Gfinity injects the X Factor into eSports as Syco exec Mark Brittain joins to tempt brand integration

The newly decked out Gfinity Arena / Gfinity plc and Joe Brady Photography

UK-based eSports organizer Gfinity hopes to emulate the commercial success of Simon Cowell’s X Factor by hiring Mark Brittain, a former executive from the TV production firm Syco, that helped produce the show.

Tapping into the entertainment industry, the company has hired Brittain as chief commercial officer whereupon he will bring his licensing and prowess to the fore, experimenting new ways to connect brands with eSports. He told The Drum he has identified “at least 60 ways for a brand to get involved” in the eSports space since joining.

On his stint at Syco, Brittain said: “The last 12 years I have been at the cutting edge of how brands and content work together.” During the period, his time was evenly split between working with TV judge and music mogul Cowell, and entrepreneur and producer Simon Fuller.

Reflecting Gfinity's recent hires, taking talent from as broad a spectrum of firms such as UFC, Formula E and Microsoft, the company looks to build beyond its devout core of hardcore gamers in the understanding there will one day be a wider appeal in competitive gaming. “We want to transfer the skillsets to this sector” all in pursuit of becoming the xFactor of eSports, Brittain said. A wide appeal, brand friendly space that is widely watched by audiences.

To court potential brand partners, some of whom will be newcomers to the space, Brittain is inviting agencies, and their clients, to the Gfinity Arena to meet the players, presenters, see the events, and the passion of the fans. Topically, the new look is not a far throw from a stage one may see in a certain prime-time TV talent show.

He looks to convert “intimidated decision makers alien to the concept of eSports” into loyal partners, but to that he has to break through an incumbent “reticence’ still in some brand – and agency – board rooms.

To do this he has to “break down barriers and allows brands to experiment in the space,” not a particularly difficult sell when the cost the enter the space still remains relatively low in comparison to other mediums.

“My success has always been about listening to a brand objective and creating a bespoke opportunity,” over the next few months he will look to “offering a programme that brands and agencies can embrace and get their heads round,” that is both authentic and adds value for the eSports fans.

“I genuinely feel that eSports is one of the most exciting entertainment sectors in the world right now,” he concluded.

On the appointment, Neville Upton, chief executive of Gfinity, said: “Securing Mark’s services is a real coup for us. His background with global successes such as X-Factor and the Got Talent series will prove invaluable in securing strategic partnerships and driving significant revenue for the company.”

The news comes as Gfinity launches its Elite Series, a Fulham based tournament for pro-gamers, in nine weeks of competitive matches including Street Fighter, Counter Strike, Rocket League, hosted in the newly decked out Gfinity Arena, the UK’s first such dedicated eSports space.

The Drum is investigating the Fifa eSports phenomena in a documentary called eSports: Football Rebooted. Sign up for the free viewing event 3 August in London here.

John McCarthy

John is an entertainment marketing reporter at The Drum. He writes about the amazing marketing stories coming from the movie, TV, music and video game industries. He's also the hunt for the weirder trends in marketing and advertising.

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