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Yoodo Red Giants: Selangor FC & Yoodo Revolutionising Sports Collaboration In The Esports Era

Selangor FC, a highly revered football club with a massive and devoted fanbase, has recognized the need to connect with younger generations to ensure its long-term sustainability. With an ageing fanbase and a declining influx of younger supporters, the club’s management realized the importance of exploring new strategies to stay relevant. In a recent interview with Dr Johan Kamal Hamidon, the CEO of Selangor FC, and Chow Tuck Mun, the Head of Yoodo, a prominent Malaysian telco, the two visionary leaders shed light on their partnership and the decision to venture into the world of esports.

Dr Johan explained that the emergence of esports among the younger generation made it an ideal avenue for attracting and engaging new fans while also diversifying revenue streams. Recognizing the untapped potential of esports as a commercial platform, Selangor FC sought to leverage this growing industry to rejuvenate its brand and captivate a broader audience. Meanwhile, Yoodo, known for its involvement in esports and other lifestyle segments, viewed the collaboration with Selangor FC as an opportunity to extend its reach into traditional sports. By joining forces, both organizations aimed to enhance brand awareness, foster engagement, and contribute to the professionalization and positive perception of esports in Malaysia.

The partnership between Selangor FC and Yoodo marks a significant step for both organizations in their commitment to esports. While their initial collaboration focused on Mobile Legends, their aspirations extend beyond a single game. The interview revealed that Selangor FC remains open to exploring other esports titles in the future, considering factors such as game sustainability, commercial viability, and resource allocation. This commitment showcases their dedication to adaptability and seizing opportunities as they arise.

With their shared vision, Selangor FC and Yoodo aim to make esports more professional, organized, and sustainable, while also providing unique experiences and fostering a positive perception of the industry. As they embark on their esports journey, both organizations seek to not only establish themselves as key players but also elevate Malaysia’s esports ecosystem to new heights, empowering players to excel on the international stage.

In the following sections, we delve deeper into the motivations and objectives behind the partnership, their expectations for the organization, and the exciting plans they have in store for the upcoming season of the MPL (Mobile Legends Professional League).

 

Selangor FC is a highly decorated football club with a massive and loyal fanbase behind you. What made you want to step into the world of esports?

Dr Johan: As you said, we have a massive and loyal fanbase, but one thing we realised is that our fanbase mainly consists of the older generation. So we saw that over time, our fanbase was getting older and older but fewer of the younger generation were joining our ranks. This decline in younger fans was a concern because, in the long run, that is how we will lose our fan base. It was when we realised this, was when we began searching for a strategy that we could adopt to ensure that we can still be relevant to the younger generations and somehow try to convince them to be aware of Selangor FC as a brand. That was when we saw esports as a good approach to bringing in younger followers as we saw the growth in popularity of esports amongst the younger generation.

Besides brand recognition and sustainability, we also saw esports as a new untapped commercial platform that we could also try to monetise. Our sponsors have always focused on traditional sports, so for them, this is also new and to some brands, it’s quite appealing to try and explore this new avenue through us. These are the two main reasons stepped into this world.

It’s through the first point that we came across Yoodo. We’ve wanted to collaborate with Yoodo for a while now, but as their main focus is more towards esports rather than traditional sports, the collaboration may not have done as well since traditional sports just aren’t a priority for Yoodo. So when we approach them about an esports-centric collaboration, we managed to quickly partner up and thanks to being on the same page about a lot of our goals, how we want to grow the brand and so on.

 

Of all the football teams in the Malaysian football league, what made Yoodo pick Selangor FC?

Mr Chow: This technically isn’t our first time collaborating with a traditional sports association, as pre-COVID we had actually partnered with the MPFL, the National Futsal League, as an initiative to expand our reach into traditional sports. But obviously, the pandemic happened and we were forced to go back to our digital roots over the past few years. 

