Christoph Timm on Expanding Team Liquid’s Partnerships, and Lessons Learned From BMW
Team Liquid has enjoyed a busy 2018 so far in regards to prominent partnerships, opening its Alienware Training Facility in March—just a month before announcing a deal with German enterprise software giant SAP in April. The latter partnership marks SAP’s first step into esports, as the company aims to impact player performance via in-depth game analysis, with Team Liquid’s International-winning Dota 2 squad already seeing the first benefits of the arrangement.
To maintain those partnerships and help to court potential new ones, Team Liquid recently brought on Christoph Timm as EMEA client manager. Before joining up with Team Liquid, Timm spent the last two years as an esports specialist for BMW, helping the automaker work to gain an understanding of the competitive games industry. He first worked as a maintenance specialist for BMW, but saw a prime opening to lead the company towards a younger, more digitally-minded consumer.
“The opportunity for a brand like BMW was to reach a new audience that they normally don’t reach. The next generation is really important, but they are more digital: watching streams, Netflix, Twitch, all of those things,” Timm told The Esports Observer. “My opinion was, at that moment, esports has such a big audience—especially in Asia, but also the U.S. and Europe. They’re all important markets for BMW.”
Timm served as project manager for BMW’s single-event sponsorship of last year’s European League of Legends Championship Series Finals in Paris. Under his leadership, BMW produced a series of promotional videos featuring former Unicorns of Love manager Romain Bigeard driving a BMW M3 to the event. Beyond that campaign, Timm’s role included helping BMW’s managers—who were generally older than those found in the esports space—navigate the scene.
“I was responsible for telling our managers a lot of things about esports, kind of teaching them,” he said. By the time he departed for Team Liquid, Timm found a greater understanding amongst the BMW brass.
“They understand that esports is not just gaming,” he affirmed. “They know now that esports is a really big thing, and it makes sense to do something there. I think they accept it as a competitive sport, in my opinion.”
“I was responsible for telling [BMW’s] managers a lot of things about esports, kind of teaching them.”
Timm saw the Team Liquid role as an opportunity to apply his learnings from his time at BMW to help other large companies ease into the space, as well as step further into the esports industry himself.
“I’ve loved esports for such a long time, and at BMW, I learned from them how these big companies think,” he said. “For me, it was a really good opportunity because I love esports and I want to stay completely in it.”
In order to ease the minds of more established brands that might be uneasy about partnering with an esports organization or confused about its value, Timm said that he will point to Team Liquid’s stability, success, and funding—not to mention its existing high-profile partnerships. He told TEO that the Alienware Training Facility is a perfect example of what’s possible with a branding deal that goes beyond simply slapping a logo on something.
“What we did with the Alienware Training Facility—it’s a completely new concept, and a really professional atmosphere there,” he said. “I want us to also show the big brands, ‘Hey, at Team Liquid, we can handle nearly everything for you,’ and that we have our own production studios, 1UP Studios, and Liquipedia and everything else.”
The SAP partnership is a prime example of a mutually beneficial relationship. SAP’s HANA platform is being used to analyze in-game match data, which can then provide potentially actionable feedback for players about opponents’ tendencies or best in-game practices. That data could provide Team Liquid’s players a unique competitive advantage, while also giving SAP the opportunity to show the power of its analytics software in the space and potentially generate wider esports adoption in the future.
“I think our SAP partnership is something unique in the industry, in my opinion, and I’m really happy to work with them,” said Timm. “What we’ve already done… has gotten really good internal feedback. It’s also a big impact for the esports industry.”
As announced in April, SAP first began working with Team Liquid’s Dota 2 squad to unearth potentially valuable insights from the game data. Timm suggested that SAP has provided data on “things you’ve never seen before,” but that they’re holding off on publicly sharing the full extent of what SAP can do for teams and players.
“We’re getting such detailed and faster feedback from their software,” he added. “I’m not allowed to speak about what they’re going to do for us, but I can say it’s going to be big, in my opinion.”
The biggest impact of SAP’s insights may be improvements in training techniques. With an ever-shifting metagame in an esport like Dota 2, each new update requires ample time to uncover game balance changes and their impact on competitive success. SAP’s analytics software can potentially reveal that critical information with ease, taking some of the grind off of the backs of players and focusing their practice time on what’s really important. As such, players might be able to enjoy more free time and avoid possible burnout.
“I think I know what big brands are looking for, especially in the car and automotive industry.”
“They train really hard and really long, they’re playing for a really long time—but I think the software is making training more effective for us,” said Timm. “It gives us more time to concentrate on other things.”
Now, as well as working with current partners, Timm’s new job as EMEA client manager puts him on the hunt for further impactful allies to sign with Team Liquid. He believes that his experience introducing BMW to the world of esports will help now that he’s with an endemic esports organization, as he can understand and try to allay non-endemics’ concerns and any potential confusion around this rapidly-growing industry.
“My first focus is on ensuring that clients are happy, and then my next focus is… I hope that I can help with getting new partners involved,” he affirmed. “There are a lot of big brands that are maybe thinking at the moment about going into esports, and I think it’s a cool thing when there’s somebody who knows how big brands work—especially in Germany, but also around the globe. It’s nearly the same. I think I know what big brands are looking for, especially in the car and automotive industry.”
He added that Team Liquid can craft “authentic stories with a car brand,” but that he wants to find a partner that “accepts that our players are stars for the crowd here.”
Ultimately, Timm hopes to help further normalize and grow esports in the mainstream, and he believes that bringing in established brands is key to that. Team Liquid already showed success in that department before his arrival, and his goal is to further that trend and bring in more and more meaningful partners.
“It’s an exciting time to join Liquid with partners like SAP coming on board. I didn’t close that deal,” he said. “But I want to be a part of that, and hopefully I can help Team Liquid get bigger and bigger in the next years.”
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