Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is setting up his own team off the field and recruiting fellow athletes to join him in the streaming world. After taking to Twitch last off-season, Ekeler is launching Gridiron Gaming Group to support other player-gamers looking to grow on the platform. Chargers receiver Mike Williams, Eagles corner Avonte Maddox and Dodgers pitcher Tommy Kahnle are among the first six to join the effort.
GGG, which is co-owned by agent Cameron Weiss as well as Jordan Sherman, the head of revenue operations for esports outfit Gen.G, will offer setup help, growth collaborations and sponsorship connections, taking a percentage of the revenue it brings to its clients. GGG will officially launch with a streaming event on Super Bowl Sunday. Equipment company Wilson will be GGG’s first partner. The players who join will be able to maintain relationships with other streaming teams as well.
Ekeler was among the many people who turned to Twitch amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has since accrued more than 20,000 followers on the platform with a mix of Q&A sessions and video-game playing. New sponsorship opportunities followed, including tie-ups with Samsung, Bud Light and Twitch itself.
Streaming “has been very significant [for my career],” Ekeler said in an interview. “It’s opened up a different type of endorsement that I’ve been able to get now.” Users watched nearly 2 billion hours of content on Twitch in December.
Ekeler had some extra time to devote to GGG during the season, as a leg injury kept him out of football for six weeks while the Chargers struggled through a 7-9 year. “I love business,” he said. “It’s my passion in life to build…. I’ve still got my side businesses to keep me sane, especially when we have a rough season.”
Ekeler, who is active in GGG’s recruitment process, said he has pitched people from the WNBA, NHL and the Madden circuit. “I have a dream scenario where I sign someone who starts small, with a few hundred followers,” he said, “and I help them grow to tens of thousands and just flourish and really turn streaming into one of their passions and even to monetize their brand and implement themselves in their community.”