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Sneakers, Streaming And Soul: How Bobby Solez Built His Brand Through Gaming

Brands are activating the esports space to reach that tough 18-24 demo and foster a sense of community among gamers. Yet, esports is just a subsection of the gaming world.

Now, the greatest awareness of gaming comes from streamers, people like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins who play video games on live broadcast for hundreds of thousands of viewers at a time.

How can brands utilize streamers and their broadcasts? That’s a question every marketer and advertiser should ask.

In August, Bobby Toub, 26, known professionally as Bobby Solez, a full-time streamer on Microsoft’s platform Mixer, was building his brand and spreading his message. Bobby spends most of his time playing Fortnite and engaging in friendly banter with his fans. Then, he had about 20,000 followers on Mixer, a solid number for the emerging streaming platform, whose viewership is struggling compared market dominator Twitch.

But on this fateful day, the acclaimed gamer Ninja broadcast Solez’ channel on his own channel, exposing Bobby’s content to millions of Ninja’s followers. Over the next 24 hours, Bobby gained 20,000 more followers, thousands of live viewers, and even about $1,500. His spike in fame earned him sponsorships from computer manufacturers, headphone makers, and more.

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Shortly after this, I realized I was connected to Solez through a friend. I reached out to him to learn more about being hosted by Ninja, building a brand through gaming, and why guys like him are important to advertisers.

Meet Bobby Solez

Bobby Solez started out in fashion. “I’ve always had over 100 pairs of sneakers. I started out getting love from the sneakerhead community. Then realized that I could use instagram as a platform to engage with them. I started going to conventions for sneakers, meeting other creators, and just blowing up. 

“My whole thing is doing it from the soul, finding the positive in things, from your heart.”

His positivity garnered him followers on Instagram and Twitter. “Ten thousand, twenty thousand, thirty thousand followers later, I thought to myself: What are we doing? I knew I needed to expand and build my brand another way.”

Bobby decided to stream Fortnite, the “internet’s favorite game,” almost exclusively, “because I know it brings the most people in. Once I get people in my channel, they’re gonna like me and the positive message.”

According to Stream Hatchet, a stream analytics and reporting company, in September, Twitch held 57.6% of live gaming hours watched, compared to Mixer’s 1.9%, despite Ninja’s recent move to streaming exclusively on Microsoft’s platform.

So why does Bobby stream on Mixer and not Twitch?

“I tried to get my webcam to work on Twitch through my Xbox, but Twitch wouldn’t accept it. Mixer was built right into the Xbox. And even when I went back to try to stream on Twitch a few times, the viewers didn’t vibe with my positive message.”

Bobby emphasized no disrespect to Twitch; it just wasn’t the right fit for him.

Due to Mixer’s underdog status and Solez’ following, he became one of Mixer’s top streamers, allowing him to quit his side gigs and focus on gaming as his source of income and brand building. When content creators on any given platform (Twitch Youtube Mixer, etc.) hit a certain point, they are invited to become partners.

“My partnership with Mixer has been amazing, it has changed my life. I worked at a restaurant and was selling sneakers, all at the same time. Now I stream full-time. Between the check from Microsoft and the donations from my audience, it’s totally profitable for me and my brand.”

In fact, Bobby believes gaming will cannibalize the TV industry. Many researchers agree. A recent Nielsen report stated that 50% of people who watch gaming on Twitch don’t own a linear TV subscription. “In the coming years, I think within the next five-to-10 years, cable is going to become so irrelevant for these younger audiences. People will be flicking through channels watching their favorite streamers.”

Apple TV now has an app for Twitch, foreshadowing what Bobby suggested. And though Solez isn’t a part of the media industry, he’s touching on a major ad concern: How do we reach that 18-24 difficult-to-reach audience? “Cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers” are growing up and maintaining those media habits. Streamers like Bobby Solez, Ninja and others are becoming their mainstream form of entertainment.

Most importantly, Bobby utilized streaming to build and expand his brand. Similarly, every day, huge corporate brands are sponsoring streamers and engaging with esports audiences. They know it’s good strategy — and in line with the future of sports and entertainment. And, it will help sell their products to that tough audience.

While many people question the gaming and esports arenas, it’s imperative they understand its reach and appeal. Then, as Bobby says, they can be “a part of the future.”

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