Evil Geniuses’ DEI-focused branding makes it a more popular partner for brands looking to circumvent controversy when working with esports organizations. EG’s current partners include well-known non-endemic brands such as Monster Energy, Bud Light and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Evil Geniuses stepped in after G2 Esports reportedly lost a partnership with Riot Games’ Valorant due to its CEO’s relationship with right-wing influencer Andrew Tate, becoming the last organization to secure a partner seat in the Gaming Americas League.
“Riots like [Evil Geniuses CEO] Nicole [LaPointe Jameson]; what she stands for and what she wants to do within the industry,” said John Jung, the organization’s vice president of operations and studio. “I don’t know that our contrast to G2 is inevitable, but I think everyone at EG — I Don’t know if I’d actually feel safe in any other organization, knowing in my bones that something like what happened at G2 would never happen here. “
EG executives said they found their reputation with DEI also made it easier for the organization to recruit influencers and team members from marginalized groups such as Aboutrecently streamed by org, who happens to be an Asian gay man and is known for his misogynistic humour in the gaming world.
“When they’re negotiating or having conversations with creators of color or of different genders with cis-whites, it’s very rewarding to have a built-in understanding of their purpose,” esports journalist Jacob Wolf said. “If you’re a successful woman, a person of color or transgender, you’re influential in gaming, and the opportunity comes from Evil Geniuses and many others, then you’re going to take it more seriously.”
It helps that EG’s CEO, LaPointe Jameson, is one of the few black female executives to hold leadership roles in esports. While many esports organizations these days are trying to align themselves with the DEI concept for financial gain—even the avant-garde FaZe Clan formed a diversity-focused partnership with McDonald’s last year—LaPointe Jameson has been working on making Evil Geniuses became a diverse brand and embraced the mission of the geniuses in the workplace to legitimize Evil.
Evil Geniuses’ commitment to diversity is reflected in its recruiting practices and actions. The company signed partnerships with advocacy groups Women in Gaming and Games for Change last year, and its Valorant partnership application site specifically highlights its investments in female creators. The organization produces podcasts centered on LGBTQ perspectives in esports and collaborated with YouGov on a report on sources of toxicity within the gaming community.
“We applaud the team’s DEI efforts and celebrate their accomplishments in making esports a more inclusive overall space,” a Valorant Champions Tour Americas spokesperson told Digiday in comments to Digiday. “We look forward to seeing and supporting their growth in 2023.”
In addition to LaPointe Jameson, Evil Geniuses has hired women and individuals from other marginalized groups in various executive positions, most recently hiring Antonia Bonello from Buzzfeed as its first global creative director.
“I would say EG is one of the only esports teams in the entire industry to be led by a female and black CEO,” said longtime esports journalist and industry observer Rod Breslau. “So of all the teams trying to do things, EG, and before that FlyQuest, whose CEO did recently leave Cloud9 — organizations that put women first, it means a lot more to them.”
Evil Geniuses isn’t the only esports organization to centralize a diversity and fairness message in its brand, though it may be the most prominent one to do so. Other examples of organisations elevating women to leadership roles include the aforementioned FlyQuest, with Tricia Sugita as CEO until June 2022, and XSET hiring Erin Ashley Simon as co-owner and chief culture officer.
As the more controversial or obnoxious side of esports emerges, organizations that truly care about DEI will continue to benefit from the mistakes of others.
“We’ve been silently being this organization, and now it’s gotten to the point where brands really want to step into that more,” said Avelina Daum, EG’s global head of brand marketing and communications. “And I think, for us, even if Without talking about it, we also do it naturally, so from a collaboration point of view, it becomes very easy.”