The six-person group—which includes New Balance chief marketing officer Chris Davis, Barstool Sports chief revenue officer Deirdre Lester, and FEVO founder and CEO Ari Daie—will help Rival improve its product and source new relationships across sports and entertainment.
The board’s formation comes at an important time for Rival. As the pandemic has forced companies across the industry to rethink how they engage with their customers, many are turning to gaming as a way to keep fans engaged. That includes tournaments for fans, the creation of esports teams, and broadcasting simulated contests via video game platforms. Rival can facilitate many of these options for entities that lack the expertise, or the bandwidth, to do them internally.
Though gaming and running shoes might seem like opposite corners of the sports world, Davis said companies like Rival and New Balance share a common mission: “We’re all in the business of meaningful consumer experiences.”
“The reason why Rival is so attractive is that it enables a brand like New Balance, a team like Liverpool or a league like the NBA, to aggregate their fan base and loyalty members, and create new exciting, competitive experiences,” Davis said in an interview.
Founded in 2019, Rival is backed by tech entrepreneur and co-founder Shawn Murnan. The group works with sports teams to build gaming communities, host tournaments and distribute content. The company views its products as another form of nontraditional marketing—a way for teams and leagues to increase engagement in their cohort of fans for whom gaming is an important form of entertainment.
Esports was buzzy in the years leading up to the pandemic, and the last 12 months have been a sobering experience for many. Rival, however, has added 20 partners in the past six months, most recently the Arizona Coyotes. Other clients include Monumental Sports & Entertainment (parent of the Washington Wizards and Capitals), the Detroit Pistons, Seattle Seahawks and English soccer club Aston Villa.
The new board comes two months after Rival reorganized its leadership team, appointing a new CEO, COO, CMO and CRO. The rest of the advisory board will consist of Vincent Sarafa, chief strategy officer at marketing firm Augeo, and John Osborn, CEO of media agency OMD USA. Murnan will serve as board chair.