TORONTO — Esports in Toronto will have a permanent home in about four years’ time.
Announced Monday morning by OverActive Media — the Toronto-based ownership group of esports teams Toronto Defiant, Toronto Ultra and MAD Lions — a new $500-million, 7,000-seat entertainment facility is slated to be erected on the Exhibition grounds in Toronto, with an expected completion date of 2025.
The expectation for the facility is that OverActive Media’s esports teams will play their home games there when it’s up and running. Additionally, there’s a hope that the building will attract other esports events and other forms of entertainment as a building that’s being pegged as a “theatre-style entertainment venue” and “the first new sports or entertainment venue built in Toronto since BMO Field in 2007.”
“We are building a world-leading, 21st-century sports media and entertainment company and this best-in-class performance venue will be the chosen home for a new generation of fans that think differently about their entertainment choices and experiences,” Chris Overholt, OverActive Media president and CEO, said in a statement.
In an interview with Sportsnet on Monday, Overholt expanded on the vision of this forthcoming space: “The success of this venue is entirely linked to the premium entertainment acts that we expect to be able to attract to it. Esports will have its home, our two teams will have its home in this venue, but the business model is largely supported by premium entertainment acts, corporate product launches, gala dinners and award shows. It’s truly built as a versatile business venue for premium entertainment in the city. And it will also play host to our esports teams.”
(Courtesy of OverActive Media)
Founded in 2018, OverActive Media fields teams across two continents and multiple esports. The Toronto Defiant and Toronto Ultra play in the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League, respectively, and as their city-based names indicate, represent Toronto in competition.
The MAD Lions are a Spanish-based esports organization that competes in arguably the two largest esports games in the world: League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
This new facility that OverActive Media is building will be the primary home of the Defiant and Ultra, with possible events held to host the two MAD Lions teams when they’re able to come across from their home base in Madrid.
The venue’s site will be just to the west of the Stanley Barracks along Lake Shore Boulevard, and when it does eventually go up, it’ll be the realization of an idea Overholt had for OverActive Media from the group’s outset.
“We started thinking about being in the venue business from the very first days of the company,” Overholt said. “I can remember a conversation between myself and the partners about the potential of this and the point I made to them early on was, ‘Look, if we’re going to own franchises of course we should want to own our own venues, too, because that just makes sense to the business. You get to enjoy all the ancillary revenues that come with that, of course, but you want to give your teams a home to play in.
“But the other part of the discussion was there’s a gap in this marketplace. This is now the fourth-largest market in North America, it’s always been a fantastic entertainment market and we should really be thinking about finding some land where we can build a 7,000-seat performance venue that can, all at once, be an iconic home for the top and premier entertainment acts that are coming to Toronto and Canada, and serve doubly as the home to our two franchises.”
Overholt’s idea seems solid as a long-term play, but OverActive Media will still have to navigate waters in the short-term while the new building is under construction.
In particular, the Defiant and Ultra will need temporary homes for the next four years or so.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Overwatch League will be going online this coming season — the schedule recently came out and the Defiant will be facing the Canadian rival Vancouver Titans to kick off their seasons on April 17 — as has the 2021 Call of Duty League, which opened a couple of weeks ago.
But these leagues were conceived to be played out like traditional sports, with home-and-away schedules for each team, meaning when the pandemic finally comes to an end the Defiant and Ultra will need to find temporary Toronto homes, perhaps, in 2022.
(Courtesy of OverActive Media)
Roy Thompson Hall was originally slated to host the Defiant in 2020 before COVID turned the world upside down, and it’s unclear at the moment if that would still be the venue of choice for OverActive Media until their own building finishes.
“All of this has been a bit of a moving target,” Overholt said. “We were, of course, supposed to play live events in 2020 and now it looks like we’ll be delayed, at least, through most of 2021 — although some of us would like to think that the back half of 2021 could still be a potential — but we haven’t chosen our venues for 2022 as yet. We’re working on it now but we’re not quite there.”
Another hurdle OverActive Media will have to overcome as it awaits the completion of its building will be the general interest in its franchises and finding ways to continue to build the fanbase for these esports teams so the desire to see them will be there when the venue opens.
The good news is, Overholt has seen positive signs in regard to this.
“We had put our first event on sale — only the Toronto Defiant event at Roy Thompson Hall [last year] — and we were just about sold out at the moment that we had to cancel it. Obviously we were disappointed, but given the circumstances it was totally appropriate to do so. But I would say all measure of our business has only been improving up and to the right since we started all of this and it’s just been so encouraging to watch the high level of engagement around our two teams here in Toronto, and our teams in Europe.
