Last weekend saw the first edition of an eSport event in Ålesund during which the contribution of student-volunteers turned out to be a key element.
By MAXENCE GUERITOT (text & photos)
A first of it’s kind in the region, the eSport event organized by the local start-up SportIn Global on Saturday, in Ålesund, marked an important step in the development of the organization. Based on the video game Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the event welcomed six teams of five players for an entire day of fierce competition.
The six teams, namely Fivealive, aka Warriors, JoNesbøEsport, aka-Esports, Metizport and Team Gaylords were gathered in the building of Akademiet, a private local high school which offers, between other subjects, courses on e-Sport and therefore was logically interested in becoming the main partner of the event. Teams were dispatched in two groups of three, according to the round-robin tournament design, and the two group-winners would meet in the final at the end of the day.
Every element of the competition was decided by SportIn Global’s team in cooperation with Akademiet, which also offered it’s technical equipment on top of its organizational know-how. Being a young organization, SportIn Global is continuing to develop and grow its ambitious project through such an event.
As explained by its founder and CEO Ole Martin Vebenstad, the vision of the start-up consists of “connecting students with all sport professionals and organizations in order to change the world of recruiting in sports”.
During a pre-event workshop on March 25th, he explained to all the volunteers, mostly past and current students of the Sport Management program at the University college of Molde, that the competition was aligned with SportIn Global’s aim of helping students, Universities and sport organizations to find the best fit to respond to their needs and expectations. More so, it represented a great opportunity to build new relationships with high schools, offer some practical experience to students and volunteers involved and in the same time expand these core activities of the organization to the booming world of eSport.
The students’ involvement in this innovative event was made possible after a visit from Ole Martin Vebenstad to their university. During a morning dedicated to entrepreneurship in sport, he presented the concept of his organization and the journey that led him to the creation of the latter. He highlighted the fact that during his studies in San Francisco, USA, he noticed that the sport industry was seriously lacking efficiency by not having any specialized platform allowing its actors to get in touch with one another.
He therefore decided to build this project and has developed SportIn Global ever since. From working in an innovation and entrepreneurial hub next to Molde university – Kunnskapsparken ProtoMore – to its current office located inside of Aker Stadion, the start-up’s structure has evolved and gained some legitimacy on the market. The value proposition of it’s business plan, offering as highlighted previously to increase the job opportunities of the sporting market, create knowledge networks and establish valuable relationships between actors of the industry, has attracted several partners interested about the project.
Located mainly in the United Stated and Norway, logic considering the founder’s background, these different sport organizations have understood the potential of the project and, whether it be professional sport clubs or universities, they have shown interest regarding SportIn Global’s digital platform. The latter is a vital component of the start-up’s development since most of its revenues are expected to be generated from premium offers on the platform allowing organizations to precisely define their recruitment needs and attract the best profiles according to the latter.
Another part of its revenue stream is expected to come from the advertisement of these organizations interested in the profile of SportIn Global users and this could turn out to be important considering the relevant and current example in the United States, which sees the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament generate enormous advertisement revenues precisely because it’s attractive audience is composed of college students and graduates. If the organization is expected to experience further growth in the future and expand its customer segments to the global market, it is worth mentioning that it’s finances are still currently dependent on subsidies which have contributed to financially secure its activity for at least the next year and a half.
Also, events such as the eSport competition held in Ålesund offer another source of revenue to the organization and it is no secret that most start-ups have to carefully manage their financial resources. The contribution of students in this context has been particularly beneficial to SportIn Global. Saturday’s competition was a perfect illustration of this phenomenon, with several previous interns, from the very first to the most recent one, being present as volunteers and working for its success.
Some of them were already in Ålesund the day before the event in order to prepare the competition site while the others joined them in the early morning for a team breakfast at the local Scandic hotel. All costs of the volunteers, from food to transportation, were covered by SportIn Global, and the organization managed to also bring different sponsors in order to make the event more attractive for participants.
Each participant therefore received a bag of goodies at the registration desk containing a Nocco can of energy drink, Shift tablets of vitamin D, a miniature sized outfit of Aalesunds FK or a t-shirt of the event. The winning prizes also highlighted the contribution of sponsors with an XXL sports bag, tickets to attend a football match of Aalesunds FK and Noccos on top of the usual competition trophy.
But to go home with the prizes, a team had to prove that it was the best of the tournament. After arriving at the site of the competition between 8:30 and 9am, each participant had to complete the registration process with the volunteers before being directed towards the room dedicated for the opening ceremony.
After a few words from Ole Martin Vebenstad and some of the staff of Akademiet present to also coordinate the event, each team was briefly presented the program of the day and invited to enjoy the event as much as possible.