Dr Johan and I had actually met before maybe one or two years ago we met up to discuss esport matters and so on. But I think that time wasn’t so suitable. So when this opportunity came up well, yeah, I suppose it’s very suitable. First thing, Selangor is still, of course, one of the strongest teams, stronger brands in football in Malaysia. So naturally, of course, you’ll be advantageous to be involved with a strong brand that’s pushing I think you can see the way they are growing, the way they are pushing things. I think Dr Johan has done a good job. So many things happening even in this setup [referring to the football club]. So you can see the drive there. I think that helped to make the decision in the sense that we know that the organisation we are working with is a strong partner. They were very interested to get involved in esports. We are naturally involved in esports having been involved in PUBG Mobile and Mobile Legends. So that’s why we decided to partner with them. 

 

What are the common short and long-term objectives of this partnership?

Mr Chow: First and foremost, we are a telco. We are quite a young telco. We’re doing quite well. We’ve been growing year on year. And how you do that is that you need to make sure you’re marketing well to your base. Our base is, like I said, the younger generation, the digital natives, Gen Y, Gen Z. So it helps that you are partnering with a strong brand, right? So there’s definitely brand awareness on that part. But the other thing that you will realize from Yoodo’s perspective is that we are into lifestyle marketing and lifestyle segments. Esports is one, and K-pop is another one. Music, entertainment.

Why do we do that? Well, first thing, Esports, there’s the ‘connectivity’ portion. You got to use data to play the game. So it’s again advantageous that if people use more data to play the game and hopefully they will use Yoodo to do that. So the objective of course is really to build a brand. Build brand awareness.

The second part about the lifestyle part is that we provide unique experiences meaning that we provide good connectivity, we provide opportunities for our customer base to meet the team. We have other teams in other games and so, it’s an opportunity to engage with the audience. I think we are good at that. We like to make sure that there is a chance for people to engage. Part of having that human element helps us from that perspective.

From a long-term expect, I suppose we have been dedicated and involved in esports for a while and I would like to think that Yoodo has also contributed to the industry. So we want to continue doing that. We want to help the ecosystem in a sense, right? Because how does a new ecosystem develop? You have to have sponsors, you have to have partners, you have to have the players, I’m sure on your side, you have the media that are related to gaming and so on. So we want to make sure that we play our role in developing that.

Dr Johan: From our side, our short-term goal is to obviously see how sustainable esports is. Of course, the goal that I show is clear in terms of trying to recruit new fans and also in terms of commercialising our platform. 

So similar to football, esports is also another session. Very similar. And I think what we wanted to do and this has been done in many football clubs abroad like PSG, like Red Bull, they invest a lot in esports. They actually regard esports as a professional sport and athletes that they have under their club actually go through some similar regimes to what a professional athlete goes through. Our idea was to see how well we can try and apply some of the best practices that have been done overseas. In the past, esports may have been a bit ad hoc, and a bit disorganised, and some parties did really well in trying to raise the standards. Work still needs to be done in other sectors but I think that one of our goals is to add value to the industry in terms of making the industry more professional, more organised, and more systematic. 

We also want to find answers to questions such as “How can we be more attractive to both commercial and private partners?”, “How can we make esports more sustainable?” and “How can we make the sentiment surrounding esports in Malaysia more positive?”. The latter I think is an important one. How can we make the perception of esports more appealing to parents, families, and the community? Because at the moment, it [esports] may not have the best perception amongst the groups mentioned. These are questions that have plagued esports fundamentally since its inception and resolving these is definitely a long-term goal which we’ve seen being improved upon year by year. We want to be a part of solving these issues and helping realise esports’ full potential as an industry. 

Mr Chow: I do want to add to that. There’s a high potential for Malaysian teams to well on the international stage. Today we’re obviously talking about Mobile Legends but our [Yoodo’s] other teams have done really well in representing Malaysia internationally. And Malaysia is already one of the top regions in MLBB, but we want to be able to provide support to players to excel and reach those heights. 