“The momentum around esports globally has only increased and I would say whatever curve that the entirety of the industry has been on has only been accelerating in the last couple of years and that’s certainly been true for our teams here in Toronto. By way of example, we’ve announced four new marketing partnerships just in January, we continue to build all of our social channels — we just launched our TikTok channel around Toronto Ultra in the last few weeks and I heard this morning from Mike Armstrong, our global head of marketing, that that channel is already getting ready to eclipse 60,000 followers in just a few weeks.
“So we take all of these things as an indication that esports and the global industry around gaming and esports and these leagues that we’re invested in are only gathering momentum.”
Four years is a long time to wait, but Overholt and the rest of OverActive Media seems confident that what they have built here will be able to sustain until their prized jewel is finished.
Tunisia crisis prompts surge in foreign social media manipulation – Al Jazeera English
The political crisis in Tunisia has prompted a surge of social media propaganda and manipulation emanating mostly from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), much of it attempting to skew the narrative so that it justifies Tunisian President Kais Saied’s decision to suspend parliament and sack the prime minister.
Soon after news broke of Saied’s unprecedented move on Sunday, the hashtag “Tunisians revolt against the brotherhood” began to trend on Twitter, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.
But as with anything on social media, especially in the Middle East, it was not immediately clear whether the trend represented organic public opinion. And if it did, whose opinion it was?
Analysing social media
An analysis of social media data and conversations shows a number of insights, such as who was writing about a particular topic, and whose voice is influential on that topic.
It can also indicate where those people are, and whether they are genuine people or bots, which are fake accounts designed to manipulate public conversations through censorship and intimidation, and trend manipulation.
An analysis of 12,000 tweets from 6,800 unique Twitter accounts on the hashtag “Tunisians revolt against the brotherhood” revealed a concerted effort by Gulf-based influencers to portray the actions of the president as a popular Tunisian revolt against Islamist parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
The largest party in Tunisia’s parliament is the Islamist Ennahdha party, which has accused President Saeid of staging a “coup”.
However, the majority of users tweeting with the hashtag reported their location as being either in Saudi Arabia or the UAE.
In addition, the top 10 most influential accounts on the hashtag were all Gulf influencers also based in Saudi Arabia or the UAE.
These accounts included Emirati Khalid bin Dhahi, Saudi influencer @s_hm2030, Saudi cartoonist Fahad Jubairi, the Emirati writer Mohamed Taqi, as well an Emirati patriotic account called emarati_shield.
They pushed narratives that sought to frame the president’s extraordinary measures as a popular revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood.
Saudi influencer Monther al-Shaykh, the most influential account in the whole hashtag, even called the sacked prime minister the “Khamenei of Tunisia”, putting him on a par with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whom Saudi Arabia has demonised.
The specifically anti-Muslim Brotherhood narrative clearly reflects the foreign and domestic policies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which have been inexorable in their crackdown on Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East.
Al-Shaykh has been known for his outsize role in monopolising Arabic Twitter narratives. He has gained a reputation as a primary influencer spreading disinformation and nationalist propaganda on Arabic Twitter.
In analysing the hashtags in the aftermath of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, one study by Harvard academics Alexei Abrahams and Andrew Leber documented that on a hashtag related to Khashoggi, retweets of al-Shaykh accounted for 8 percent of all retweets – and there were 365,000 users on that hashtag.
Last year, al-Shaykh, along with numerous UAE-based journalists, attempted to push a false narrative that there had been a coup in Qatar. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with Bahrain and Egypt, imposed a blockade on Qatar in June 2017. But in January this year, the blockading countries agreed to restore ties with Qatar.
Many of the other accounts spreading propaganda about Tunisia are also regular participants in regional disinformation campaigns.
Cartoonist Fahad Aljubairi and s_hm2030, were very active after a suspected Pegasus spyware infection resulted in numerous Gulf-based accounts spreading private hacked photos to smear Ghada Oueiss, a prominent Doha-based news anchor at Al Jazeera Arabic.
Bots and sock-puppets
In addition to this, one of the most influential of the 6,800 accounts on the hashtag had the handle, @7__e7, and the name Fairuz.
Analysis of the account, whose posts were retweeted hundreds of times, showed it was fake, and her tweets on the hashtag contained an unrelated “comic” video of a person falling out of a car while reversing.
However, while Fairuz was technically one of the most influential accounts on the hashtag, none of the accounts retweeting her was real.
