Advice for Working with Live Streamers + Starting a Company While in Business School
Brandon Freiberg is the founder of Endorse and a rising 2nd year MBA student at Harvard Business School. Endorse is an esports influencer marketplace, connecting brands looking to reach millennials to video game players for authentic product sponsorships. They’ve been fortunate to work with MasterCard and Harry’s, in addition to a plethora of gaming focused brands. Their technology differentiates them — including an analytics dashboard that tracks traditional marketing metrics across a cohort of influencers and their esports tailored media offerings.
What is Endorse in one sentence and what makes you guys unique?
Endorse is an esports influencer marketing platform — we connect brands looking to reach millennials to video game players for authentic product sponsorships through consuming product live on screen.
What inspired you to create an influencer marketing platform for gamers?
The genesis of Endorse lies at the intersection of two events:
- The constant articulation, from my own favorite influencers, of just how difficult it was to find product sponsorships and support themselves as full time streamers.
- Viewing the same few gaming and gaming peripheral companies (G2A, Chairs4Gaming) buying up endorsements for significantly less than market prices — companies very close to the industry and thus with knowledge of the true untapped value.
What trends in influencer marketing do you predict will gain traction over the next few years?
I believe that the industry will evolve from a primarily flat-fee based model (typically a function of views — similar to that of a CPM) to a metric (CPA/conversion) focused design. This will enable:
- Influencer incentives allowing a fuller alignment of objectives between brand and influencer.
- “Market makers” making flat fees available to influencers unwilling to take on the uncertainty of a campaign through the estimation of marketing performance via historical data.
What are brands most likely to get wrong when trying to work with live streamers?
The biggest mistake that I see is attempting to leverage the same format and tools for live stream as are used for recorded formats (like YouTube or podcasts). The core value of live stream is the ability for influencers to interact with their audiences in ways unavailable in other mediums — a two way conversation, playing games with fans, and a responsive chat.
How is engagement similar and different between Twitch (or live in general) and recorded media (such as YouTube or IG Stories)? How should brands tailor their strategies for live streaming sponsorships to maximize their ROI?
Agnostic to the fit between the brand and the audience of the influencer (which is important — for example, a fashion influencer would likely do better endorsing a fashion product to his or her audience than a gamer would), live tends to result in higher engagement than recorded. Another important parameter tends to be the size of the influencer’s audience — smaller influencers tend to see better results than larger ones. Our hypothesis to explain this is that the relationship between smaller streamers and their audiences, especially in live mediums, tends to be significantly more real than that across any other channel — influencers have interactive conversations with their audiences while they stream and will actually play games with their fans. A product endorsement is then perceived closer to a recommendation from a friend rather than that of celebrity or brand.
Brands ought to tailor their strategies to the live medium. On Twitch, for example, esports tailored media may include gamified giveaways (in which an influencer’s audience interacts with the brand in order to increase their probability of winning) and in-chat, branded games with virtual currencies, rewards and conversational chatbots.
Bonus for anyone considering business school: You’re currently a second year at HBS. Did you already know you would start a company going into MBA? What are the pros and cons of starting a venture while in business school?
Starting a company and finding a like minded subset of entrepreneurial individuals was my main objective for business school. Coming from a traditional pre-MBA background (consulting and then investing), business school has afforded me the freedom to learn about launching ventures from successful entrepreneurs in addition to granting me the freedom to work on our product. The access to resources (equity free funding via the Rock Accelerator and free work space via the Harvard Innovation Lab in addition to MassChallenge) has been unparalleled, and response rates from alumni in the industry has been fantastic. Downsides definitely include the difficult tradeoff in priorities between cultivating relationships, academics and building a strong product.