Focused on developing talent, the rookies of MAD (stands for Madrid) Lions are quickly rising through the League of Legends European Championship charts. Currently tied for fifth place with Rogue, the team sees the light of playoffs at the end of the tunnel, showcasing mastery in their plays paired with very likeable personalities.
Co-founder and president of MAD Lions, and Vice President, Strategy of OverActive Media Jorge Schnura walks us through the brand new identity for MAD Lions, their newest acquisition, explaining how the team services the Spanish speaking audience of the LEC and the brand’s vision moving forward.
Where did the decision to focus on the Spanish audience come from?
When you look at most of the organizations, they are for the most part trying to service the English-speaking market, the international market. There is basically very little competition on the international level with a big presence that is servicing the Spanish-speaking audience. It's a pretty big audience. We have Spain, of course, but also Latin America, and there are over 50 million native Spanish-speaking Americans, which is a population that has been growing at a very high speed. Their purchasing power is also growing rapidly. It is a very interesting demographic, in Europe but also in North and South America.
Which such a large potential audience, how do you approach to catch their interest in the MAD Lions brand?
That's a great question. We look at our potential audience in three 'buckets.' In the first bucket, which is the closest to us, are the esports fans. People that currently watch the LEC, the Spanish league LSO, or they watch professional Counter-Strike and so on. Then you have gamers, who play League of Legends, Counter-Strike, or other games be it Fortnite, Minecraft, Rainbow 6 or whatever it is. Then you have the mainstream who may be casual gamers, but they're not what you'd define as a gamer.
We go step by step. First, we want to cater to those esports fans that currently watch the LEC and the LSO, who are mostly Spanish-speaking. That doesn't mean that we don't also serve the international audience—in fact, we have social media accounts that produce content in just English. Once we have a good strategy in place, one that we see is working, we will try to tackle the 'gamers bucket' with those who play League of Legends and Counter-Strike. The way to get to them is by creating content that is not so much focused on the competitive aspect, but more focused on gameplay and lifestyle content related to the game. We can achieve that by doing activities with influencers, creating content together with them so we can get to their audience is also part of it.
To get to the more mainstream audience, we are lucky enough to have our shareholders be the number two and number three biggest Spanish-speaking YouTubers worldwide. They also happen to be gaming YouTubers. One of them is the largest Minecraft YouTuber, the other one is the largest Fortnite YouTuber, but they are always playing whatever is 'in' at a particular moment. Together with our Fortnite content creator squad, they are the ones to help us the most with reaching the mainstream gamer demographic.
How do you choose which influencers you'll be collaborating with to reach a larger audience?
Influencers have to fit in with the MAD Lions brand. They need to be creators with content that is not aggressive or anything that could be harmful. It can’t be where some guy is smashing his keyboard or insulting his opponents constantly, you know? Those are things we look out for. We also look at who their audience is. We want people who cater to a young demographic, but also a demographic that has a potential interest in esports. There are many gamers who will never watch esports, similarly to how there are people who like skiing but never watch professional skiing. But it is mostly about what the influencer's brand is, and whether that fits in with what we do.
Could you elaborate on which characteristics of the Spanish audience you will be appealing to when creating content for a brand with MAD Lions?
When you are Spanish, it'= is really hard to describe the characteristics because they are just normal to you. I am lucky to be half German, which allows me to see the Spanish culture from an outside perspective. I think many people, especially those close to Spanish culture like Europeans, describe it with being outside and enjoying life, and being passionate. Spain is where you go on holidays. We really like that, because we feel that many times esports takes itself too seriously, or it can be too dark, too menacing and so on. We don't think it needs to be that way. We think it can be a competitive form of entertainment, while at the same time being something that's amicable and a fun place.
How do you think having the MAD Lions in one of the biggest leagues in EU will help the esports scene development in Spain?
It is an important step for esports in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries. We humbly try to represent all the Spanish esports fans so that they have someone to cheer for if they want to do so. We also have our local academy team developing national talent. We have three great Spanish players on our academy team that, if we've done our job right and they do theirs, one day maybe they'll be able to play on the main team. You never know right? We also have five awesome players on our main team and if they do their job well, they'll stay there.
We are giving the Spanish people a team to root for. A team that is authentic, that represents the values that Spanish-speaking fans have.
What would you say are the core aspects of the brand right now?
So as you know, we did a rebrand at the beginning of December. It is not a rebrand that happened immediately. What I mean by that, is that you are going to keep on seeing things that are part of this rebrand that we will be changing as time goes by. We want to do it progressively rather than all in one go. We didn't want our current fans to feel like we'd become a completely different thing overnight. Basically, if I would have to describe it, it's a brand that is going to be showing the passion for life and the passion for gaming that Spanish gamers hold. You are going to see that come to life through an organization that is stepping away from everything that's dark and taking itself too seriously. We will bring enjoyment and fun to the esports scene.
"Our plan is not to put Spanish players on our LEC team just to tick a box, or to say: 'Hey we're more Spanish now because we have Spanish players there.'"
Earlier you mentioned that you have Spanish League of Legends players in your academy, but the current LEC roster doesn't have a Spanish player on it. Could you shed more light on this situation?
Our plan is not to put Spanish players on our LEC team just to tick a box, or to say: "Hey we're more Spanish now because we have Spanish players there." We are a Spanish organization. Our HQ is in Madrid. Our management consists of Spanish people. Of course we are part of OverActive Media, which is a Canadian company, but the team is run from Spain.
Like I mentioned before: if one of our Spanish players does a great job and they really deserve to be there, it's easier for them to get to an LEC team through us. They're already part of the org, and don't have to look for a different organization that maybe doesn't know them that well because they haven't worked with them. But it is not gonna be easy for them because we have five great players on our main roster, and they are doing a phenomenal job, so only time will tell.
G2 is also an LEC team that has a big presence in Spain due to Carlos. Are they officially the arch-nemesis of MAD Lions?
Well they recently started catering to the Spanish audience. I do not think that they did so before. In fact, they have been out of the Superliga Orange until Riot made it a prerequisite. There are a lot of fans who cheer for G2 in Spain, and rightfully so. They're a great org, they are a great team, they have achieved great things. G2 is more of an international organization, in the sense of focusing on the international audience. I think we are more focused on the Spanish-speaking audience. Again, we also cater to others with our English social media, but our main focus is Spain. I think that's the biggest difference.
That being said, there are also Spanish fans who are fans of Fnatic, or who are fans of Origen. At the end of the day we're not competitors. There are no good stories to be told and there is no competition when you're doing it alone, right? Anything that helps the Spanish ecosystem grow is great for everyone.
What can we expect from MAD Lions in the LEC, going forward?
Our roster already surprised a lot of people. Before the season started everyone thought that we were going to do a poor job. We knew that was not gonna be the case. Even if some of our players are rookies, they have great potential. What you have seen in this first half of the Split is just that: it is only the first half of the first Split. We really believe in their talent and in them getting much, much better. I really think that everyone will see an even better performance as time goes by, and that some of these players will become some of the best players in the LEC and worldwide in their respective positions.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.