10/ The below GIF shows how the network around Fairuz tweets at speed (high velocity). Look at the yellow cluster at the bottom. It goes from the initial tweet by fairuz to over 200 retweets within a five minute window. This is indicative of manipulation #Tunisia #disinformation pic.twitter.com/52xSuM15gm
— Marc Owen Jones (@marcowenjones) July 26, 2021
They were sock-puppets – hacked or fake accounts programmed to automatically retweet content, analysis of the accounts showed.
One example was the account of a 14-year-old Filipino girl, and another person with the name Emma Roberts, who had a picture of a Smurf as their display image.
Using hacked Twitter accounts for advertising and marketing is common, but it is also used for spreading propaganda in the MENA region, particularly during big political events.
Highly retweeted fake accounts often feature in the top tweets section of Twitter, increasing the salience of propaganda to those reading the news.
Fairuz’s tweet garnered more than 200 retweets within five minutes, a speed so quick it strongly indicates automation.
Fairuz’s account was suspended by Twitter last night after a thread about her went viral.
Years of analysing propaganda hashtags have revealed a familiar roster of names and influencers that form a Gulf Twitter elite based largely in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This elite monopolises Arabic political discussions on Twitter with hyper-nationalist tropes.
These influencers are augmented by trolls and bots who spread propaganda and intimidate critics.
The hashtag “Tunisians protest against the Muslim Brotherhood” represented no evidentiary claim or grassroots movement, which does not mean that there are no Tunisians who hold that view.
It is, however, clear that Tunisians on Twitter were not reporting en masse that they were rebelling against the Brotherhood.
Rather, it was propagandists speaking on behalf of Tunisians, attempting to convince local and international audiences that the Muslim Brotherhood represents an existential threat and that liberation from them is a justification for a return to authoritarianism.
This digital playbook highlights that social media is often not the democratising space where voices are equal, especially in the Middle East where authoritarian regimes, along with their known ability to surveil and digitally track dissidents, coupled with their willingness to kill and arrest critics, has scared people into silence.
Often, this silence forms a vacuum, which is then filled with co-opted influencers who repeat government talking points and distribute state propaganda with little contestation.
Perfecting The Influencer Pitch: How To Design An Influencer Media Kit – Forbes
As an influencer, getting your first brand partnership is a big deal. And with new protections in place, even more creators, athletes and influencers can seek out partnerships with brands. Initiating that partnership effectively can be a challenge for influencers new to the scene.
For collegiate athletes, and any creator looking to partner with brands, creating a professional influencer media kit can help you set the tone for the relationship and ensure the partnership is mutually beneficial.
Traditionally, a media kit contains contact information, a brief description of your personal brand and a few work samples. For influencers, ambassadors, and creators, a media kit will bridge the gap between your hard-earned community and marketers at brands. But going beyond the basics can create better results, improve your response ratio, and ultimately, boost your professionalism.
Key Components of a Media Kit for Influencers
Building a compelling media kit should go beyond the basics. But which details feel superfluous? Casey Smith, Senior Social Media Manager at Kroger shares some of the core components influencers should include in their media kit.
“Share your passions – tell me something about yourself beyond just numbers. In terms of numbers it’s important to include audience demographics. The potential ambassador’s audience may be a really important one to us.”
A high-level overview of your audience demographics indicates a deeper understanding of how your content will resonate if you partner with the brand. But going one step further to customize the media kit for each potential brand partner can take your pitch to the next level, Casey explained.
“We like to see examples of sponsored content, if available. If that’s not available, then include some social posts that showcase the kind of content we could expect if partnering together.”
Giving an example of your quality of work can help ensure your style will align with the brand’s style. It’s best to determine fit before the scope of work is agreed upon – by showcasing sample work, you’re able to front load a lot of the evaluation process.
Other metrics can also be helpful during the evaluation process. Adam Ornelas, former Social Media & Influencer Strategist at Chipotle Mexican Grill shared some of the top data points influencers should include on their media kit.
“Sharing your audience size can be helpful, but you should also include the channels you’re active on in addition to engagement rate can be helpful for brands.”
In a space that can be tricky to quantify, showing brands important data points can go a long way for influencers.
Should Influencers Make the First Move?
Even though a lot of influencer marketing is driven by brand outreach, some of the most successful collabs originate from influencer pitches. In fact, influencer managers source somewhere between 10-40% of their influencer partnerships from influencer pitches. Adrienne Young, Former Social Media Manager for FENTY Beauty shared that pitches can be a great ‘in’ for influencers looking to get started.
