When your established fan base is a continent away from your live matches, getting fans through the door can present a challenge. We met up with Perth’s Ground Zero at the Gfinity Elite Series to talk about their innovative approach to building a fan base.
In esports, being ahead of the curve is a pathway to success, whether it’s finding an unknown talent or finding ways to get more fans through the door.
While some may go all in on a player, organisations that have a focus on their fan base tend to survive and thrive in a cut throat industry where everything can be lost in a matter of weeks.
Especially for newer orgs, an early impression is vital to any hope of success. Even if you’re in one of the most publicised tournaments in the region, fan interaction is crucial element and ultising that interaction can uplift the tournament and further help the esports scene.
Ground Zero, a rising organisation from Perth, has grown over time to become one of the fastest growing orgs in the country. It has participated at multiple LAN events since its inception in 2016 and recruited talent that has propelled it further into the esports scene.
While they are still dwarfed by the likes of ORDER, the Chiefs, and Avant Gaming, they have made a name for themselves, building a reputation as the banner for esports in Western Australia.
It was no surprise then that when the Gfinity Elite Series came to life earlier this year, Ground Zero took the opportunity to fight for the west of the nation.
But they had a small issue. With the Elite Series being played out of Hoyts at the Entertainment Quarter in Sydney, it was always going to be hard for them to get fans to the Arena.
So they created something no one else had thought of in the Elite Series: a fan club. Created for Season 2, it brings GZ’s Sydney-based fans together to support their teams as they look for glory. It promises a thriving atmosphere where fans can cheer on GZ during Counter Strike:Global Offensive (CSGO), Rocket League (RL) and Street Fighter V (SFV).
We were fortunate enough to spend a match day as a part of the Ground Zero fan club, experiencing first hand hype of the Gfinity Elite Series and the the fan engagement that Ground Zero have been able to build up in the esports haven of Sydney.
During the game, the fan club members are the most vocal part of the crowd, cheering and chanting on the Ground Zero CS:GO squad. This week was the final week of the regular season, and first place was on the line against the Melbourne Avant with the winner taking the coveted spot.
Getting Sydney-based fans to cheer for the western team is surely no easy feat, with state pride being one of the surest ways to ignite passions in any Australian competition. Alongside the Ground Zero staff, Katherine “Kitty” Crea was brought in to mastermind the fan club and according to her, it has been a great success so far.
“I’m really happy and somewhat overwhelmed with how well the fan club has gone.”
The popularity of the fan club is evident to those who have attended Gfinity during the regular season, with a sizeable section of the crowd supporting the Western Australians. Which is fair to observe as a slight surprise, since they face off against east coast teams every week.
“It has been such a challenge to find Ground Zero fans in Sydney,” said Kitty, “so I’ve done a lot of building through social networks and finding people online and so far it’s been successful.”
While the few Avant fans tried to cheer for their team, the Ground Zero fans responded by drowning out their opponent’s fans, asserting dominance in the crowd.
For the players, the chanting is a welcome sound, as Ground Zero’s Cal “bURNRUOk” Henderson said. “You definitely hear it on the stage,” Burn said.
Clip: The crowd cheers as ‘bURN’ sprays down 3 Avant members. Source: Gfinity Elite Series
As the rounds went by, it was obvious that Avant were on the back foot, but they had a shot at coming back at half time. However, GZ quickly put the game to bed, losing only one round in the second half to take away both the win and first place in the regular season.
Just like the game that unfolded that day, Ground Zero considers the fan club a successful venture.
“Seeing the fans come, get really excited and be happy to see their favourite players and even meet the teams afterwards is great,” Burn said.
As for other teams, like the Brisbane Deceptors have a similar fan base at the Arena every week but Kitty believes that when Gfinity starts back up in 2019, “we’re going to see a lot more fan clubs from each team.”
But with GZ able to claim that they got theirs in first, they have a massive advantage over the rest.
Ground Zero and their fan club will return for Season 3 of the Gfinity Elite Series. Tune in on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to watch every game live when the Gfinity Elite Series returns in Season 3.
Head to gfinityesports.com.au for details on schedule and tickets.