Chris Kissack and Louise Kelly, leading Affinity in the exciting esports space

It is no secret that the esports sector is growing at a rapid rate, with international tournaments such as the LoL (League of Legends) 2021 World Championship receiving over 4 million viewers. The sectors high demand and popularity is driving new investment and innovation in players, games and tournaments, all of which have exposed new opportunities and lucrative revenue streams.

As key drivers behind its market revenue worth over $1 billion, streaming platforms, sponsorships and advertisements are reaching a global audience which has captured attention from major brands and celebrities looking for new, exciting investment opportunities. An example, Louis Vuitton partnering with game developer, Riot games to create a limited edition trophy case for the 2021 LoL World Championship.

Esports has earned its title as leading the global gaming Industry, and whilst its growth has transformed over the last decade, its origins, values and strong sense of community remains at the heart of the esports of sector. In this case, true esports fans hold a raw passion and sense of protection for the Industry that they only experienced before global brand sponsors and million dollar prize pools. In response to this, esports ambassadors hold a personal responsibility to promote authenticity in the sector and they do this by supporting grass root initiatives that originated the Industry’s international success. Examples of grass root initiatives are intimate tournaments that pop up at local venues and champion young, enthusiastic players.

As an introduction to the sector, Affinity proudly sponsored the first professional esports tournament on the Isle of Man. We believe this placed us in the right environment to understand more about the sector from the roots up. Our effort to support grass-roots initiatives has involved us becoming part of the esports community, building relationships with people, and learning from their knowledge and experience. By this, we understand the sector internally and respond with services that it needs to grow. The strategy we have adopted to do this and authentically incorporate esports as one of our sectors is by hiring a real esports enthusiast into our team, Chris Kissack.

Chris is a well-respected figure in the esports sector and a recognised ambassador for the Isle of Man. Formally Head of esports for the Isle of Man Government, Chris joined Affinity as Business Development Manager in September in the Isle of Man office to actively develop Affinity’s positon in esports and create a loyal network by forming valuable relationships. Chris will lead our authentic strategy into the esports sector and push further exploration into emerging sectors.

Chris holds many years of experience in esports which has formed his integral understanding of the sector. Since attending a Space Invaders tournament in 1987 at the young age of 6, Chris’s love for esports was ignited. Chris delved head first into the industry spending his teen years following the esports craze occurring at the time in South Korea. As the sector began to gain traction in Europe, Chris made it his mission to become a part of this emerging industry now on his door-step. He attended esports tournaments across various countries, networked with esports teams, attended leading industry events, participated in numerous panels and even started his own podcast. Chris’s passion and enthusiasm, paired with his friendly nature and excellent networking skills opened many doors in the industry and exciting opportunities, such as hosting part of a 2018 $1 million CSGO (Counter Strike) tournament in London.

As a known figure in the esports community with a loyal following on his LinkedIn page, Chris plays an active role in the sector, posting regular updates to his network of international peers.  We believe Chris joining Affinity is an excellent strategic fit to guide us in the space. Chris’s enthusiasm for esports is inspiring, he has already been passing on his knowledge to the team in group training sessions, and sharing new fun ideas such as team gaming sessions. Another way Chris is developing esports at Affinity is attending industry events, Chris recently attended ESI (Esports Insider) London with another Affinity team member, Louise Kelly our Senior Client Administrator in the egaming team. Louise has expressed a keen interest in esports since joining Affinity, and also has an understanding of the sector having previously attended esports events, such as Starladder in Berlin. We are thrilled to have two passionate team members representing Affinity in the space, and have Chris mentoring Louise to help build her esports knowledge and expertise.

We hear from Louise on how she found esports Insider in London,

“My first experience of the esports industry was at a CS:GO major in Berlin in 2019, which gave me an invaluable insight into the real passion that exists in this industry. Although among myself there were other female supporters in the audience, it was quite obvious we were in the minority! Looking at esports orgs and the teams within there does seem to be more male professional players, but there are tons of girl gamers and streamers out there – so hopefully it won’t be long before we start to see more females playing professionally.

