JOHN MCRAE

New Zealand Marketing - - 20 Hot List 2018 -

There is no short­age of tal­ent carv­ing out new digs in our me­dia land­scape. From ta­lented hu­mans such as Dr Mark Sa­gar from Soul Ma­chines, to Sir Richard Tay­lor from Weta Work­shop, for­ward thinkers are shift­ing the in­dus­try with new re­al­i­ties and shiny new plat­forms. While our list of fi­nal­ists boasts a dis­cern­ing bunch, a real cherry is John Mcrae, the man driv­ing New Zealand’s es­ports bus up and down the coun­try.

Pre­vi­ously part of Duco events, Mcrae has been mak­ing waves in the bur­geon­ing com­pet­i­tive video gam­ing mar­ket. Mcrae is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Let’s Play Live, New Zealand’s largest es­ports en­ter­tain­ment and broad­cast­ing com­pany, and sees es­ports as the next big thing in broad­cast­ing and wants to ed­u­cate brands about the op­por­tu­ni­ties. Mcrae has also helped to im­ple­ment a gov­ern­ing body for es­ports named the es­ports Fed­er­a­tion, which has been estab­lished to rep­re­sent and de­velop what is con­sid­ered the fastest grow­ing en­ter­tain­ment sec­tor glob­ally. While it still sounds strange to many non-gamers, es­ports is start­ing to boom as a view­ing and event ex­pe­ri­ence and is draw­ing mas­sive crowds, to the point where bil­lion­aires who own NFL and NBA teams have started to buy gam­ing teams and pro­fes­sional play­ers are get­ting rich. It could be a huge driver for eco­nomic growth, as seen most in the Chi­nese mar­ket, where es­ports is ex­pected to gen­er­ate $3 bil­lion yuan (US $462 mil­lion) of rev­enue and at­tract 140 mil­lion users this year. Ad­di­tion­ally, es­ports rev­enue is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing 40 per­cent year-on-year growth glob­ally, and a global view­ing au­di­ence of around 385 mil­lion. While es­ports is still fledg­ling in New Zealand, there is sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est, and Mcrae is en­sur­ing that Ki­wis aren’t left be­hind in the red-hot sec­tor. “es­ports has been around at a grass­roots level for a long time in New Zealand, our job was to pro­vide a plat­form and give es­ports ac­cess into a main­stream au­di­ence, there is no rea­son why it can’t be as big as it is over­seas and con­tinue to grow here in New Zealand.” While the thought of video gam­ing re­plac­ing tra­di­tional sports like rugby and net­ball is giv­ing sport­ing purists in­di­ges­tion, mil­len­ni­als are flock­ing to es­ports and pre­sent­ing a real op­por­tu­nity for brands. There are 1 mil­lion gam­ing par­tic­i­pants in New Zealand, while rugby union com­pa­ra­bly has 155,000 par­tic­i­pants (but larger view­ing fig­ures). With num­bers like this, Mcrae says: “If you don’t know about es­ports and you own a busi­ness and your cus­tomer base are mil­len­ni­als, you should prob­a­bly find an­other job”. “Com­pa­nies who sup­port es­ports are get­ting a great affin­ity with what kids are pas­sion­ate about, we are see­ing glob­ally how brands have har­nessed the op­por­tu­nity re­ally ef­fec­tively, from Coca-cola, to in­surance com­pa­nies like Gecko, and Star In­surance Spe­cial­ists here in New Zealand who are aligned with one of our lat­est events Project Cars, there are also restau­rants, schools and many oth­ers jump­ing on board.” He adds large brands like Mercedes Benz are in­vest­ing in es­ports with a long-term strat­egy, be­cause although the au­di­ence may not be buy­ing a new Mercedes Benz now, these are the kids that will be buy­ing elec­tric cars, and are likely to pur­chase their prod­ucts down the line. To fur­ther in­cu­bate young tal­ent, Mcrae launched the first New Zealand High School

es­ports League in 2017. The na­tional pro­gramme is free for schools to sub­mit teams, and in­volves one hun­dred teams play­ing up and down the coun­try. The league has a mix­ture of pub­lic and pri­vate schools play­ing, fe­male, male and mixed gen­der teams, who are all play­ing com­pet­i­tively against each other. Mcrae shares an of­fi­cial high school photo of an estab­lished es­ports team, and adds that there are dig­i­tal pre­fects pop­ping up as a re­sult. “It has been one of the most re­ward­ing as­pects for me, to cre­ate a plat­form for kids to stand up and be proud, and be­cause it is team-based, if they are not al­ready in­volved in a team-based sport, it gives them an op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate.” Mcrae says many el­e­ments from tra­di­tional sports are trans­fer­able to es­ports, from man­age­ment and pro­duc­tion, to sport­ing at­tributes such as co­or­di­na­tion, sports­man­ship, and team­work. It’s an of­fer­ing to kids who are dis­in­ter­ested with tra­di­tional team sports to par­tic­i­pate in, and he adds that es­ports is a proven bridge to par­tic­i­pate in ac­tive sports, in par­tic­u­lar team sports. It could also be a bona fide full-time job for up and com­ing tal­ent as Mcrae says most pro­fes­sional play­ers are get­ting paid sim­i­lar in­comes to a new law grad­u­ate, and in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised play­ers are on mil­lion-dol­lar salaries. And if you add on the op­por­tu­ni­ties for a se­condary in­come, such as ap­pear­ances and in­flu­encer pro­grammes, and stream­ing, it can be ex­tremely lu­cra­tive. An ex­am­ple be­ing a player named Ninja, a Fort­nite streamer, who through his paid Twitch sub­scribers is turn­ing over $US500,000 a month. Es­ports also presents a huge op­por­tu­nity for lo­cal broad­cast­ers. In 2017, Mcrae penned a part­ner­ship with me­dia broad­cast­ers Sky TV and NZME to live stream es­ports events on Sky Sport. He’s since held mul­ti­ple events from the Let’s Play Live stu­dio space tucked in­side the Skyc­ity Sky Tower, which have been aired on Sky Sport across the coun­try. “We have been in­cred­i­bly lucky to have Sky TV as a part­ner through our growth pe­riod, they do get a lot of stick but niche sports wouldn’t ex­ist with­out them, it was the same for box­ing, snooker, darts, and now es­ports, they are a great part­ner to work with.” It could present a new di­rec­tion for Sky af­ter get­ting rat­tled with the loss of the Rugby World Cup rights, and shunted by cheaper al­ter­na­tives Net­flix and Light­box. Fur­ther­more, Mcrae says es­ports is on the road to be­com­ing an Olympic sport, and while it has al­ready been ce­mented in the Asian Games, he pre­dicts es­ports will fea­ture at the 2022 Olympics. “It’s one of the things we re­ally want to see is for es­ports to be recog­nised as a for­mal sport, so New Zealand’s young es­ports play­ers have the same ac­ces­si­bil­ity to fa­cil­i­ties, just like rugby or foot­ball, be­cause we are com­pet­ing on a world stage, and it is just an­other cat­e­gory New Zealand can com­pete for a gold along­side 27 coun­tries who now recog­nise es­ports as an of­fi­cial sport.” When asked what the fu­ture holds for es­ports in New Zealand, he says while he doesn’t have a crystal ball, he sees ma­jor leagues be­ing run in New Zealand with big es­ports fran­chises own­ing their own teams as well as pri­vately-owned teams. They will com­pete in big na­tional leagues with high sta­dium at­ten­dances. “All the in­fra­struc­ture is there, the fi­bre is there, it is just a mat­ter of time.”

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