Less than a month after the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team acquired Team Dignitas, the organization has added a new CEO has been appointed to lead its business strategies and support team operations. It's a move that could mean big changes for the organization moving forward.
Jonathan Kemp has been in the gaming and marketing industries for years. He's worked on the launch of games including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and marketing for sports teams such as the England-based Wasps Rugby Football Club and supervised brand integration in gaming content at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Now, he’ll be in charge of everything to do with the fans, teams, and commercial interests for Dignitas, an esports staple since it was founded in 2003.
Kemp wants to look at fan engagement, player wellness, and revenue opportunities first, working extensively with the team at the Sixers to make it happen.
“There’s a lot of work beginning to be done now around player wellness,” Kemp tells Dot Esports. “A big part of that is going to be leveraging the knowledge base of the 76ers around how to get the best out of players through nutrition, psychology, and good coaching methods. Just providing a better environment for them to be successful and focus on what they’re good at, which is playing games and winning tournaments.”
Dignitas founder and President Michael “ODEE” O’Dell is also looking forward to focusing on balancing players’ lives better. The process starts with establishing how the players manage their time, then figuring out how to balance it so they don’t get burned out—something that will be a core piece of agreements with any new players they sign. Dignitas is hoping that working on player’s well-being, and potentially using the new Sixers’ training facility in Philadelphia for bootcamps, will entice the best talent to the organization.
With the addition of Kemp to the team, there will also be some changes to the way merchandising works for Dignitas. Instead of the traditional esports model, where organizations purchase the items in bulk upfront and then sell it, Dignitas will be using the Sixers network and Kemp’s knowledge to re-work its system.
“I am going to miss putting hoodies in envelopes and posting them out,” O’Dell jokes. (“It’s a rite of passage," Kemp adds).
Dignitas' management team is looking at partnerships seriously. They want to connect with big brands that have worked with the Sixers (and other organizations in the investment group, including the New Jersey Devils hockey team and the Crystal Palace Football Club) to see how Dignitas can make the esports space safe and easy for them to enter.
For now, Dignitas is focusing on the games it already has teams in, which include League of Legends (after the acquisition of Apex’s LCS spot during the Sixers negotiations), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Heroes of the Storm, Smite, and the recent signing of an Overwatch roster. During the transition, the organization dropped its stable of Hearthstone players to focus as much attention on its other rosters as possible.
“We have moved away from some games so that we can make sure that we have the focus and attention on the games that we believe will have the biggest impact,” Dignitas Chairman Greg Richardson tells Dot Esports. “A good way to think about it through the lens of a team is we want to go where spectators are going and where they’re engaged.”
As the viewership for esports grows, from an estimated 148 million “enthusiasts” this year to 215 million by 2019, according to market research firm Newzoo, many have called for esports to be included in the Olympics, something that Kemp, having worked with the International Olympic Committee before, says is definitely a discussion worth having.
“Seeing firsthand just what it takes to be a player in esports—and how things like nutrition, coaching, and sports psychology are so important—these are athletes,” Kemp says. “In my mind that means that it [esports at the Olympics] definitely deserves a discussion.”