Esports company FaZe Clan announced today it closed a round of funding with music mogul Jimmy Iovine and NTWRK, a mobile e-commerce platform known for working with top brands like Nike
The exclusive partnership grants NTWRK the direct-to-consumer rights to FaZe Clan’s products and allows them to do limited-edition merchandise drops.
“I do not look at this terrible moment as an opportunity,” said Lee Trink, CEO and co-owner of FaZe Clan, on how he managed to raise money during a global pandemic. “But we are fortunate we are in the right industry for a moment like this, when everyone is turning to esports and streaming, and we are positioned to be bigger on the other side of it.”
“That’s why you see investors like Jimmy getting in on this, and for the long-term,” Trink added.
Forbes valued FaZe Clan at $240 million in its recent ranking of the most valuable esports organizations. The company has uniquely positioned itself as much as a lifestyle company as an esports one, reliant more on the former than the latter for revenue. It only recently joined the esports franchise trend but opted to license its name to Atlanta Esports Venture’s Call of Duty League team, Atlanta FaZe. But its bread and butter is in the form of seven-figure deals with Nissan and Gfuel to sponsor its content.
He declined to immediately disclose the total amount raised when reached by phone Wednesday evening, citing pending related company announcements expected later this spring. However, he confirmed it was a multimillion dollar investment, involving a small single-digit ownership stake, and gave Iovine a board seat.
“We are more valuable because Jimmy brings more than money,” Trink said, noting the two masters of promotion paths crossed in their previous lives when he was president of Capitol Records and Iovine was at Interscope, which he founded in 1990. “Jimmy brings Jimmy to the table.”
FaZe Clan is now as much lifestyle company as gaming company with more than 40 individual video gamers signed on as talent and 20.3 million social followers across YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, more than the Dallas Cowboys (7.5 million) and the New York Yankees (6.9 million) combined. It recently held a charity gaming event Fight2Fund to raise money for coronavirus relief initiatives. Professional athletes like NBA stars Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, Josh Hart, NFL player JuJu Smith-Schuster and retiree Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, among others, have joined gamer Dr Disrespect and Faze Clan member Nickmercs fighting it out in Call of Duty: Warzone. The initiative has raised nearly $125,000 over the past four weeks.
Iovine most notably partnered with Dr. Dre to create Beats Electronics which they sold to Apple
NTWRK, founded by his son Jamie Iovine and two partners in 2018, counts LeBron James as an investor and most recently closed a Series A round of $10 million last September led by Foot Locker
Trink clarified that while the deal with NTWRK is an exclusive and FaZe will be the only esports company it forms such a partnership with, NTWRK can continue to do one-offs with other esports organizations or their personalities. “We want them to be successful,” he added.
FaZe will continue to lead all merchandise branding efforts and partnerships like the one it has with Champion for colored hoodies, while NTWRK will power the backend operations and be able to ship around the world. Trink said it will help save FaZe the capital required for merchandise fulfillment but declined to comment what cut of the merchandise sales NTWRK would receive. FaZe’s pricing strategy will remain the same though. Of the $35 million in revenue the company generated last year, Forbes conservatively estimates 35% was in merchandise sales.
As to whether the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy will negatively impact his business, Trink is optimistic.
“As soon as schools closed and sports and live events shutdown we came out of the gate and reacted to the moment with all the assets we had,” he said, referring to the increased content his team of influencers produced. FaZe is currently generating over 500 million page views per month, which Forbes estimates helps the company generate another 35% of revenue in advertising.
While he expects an overall shrink in advertising, Trink remains bullish, due to the fact that the money spent in esports is still such a small part of a marketing budget.
“If I were a CMO, I would be studying us like it was the finals or the SAT,” quipped Trink. “Sports and entertainment are dark, canceled for the foreseeable future even postponed another year. CMOs still need to spend their money and here we are, far less expensive but providing a much higher rate of return. Here’s the moment where smart CMOs can beat out their competition.”