Dr Johan: [Laughs] I actually want to add to that too. The owner and chairman of the club [Tengku Amir Shah], has always had the vision for club to be internationally recognised. We don’t want to just be jaguh kampung [village heroes; nation’s pride] but to set good standards internationally. And we see the potential to do that in esports with it being essentially borderless and it being a lot easier to make a name for yourself internationally compared to traditional sports. So that’s one of the reasons why we did this, to see where esports can bring us as a brand internationally.

 

From the perspective of both organisations, can you share your expectations for the organisation coming into last season after signing the roster of ELX Esports?

Dr Johan: It was fortunate that Mr Simon Lim (Head of ELX Esports) was already a part of Selangor FC. He came to us with the proposal exclaiming the amount of talent he had on the roster and I was convinced after being shown what he was presenting. So I did my own research and investigation and consulted with people who are more experienced in MLBB and I was told “These guys are quite good and have done well at the semi-pro level!” So I was like “Okay”! Where else could we get this kind of opportunity to have a free ticket to the pro level? So as a result, we decided to partner with ELX. As for expectations, since it was our first season and the roster just got promoted, the obvious goal was to avoid relegation, because most of these boys are quite new to the professional scene. Only a few of the players have played at that level, the rest are just rookies. So there was always that concern that even though they’re good, they might crumble on a bigger stage. Alhamdulillah, we didn’t see those kinds of traits emerge in them throughout the season. So yeah our main target was to avoid relegation but also for us [the management] to study how the esports scene in Mobile Legends works. So now, we have a better picture of that. 

Mr Chow: From our side, whenever Yoodo gets involved we know that it’s not always the case that you go straight to the top. But we saw that the team was very talented right so it’s now about polishing that. Naturally, since it was the first season, we didn’t have many expectations. From our side, it’s difficult to say that we want expectations because it’s really down to the management of the team to lay those expectations down. 

 

Placing 5th-6th is more than a respectable placement during the organization’s inaugural season. Coming into Season 12 of the MPL, what do Yoodo Red Giants have in store for us? 

Dr Johan: Coming into the new season, we obviously have ambitious plans but we also want to be realistic. First of all, we’re extremely grateful that managed to get coach Arcadia on board—one of the best coaches there is. We’re very strong believers in how important a coach is to a team. Coach Veki did a good job in bringing up the team in the previous season. He helped improve the players a lot but how do we improve right? So we sat down with Veki and he even said himself that “I want to improve as a coach” and his hunger and ambition to improve is something that we at Selangor FC really admire. So we collectively decided to bring in Coach Arcadia because of his achievements, and his ability to develop players and win on the bigger stages. So getting him was a very big achievement for us. So the plan is for him [Arcadia] and Veki to work together to develop the team, we also plan to bring in one or two foreign players to strengthen the team. But again, we have to be realistic and understand that these players are young, and when they come to a foreign country, they may need time to adapt so we need to take these kinds of factors into account. 

In terms of expectations, we got to Top 6, so I don’t think it’s too outrageous to believe that we have a chance at reaching Top 3 during the regular season and maybe reach the finals in Playoffs. I think everyone in the team is on the same page about that.

Mr Chow: We obviously want to improve. I think from our side, we want to see the team improve year after year. 

 

This partnership obviously shows both organisations’ commitment to esports. Is Selangor FC open to entering other esports titles in the future?

Dr Johan: We are always open. For Selangor FC, we as an organisation we always want to be open to opportunities. So as opportunities come, we will weigh and measure the risks of the resources we would need to allocate and if we feel that there are more benefits than the risks then we’ll definitely explore it.

Getting into esports is already a huge step! Mobile Legends has acted as that stress test and a point of reference for whether we should go into another game or not, so getting into a new game would be a lot easier since we’re already in the space. So it’s really about what opportunities come, how strong the game is as a platform and from a commercial perspective. Like we’d never have to worry about football because it’ll always be around, but a game can suddenly disappear. So we don’t want to be investing so many resources just for the game to fall off after a couple of years.

So that’s definitely something that needs to be considered. As long as we’re confident in the game’s sustainability, and an opportunity arises, then we’ll definitely consider it.

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