At around 9:30, the first match kicked off between Aka-Esports and Fivealive. Both teams tested their equipment in a new environment, connecting their personal headset and keyboard to the gaming computers available for the competition. Once the game started, everything seemed to run smoothly, as players could focus on the gameplay and the staff was not overtaken by the amount of work and adjustments required.
The technical side of the event was also working as expected. All screens were properly showing the competition, the cameras were set around the rooms and captured sound and images for the live streaming of the event on Twitch, the biggest digital platform of eSport which offered access to the event to any CS:GO fan in the world. The studio hosted tournament commentators, also known as casters, who would follow the action and entertain the stream in the same time.
As the tournament progressed, a team in particular seemed to be one step ahead of the competition. During their first match of the day, Metizport demonstrated complete domination over their opponents, Team Gaylords, securing a 16-0 victory that sent a strong message to all competitors.
Since CS: GO is a first-person shooter game organized in games of 30 rounds of two minutes that see two teams play against each other alternatively as terrorists and counter-terrorists, a 16-0 win is the quickest way to end a match. Metizport therefore attracted the lights after its performance and the team’s coach, Jonas Volle aka JoVo, shared some insights about his organization after the game : “We have been playing together, with the boys here today, for about a month or two, but some players have known each other for many years, maybe four or five and I think that we are good to go with the current team for the future. It is five really good players”.
He continued by explaining that his team was aiming for the highest performance possible and that their aim was not limited to leisure competitions : “We are supported by an organization called Metizoft which helps us financially and is also involved in eSport with another game, so we have the possibility to travel all over the country. Also, we compete in a league, the Telenorligaen, where we are currently in the fifth division but we’ve had some really good results, so we can expect to get promoted to the higher division.”
JoVo added that the event organized by SportIn Global was a good experience for the development of Metizport in its path to higher levels and he also appreciated the development of the local eSport scene: “There are a lot more local tournaments now and it is growing with a lot of potential. Of course, we came here to win, get the trophy and the goodies bags, but it is also a social thing. It’s a different situation and a good opportunity to get the boys together and have the possibility to give a fist bump to your teammate. […] Our next step to get bigger is to possibly play in Kvinesdal at the Go:Camp”.
If Metizport came into the competition with some confidence in their chance to win the tournament, other teams saw in the event an opportunity to get some real-life experience and develop their team cohesion.
It was most likely the case for aka Warriors, who managed to win one out of its two group stage matches and therefore finished second of the group. Part of the team was Dina Løvøy, the only female represented in the competition, who saw the event as a good opportunity since she also works at Akademiet.
For her, it was also important to get some competition experience in a game that she has only recently been playing: “I started not long ago, so it’s a good opportunity for me. I just recently started this summer so I am quite new to it and it’s a good way of learning, also to be with my team in this competition.” She seemed satisfied about her decision to engage in the event and noted that the latter appeared “very professional” for her.
If most of the players appeared mostly satisfied about SportIn Global’s initiative of hosting such an event, only expressing a few negative comments regarding the preparation time offered to players between each game, the volunteers also valued their experience and their involvement in a real-life case of the sport industry.
It was particularly the case for students Arwa Abdulaal and Teija Toivonen, both gamers and interested about potentially transforming their passion into a reality.
Even if Arwa Abdulaal is more of an Overwatch player than a fan of Counter Strike, she was satisfied to participate in this event and appreciated the opportunity of collaborating with SportIn Global: “It’s a good experience, it brings us one step closer to working in sport and eSport. It is also another contribution to the development of eSport, so people become more aware of it and this can possibly lead to more events of this kind.”
She also enjoyed being around other gamers, something that is not necessarily easy in Molde otherwise: “It is good to be with like-minded people.”
Teija Toivonen had a similar perspective on the event. Even if her favourite video game is Destiny, discovering the Norwegian eSport scene was positive according to her and the work done by the organizing team can only turn out to be a beneficial experience for all: “You can always do better but it was a first time and hopefully it will keep going and grow in the future. The organization can hopefully get a good outcome from it.”
Overall, it is safe to say that this first edition of an eSport event organized by SportIn Global will be beneficial for all the stakeholders involved on Saturday. As it was the first of it’s kind, the start-up will gain some legitimacy in the sport industry and the market of eSport events and develop its internal knowledge for potential future projects.
The players and volunteers have both received some practical experience through the event which can only help them in their journey in the eSport competitive world or in the sport industry. Concerning sponsors and partners, the visibility offered by the event will give them an accurate taste of the potential associated with eSport and potentially lead to further engagement in this field.