5 Questions for Mike Sepso

5q411Once 16 himself, Mike Sepso knows something about reaching young male consumers. These insights helped him build Major League Gaming into the nation's top pro-gaming league. More recently, he founded private equity firm and digital media incubator Legion Enterprises. So, what evil lurks in the hearts of young men? Sepso knows.

Describe in detail the ideal company for a Legion Enterprises investment.
At Legion our focus is building digital media companies that target 16-24-year-old men, the digital mavericks who have grown up as the first generation of true digital natives. This demographic consumes media entirely in the new digital paradigm and represents a sea change in behavior that has been tormenting traditional media and confusing marketers for years.
By developing business models based on their consumption habits, we ensure our companies own the demo and lead new forms of distribution and monetization. Advertisers and agencies have to make bets across multiple devices, content types and ad creative to reach this audience at scale. Our focus on the transactional and media access points of the demo opens a single targeted channel that buyers can leverage. To appeal to the audience, we are investing in disruptive, solution-oriented companies in areas of sports, gaming, over-the-top TV and music. Our first investment was in ShapeMix, a developer of intuitive, mobile music applications. The first app enables users to interact with, reshape, remix and share, which we know is important to the demo.

What's the trick to connecting with young male consumers?
There really is no trick to reaching young men. It takes extensive research, trying new models and getting deep into the trenches. If you are still using email to communicate with friends, haven't logged 10 hours of multiplayer video game play this month and operate TV with your cable box's remote control, you will have a very difficult time understanding this consumer.

What's the biggest mistake that marketers make when trying to reach young males?
The biggest mistakes are assuming traditional media has any relevance in the lives of young males and that you can't get scale in digital.  Young men operate in virtual packs of heavily networked communities and you must tap in to reach them. If done right, it's easier, cheaper and more efficient than traditional media channels. If the message doesn't fit the medium, you lose authenticity and the consumer.

Can marketers effectively reach young men en masse or is the landscape too fragmented for that?
Yes, you can reach them en masse, however not through traditional methods and media. The key to success is pairing the right content with the right platform and growing community around it.  Major League Gaming, which I cofounded and Legion recently invested in, is a perfect example of how to create a network that consumes media en masse and is open to authentic marketing messages within the protected MLG community. Sponsors such as Dr Pepper and Stride reach nearly 5 million young men under 30 via MLG's competitive gaming social network and online competitions, reaching television-size numbers through live online broadcasts. Recent broadcasts reached over 600,000 young men who watched 1.2 million hours of video over a weekend.

What's the biggest threat that Legion Enterprises faces over the next two years?
The biggest threat is the misunderstanding of our demo by marketers and the financial community. There are a host of digital media companies reaching young men and developing innovative platforms, but marketers continue to significantly undervalue the digital channel and don't understand how the demo consumes media and marketing messages. There's an assumption that the demo will grow up and change their habits. They won't, and if marketers don't react quickly, they leave opportunity for other brands to gain scale by focusing exclusively on the demo.

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