“In my experience, I’ve found that inbound inquiries are a great way [for brands] to find more micro to mid-tier influencers who are already big fans of the brand. I usually find that brands need to take initiative and make the first connection when it comes to macro to mega-influencers, however.”
Perfecting the Pitch
Having your top stats and key content samples bundled together in one document can be helpful, but crafting an authentic and relevant pitch to brands can set your first impression apart from the rest, according to Adam.
“Consistency and genuine love for the brand is key. Organically showing interest and affinity on social media goes a long way. Marketing teams take note of brand love and it helps create and build a relationship between you and the brand. Pursue a genuine relationship with the company and the money will come.”
In terms of delivering the pitch, it’s important to consider where your audience is most likely to receive it. Fortune often favors the bold, Adam shared.
“Focus on your authentic affinity and passion for what they’re doing. If you don’t, it’ll come across in the content you create and will fall flat with your audience. Sometimes it’s better to pursue startups and mid-sized hyper growth companies because it gives you a chance to grow with them both as a partner and financially.”
The Authenticity Imperative
The content that resonates best with any audience is authentic. Letting that authenticity shine through in your media kit and pitch is critical, according to Greg Meade, CEO of CROSSNET.
“Being authentic can go a long way with how a brand can onboard an influencer. I know from experience, if someone really wants to work and even sends follow up messages, we will be more inclined to act on that deal as they’d probably end up creating the most genuine content.One of our best partnerships to date is working with Sam Pedlow. He’s just a genuine person that sees the benefits of working with us (and vice versa.) Partnerships like this are the best!”
Authenticity in the media kit and in the pitch itself are equally important. Letting that authentic and genuine interest shine through can also set your pitch above the rest. Adrienne Young shared some key ways influencers can separate themselves from the crowd.
“A cold influencer pitch stands out when I can tell that the influencer is genuinely interested in working with our brand specifically, rather than sending a generic cut and paste email that I can tell that they’re sending to other brands. An influencer can also stand out by demonstrating how well they know the brand, by pointing to specific brand ideals or launches that they resonated with, which shows initiative.”
Bridging Professionalism with Authentic Passion
Being an influencer means you’re equally invested in your chosen passion, community, and being a professional partner with your chosen brands. With a strong media kit, your community and content will shine through and generate powerful collabs with the brands in your space – and in the long run, could result in lasting brand partnerships.
NBA Plans Daily, Weekly Podcasts in New Deal With IHeart Media – BNN
(Bloomberg) — The National Basketball Association is developing a slate of original podcasts about the league’s greatest moments and players, part of a new deal with IHeart Media Inc., the largest radio station owner in the U.S.
The NBA and IHeart will collaborate on the shows, with the San Antonio-based radio giant handling the production, distribution and advertising sales, according to a statement Wednesday. In addition to its radio stations, IHeart operates one of the largest networks of podcasts in the U.S.
The NBA believes podcasts can help it reach a new audience, and lure more casual fans to watch games. Viewership of the NBA has slipped from its pre-pandemic heights. The audience for the most recent season was down about 25% from 2019. But the league has been one of the best at turning its players into global celebrities.
“We’ve been looking for the right partner to help bring our archives to life,” said David Denenberg, a senior vice president in charge of distribution and business affairs at the NBA’s entertainment arm. “We have tons of audio footage that’s never seen the light of day.”
The NBA has been dabbling in podcasting for a couple of years, and helped produce an audio companion to the popular documentary series “The Last Dance,” about Michael Jordan’s final year with the Chicago Bulls. The league has been an early adopter of many popular new media services, forging deals with YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat. About 80 million people listen to a podcast every week in the U.S., up 17% from a year ago.
IHeart and the NBA are in the process of formalizing their first slate of shows, which they plan to announce in the coming months. The lineup may include daily programs, as well as limited series running about 10 episodes. IHeartMedia owns the podcast “HowStuffWorks” and has discussed making something similar that explains basketball to casual fans.
There are already dozens of NBA podcasts, and the most popular sports podcaster, Bill Simmons, follows the NBA more closely than any other professional league.
Yet the NBA isn’t interested in talk podcasts, which make up the bulk of such shows. Instead, the 75-year-old league thinks its vault of recordings about players and historical moments will make it stand out.
“The NBA has an ability to drive culture beyond just sports in a way a lot of leagues are envious of,” said Conal Byrne, chief executive officer of IHeartmedia’s digital audio group. “We’ve had our eye on this league for a while to help it ramp up faster into podcasting.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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