. Explore the structures of an esports organization to gain an understanding of the industry and operations. In addition to those new to the industry, these courses benefit game developers, finance professionals, community managers, marketers and project managers.”
  • St. Clair College (Windsor, Ontario)
    Esports Administration and Entrepreneurship Program: “Courses of study include sports management, media production, event management, entrepreneurship, team and league administration, and techno-marketing. Students will learn a unique blend of esports gaming topics including the history of esports and video game culture, broadcast and content creation, online streaming media platforms including Twitch and YouTube, along with the skills necessary to excel in the burgeoning esports industry.”

I have done a lot of different things over the course of my life and professional career. I have interviewed Oscar and Grammy winners and written cover stories for glossy newsstand magazines. I have played guitar in a rock band on national TV and run an independent music label for which I wrote all of the PR and marketing materials. In my spare time, I sweated out a novel about a world where raccoons are kings and dragons are real.

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