How to get into Esports: An Interview with Craig Winfield

Introduction: Craig Winfield

If you’re to go all the way back to the beginning, I’ve been an avid gamer for many years. My first gaming experience was Pong, then the Commodore 64 and Amiga to consoles like Sega and Nintendo. I’ve always been a big fan of football in general, since about FIFA 93.

About three years ago, I joined what was mainly a Facebook community called “Serious about FIFA”. I really sucked at the game back then but I wanted to get better. I saw that these guys knew what they were talking about and I wanted to keep up with the younger generation. If my hands might not be as fast as theirs, I might be able to one-up them mentally and learn how to play the game a bit better. I used to be pretty good but age was not on my side. That was basically my introduction to esports.

NGame: How did you get involved in esports?

Craig Winfield: I joined SAF as a community member and I really got into the group. I liked the way it was a non-toxic environment and everyone was out to help each other. I joined their premium Discord server to get some tips on FIFA on how to make FIFA Coins and stuff like that. And from being there, I got introduced to the guys and what was evident to me was that there was a fairly big organization at this point. They had content creators, a pro team, and just a unique community that was really into helping each other rather than beat each other.

I come from a more traditional sales management background and I have some experience selling marketing products through print advertising. I talked to the guys and told them what my skills were like and asked if they would like me to take a look at their analytics. That was about 2 years ago.

From there, it’s like a hobby that got completely out of control. It really spiraled. I took the role of business dev manager/community manager/marketing executive. With esports startups, you have to wear a lot of hats. I’ve been talking to a 17-year-old guy in the Discord about how he can get a better team while emailing the marketing director of a major global clothing brand. So I’m involved in the community but I also talk to a lot of brands as well.

We’ve got some really cool partnerships. We work with 1st11 which takes our ability to engage with our fans to the next level. It’s been a lot of all-nighters and things like writing proposals at the last minute. I’m almost a converted fan I guess.
We’ve also signed a deal with Revolution Esports, a really great talent search organization.

NGame: What are your responsibilities in your current position?

Craig Winfield: My role is to take all the interactions that we have, the big community, the engagement, and turn that into something that brands and organizations are able to work with. We want to work with brands and partners that our community likes and wants to engage with, which we believe adds more value to our community.

We do giveaways, discounts on different products, and challenges where people can win FIFA-related merchandise. If you had to put a job title on it, it would be partnerships and marketing. That said, I think it’s a unique product in itself because the way we interact with people is quite different from traditional marketing channels, which is really exciting. I think that’s why esports excites me so much.

NGame: What advice would you give someone looking to get started in esports?

Craig Winfield: I think traditional brands are slightly tentative at coming into the esports space. It’s still new, it’s still emerging. The business and the organizations and the brands that get the right collaborations in this space are the guys that will benefit the most from it.

My message to brands is don’t be afraid. Come find out what it’s all about, dip your toe in and see. It’s a very quickly growing space for brands to get involved with.

For younger people that are looking at school or college, look at how you can get qualifications or experience that you can bring into esports.

If you are coming from a traditional background, where you are already working for something that gave you a skill set that you can bring into esports, then my advice is to get to know the organization you want to work with. The greatest feeling for me is that I’m a fan of our own organization so try to follow something you love and feel passionate about.

If you really love a brand, organization, or game, go with them. There is nothing more powerful than having discussions with people about something you love. I think it really comes across as genuine conversation and you have to be motivated. It’s a new space but I feel it’s a breeze. I wake up in the morning and when I go to sleep in the evening, I realize I just talked to people all day about games. I used to get yelled at for talking about video games all day so this is really a bit of a dream come true.

Written by Gabriel Ionica

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