Free-to-play real-time prediction market app developer BallStreet Trading and Riot Games announced Friday that the company has been named the official fantasy and fan engagement partner for Teamfight Tactics esports in North America.
Financial terms of the multi-year partnership were not disclosed.
As part of the deal, BallStreet will create a free-to-play real-time prediction market for fans to compete against each other during live TFT esports events beginning in early June via Riot’s official portal for the auto-battler game.
BallStreet will also work with Riot’s TFT development team and third-party brands to create rewards and prizes for viewers who tune into TFT competitions.
This is the first major partnership for BallStreet in the esports space; the company has in the past primarily focused on sports such as the NBA and the NFL through its Android and Apple iOS app.
To learn more about what the partnership will entail and how it came to fruition in the first place, The Esports Observer spoke to BallStreet Trading Founder Scott San Emeterio and Head of Business Development Matthew Leightman earlier this week.
When BallStreet first started, its focus was on creating a real-time prediction market app for Android and iOS that could be used in tandem with sporting events, and entertainment events. The company found modest success playing in those markets, but in 2020, as COVID-19 shutdown countries and in-person sporting events, BallStreet found itself at a crossroads.
“We had to have a real important internal conversation and ask the question, ‘What do we do now?’” Matthew Leightman said. “I had a friend who I grew up with, played sports with, and he happens to work for an esports team. So he was my first contact, and I still have notes from that conversation on March 17th, 2020. And he just gave me a rundown of everybody in the space, who the big players are, how to approach it, where to look for different games, just, an entire breakdown of the industry.”
From there, Leightman went on LinkedIn and started messaging as many people as possible and have as many conversations as possible to understand the scene and everybody in the industry. Ultimately this led to contact with Riot Games.
“At first, we looked at viewer-facing streamers, the influencer community, and then the teams, because you see these teams everywhere, like the 100 Thieves and the Cloud9s of the world, and then there’s this publisher population,” said San Emeterio. “And as you dig deeper into how esports works, we understood pretty early on that it was going to be the publishers that we really ultimately had to speak to and understand what their business models were and how we could potentially think about letting BallStreet play a role in it.”
Early on in the process of trying to pitch its platform to Riot, San Emeterio says that BallStreet had to explain its plan for fan engagement and rewarding and monetizing fans. “For us, it was about trying to convey this new business model, so through our ability to reach out and have all of these conversations, Riot was certainly at the top of the list and Matt was able to make a connection.”
After a year of negotiations, Riot and BallStreet came to an agreement. Now they are ready to hit the ground running in June when TFT esports in North America kicks off.
Matt Archambault, head of esports partnerships for NA & OCE at Riot Games, tells TEO that it has been exploring the idea of implementing a fantasy gaming element into TFT for quite some time, but wanted to do it right, and found many traditional sports platforms to be lacking.
“Our goal was to find a product that fit seamlessly with TFT’s unique format, viewing experience, and strategic gameplay, and in our talks with BallStreet, we grew confident that BallStreet has the right team and product to rise to the challenge. BallStreet Trading adds a fun, skills-based element to watching TFT, and we’re excited for fans to give it a try with the latest Reckoning set. ”
For BallStreet this deal is a major milestone; San Emeterio says that the company will generate revenue by telling the stories of brands and sponsors through its platform.
“Right now our business model is to be able to bring in brands and sponsors to tell their story intra-game during any of these live events. So we want to be able to play through a sponsorship model where brands would basically pay for the right to be a part of and associate themselves with the events that we have markets for so we could create the opportunity for images awareness, live videos, all of the data that comes along with someone spending 40 minutes on the app, almost the Nielsen 2.0 effect to where we’re able to really capture first-party data and offer that back to the brands to be able to target and re-target those specific members of our audience.”
As for how BallStreet’s platform will be integrated into TFT esports, San Emeterio says that this will be done through a second screen experience alongside official TFT broadcasts from Riot’s direct portal. This will also extend to broadcasts on other platforms such as Twitch and YouTube; the link to the portal will live on broadcast platforms, giving viewers an entry point to trade on BallStreet markets. San Emeterio adds that prizes will be provided by Riot partners and sponsors: “The goal is to create an opportunity for this to become a digital marketing channel for everyone where we’re able to then interact with the fans live while they’re watching.”
San Emeterio hopes that this deal with Riot will help raise awareness about what BallStreet Trader does, and ultimately help them secure some financing down the road to scale the company and seek out similar partnerships.
“Our focus is going to be looking to take this relationship and a presence in esports to begin, to get some consideration for financing so that we can invest into relationships like this, and specifically look to continue to build out through TFT.”
Finally, San Emeterio says that while they will focus a lot of energy on TFT esports, the company will continue to support fantasy sports through its app, which it will continue to support for the foreseeable future.
“The BallStreet app is available on Google Play and available on the Apple app store and that will continue to live there. We will also continue to run the more conventional sports there. So for us to have the BallStreet brand still available is something that we will continue to do, but depending on how all of these events roll out throughout the year, our focus will be on creating the best experiences where we think we have the biggest audience and the biggest opportunity going forward.“
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