G2 Esports has hired former Adidas and Activision executive Peter Mucha as its new chief operating officer, the team announced on Thursday.
Mucha joins an executive team led by G2 CEO Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago, a former professional League of Legends player who founded Gamers2 (lately rebranded to G2) in 2014. Mucha takes the job that was previously held by Jamie Bach, who has transitioned into a general manager role with G2.
Prior to taking the G2 role, Mucha worked in various different European-focused jobs for Adidas, Activision and most recently, Microsoft. At Activision, he served as the vice president of publishing for its European arm, with a specific focus on Red Octane and LucasArts (which is owned by ESPN's parent company, Disney.) Mucha worked at adidas for a total of 11 years, starting as an account manager and working his way up to be a managing director of Adidas Austria and then Adidas's arm in the Netherlands after that.
By July 1, G2 will have to submit its application for a franchise spot in the League of Legends Championship Series. It first entered that league in Sep. 2015 after qualifying via a promotion tournament and since, it has been a top performer in the league; G2 holds a total of four League Championship Series trophies. But to retain the slot in the league, it will need to go through a vigorous application process that is likely to include applications from fellow esports teams, traditional sports team owners and large and successful business entities.
ESPN spoke with Mucha about how he got involved with G2, some of the challenges in European esports and the opportunities ahead for the company.
ESPN: How did you get connected with G2? What led to you ending up working there and taking on an executive leadership role?
Mucha: I've spent over 15 years in various leadership roles in the entertainment industry, so I know the gaming space and esports well. G2 was looking for the overall executive leadership experience I bring to the table, especially across the gaming, sports and entertainment industries. When I met Carlos about six months ago, we both immediately knew that we'd make a good team - and I was fascinated by G2's massive growth over the past few years and their ambitious future plans. My experience working with blue chip companies was definitely helpful in landing this role, but what I think pulled the trigger on the decision was my startup experience. I've worked with multiple fast-growing, agile companies as they navigate their first massive breakthroughs. That's where I feel G2 is right now - and I'm beyond excited to be a part of this journey alongside them.
ESPN: Given your background in sports apparel, how do you think companies like Adidas, Nike, Under Armour could push into esports?
Mucha: I think for big companies like these, a move into a completely new industry like esports takes time. We have seen a ton of big non-endemic brands and names entering the space, but those decisions aren't made lightly. For brands that aren't native to the space, understanding and really connecting with the esports fan will be critical - diving deep into the minds of how they think, make decisions, attach to and stay loyal to brands, will be the most important factors. For their entry into the market to be successful, consumer brands need to completely tailor their approach to this very specific, and tough to reach, demographic.
ESPN: We've heard concerns about some of these companies using their main athletic brands in esports in terms of hurting their brand image of "performance apparel." Do you think branching off and creating subsidiaries (i.e. Hurley, Converse, etc.) would be a better idea to focus on gamers and esports?
Mucha: That's an interesting strategy that can definitely work, the same way it has worked for OMEN by HP, or the ASUS ROG brand. I don't see Nike or Under Armour stepping away from their hugely popular brands to introduce something new for the sake of keeping the "physical performance brand" image to their non-esports fans anytime soon -- but they would need to create campaigns that are specifically targeted at the esports audience in order to be successful. It will be very interesting to see brands develop new strategies to reach esports fans in the coming 12 or so months - including other non-apparel brands. Tailoring your approach specifically to esports is the way to go with our fans, and it's something I hope every non-endemic and endemic brand in the space will do.
ESPN: How involved have you been in the European League of Legends Championship Series application for G2? What will separate G2 from the other teams applying?
Mucha: This is a massively important project for G2, and we're excited to explore the opportunities of securing a permanent slot in the EU LCS ecosystem. I am particularly excited to be working with G2 Esports during this process, but as this is only my fourth day on the job with the team, I haven't been involved much yet.
ESPN: How do you think European esports teams can become profitable? What steps will you take with G2 to increase revenues?
Mucha: I see incredible opportunities for the industry -- and G2 in particular -- to grow their revenues. The lowest hanging fruit and the biggest opportunity we have is fully utilizing the data we have about our fans. There is no other industry in the world right now that has so much access to data about its fans and their demographics, and is able to use it to create assets, products and services that can become a great value add for everyone in the industry, and an independent revenue stream for the makers.
ESPN: What other opportunities do you believe are worth pursuing outside of LCS? Overwatch League?
Mucha: I'm don't like to make predictions -- I'm way too pragmatic and down-to-earth for that, but I do believe that mobile esports is a massive opportunity space for the esports industry. Just seeing the growth of this particular vertical within esports in the past 24 months has been mindblowing, and I hope that it will continue to grow. Meanwhile though, there's still plenty of things in motion that need our immediate attention: professional circuits for the most popular esports titles are thriving, and the EU LCS in particular is on about to take a major step towards long-term stability with the implementation of the partnership model.