More recently I was lucky enough to go to Esports Insider with my colleague Chris, and I met such a wide variety of interesting and passionate people that I learnt so much from, albeit in a short space of time. I was very honest in any discussions I had that I was new to the industry but keen to learn more – not once was I made to feel out of place for not knowing something, and the love people have for the industry really came through from anyone I spoke to.  A word that I heard used a lot was “authenticity” and I understand now why this is so important, as people within esports are very protective of the industry – if you come across as not being genuine, people will see right through you.

At ESI I was pleasantly surprised at the number of women involved in the different areas, from marketing and PR, org ownership and students studying esports degrees. There was a really interesting panel on inclusivity and diversity in esports, which is probably the one that stayed with me the most, and made some great points on the benefits of employing a diverse workforce. It’s great to see the steps being taken in the industry to raise awareness of creating an all-inclusive gaming environment, and I’m hopeful we will start to see more female professional players really soon!”

In addition to Industry events, Chris has been pro-active since joining in September and has hosted events in both the Isle of Man and Malta. Whilst the gaming team attended SiGMA which took place in Malta in November, Chris took the opportunity to host an intimate event in Malta which entailed a small gathering of esports contacts within the industry. Chris also hosted a similar event on the Isle of Man and invited many of his esports contacts, and additionally some cannabis contacts that he has formed from his recent exploration into the sector.

Chris’s involvement in the esports sector has triggered momentum on the Isle of Man, and more grass-root tournaments have been popping up such as a recent Super Smash Bro’s tournament at Manx Telecom with around 30 people. We hear from Chris on how esports is developing at Affinity and on the Isle of Man,

“Esports is more than just an industry for me, it is a community I have been part of for a very long time, even before it was called esports and it was the billion dollar sector it is today. A word which gets used a lot in the space is “authenticity” and it’s importance when working in the space and when trying to enter it. As Affinity were the first on Island business to sponsor a local esports tournament and continue to support the local grassroots scenes, they have shown their authenticity, which has been recognised not only by myself but the wider esports industry.

I joined Affinity based on that support they gave but also their professional reputation for service delivery across different sectors.

The esports industry is growing rapidly, with the dawn of the Metaverse, Web 3 and other emerging platforms, activations and advancements. Businesses across different sectors are looking at how they can enter this exciting new space. Being part of an experienced multi award winning team allows me to help support new and existing clients working in esports. Leaning on our experience in egaming and traditional sectors we are able to help Org’s, Tournament Operators and service companies with authentic knowledge and understanding of the world of esports and competitive video gaming. “

We are excited for Affinity’s journey in esports, and believe we have only just scratched the surface in the sector. As we have demonstrated in egaming, our adoption of niche and emerging sectors has proved to be a success, leading it to be our fastest growing sector within a few years. Our success in all our sectors has been driven by our authentic strategy to organic growth and applied consistent philosophy; a personal, boutique approach to corporate structuring. Our close working relationship with clients includes a tailored service based on their individual circumstances and goals.

In the case of esports, as an emerging sector the landscape is continuously evolving which creates a growing number of opportunities.  We have highlighted various market segments in the esports sector which each require a unique structuring.  The growing amount of international tournaments across jurisdictions brings new challenges for esports players and teams. We can offer esports player’s professional advice in wealth management to suit personal circumstances and goals. We can provide esports teams with bespoke structuring, and we have the expertise to set up structures for esports start-ups with a unique business model.

One advantage we hold that our clients benefit from is our multi-jurisdictional offering with our offices in the Isle of Man, Malta and Cayman Islands. With this comes various competitive regimes and structures, which offers our clients unique benefits and the flexibility to choose many different avenues. Our clients also gain the prestigious status of being located in a reputable jurisdiction, which delivers value to their clients. An example, tournament operators looking for a new jurisdiction to set up shop. As with our other jurisdictions, the Isle of Man offers a favorable fiscal regime, robust regulation, developed infrastructure and a leading reputation as an international financial and business centre of excellence.

If you would like to hear more on Affinity’s services in esports, reach out to Chris or Louise who will be more than willing to chat with you and guide you in the esports space.