GG.BET UA CEO: In Ukraine, we will develop esports in every possible way

Gambling Insider recently spoke with CEO of GG.BET UA, Dmytro Voshkarin, to discuss the company’s recent entry into Ukraine, the different elements of esports compared to traditional sports, organising Match of LeGGends, GG.BET’s charity work and more. 

gg.betesports

GG.BET recently announced its entry into the Ukrainian market. Can you tell us a bit about how the brand introduction is going? GG.BET hosts events for esports fans around the world. Is there something interesting in store for Ukrainian fans, too?

Yes, that's right. As we announced on 9 August, 2023, GG.BET now has a betting and online casino licence in Ukraine. Now, we’re preparing to bring our product to market. We’ve also already begun to actively promote the brand and introduce it to the audience.

In Ukraine, GG.BET will continue to be the brand that develops esports in every possible way. A number of our ambassadors are Ukrainian esports influencers and we're already working on esports content projects with them. We’re making videos about Counter-Strike with Tonya Predko and Yana ‘BlackBunny’ Dychenko, and we recently launched the new ‘Call Me Maybe’ and ‘De-Hype Train’ features in Ukrainian. 

A large part of GG.BET’s team are Ukrainian and the company's roots are in Ukraine. Which means it’s our war, too

We’re hosting interactive broadcasts with Mikhail ‘Olsior’ Zverev, that both esports talents and ordinary fans can participate in. We’ve aired several charity shows on Olsior’s channel. Those who took part in ‘Who Wants to be a Volunteer?’ were able to win cash prizes at GG.BET and donate them to their charity of choice. We’ve also got big plans and countless ideas for the future. 

On top of all that, we’re gradually preparing to host our first offline events, with all possible safety precautions in place.

Over the past few months, GG.BET has hosted major offline events in different parts of the world. Could you tell us what led to this decision, given that esports are predominantly an online form of entertainment?

The nature of esports means that it seems as though the entire industry exists purely online. But whilst esports players compete against each other using a computer, rather than something like a bat, ball, or racket, their viewers are just as emotionally invested in their games. They follow the careers of their favourite athletes, as well as their teams’ successes and roster changes, just like classic sports fans. And just like them, they also dream of getting their idol’s autograph and seeing their favourite team live. 

But very few events give fans the opportunity to meet the teams. And there’s almost no opportunity to interact with players in an informal setting. Our mission at GG.BET is to develop the esports community, which is why we started organising these types of meet-ups. 

Natus Vincere with Brazilian fans at GG.Gathering, Rio de Janeiro, 2023. Photo by GG.BET.

This spring, GG.Gathering took place in Rio de Janeiro, which allowed NAVI fans to meet each other, get autographs and talk to their idols; whilst esports players got to experience the support they get from their audience in person. With these sorts of meet-ups, GG.BET can act as an intermediary, helping to strengthen the connections between community members, and make esports feel that much more alive and real.

The Tour de Rio project was one of my favourites. We hosted it with Team Vitality, the French esports team, in autumn 2022. Team Vitality’s Counter-Strike team went on a tour of the city, which was followed by a photo and autograph session with their fans. People were queueing up long before the team arrived. In-person meet-ups are very popular in Brazil, and people were really friendly and enthusiastic. As a result, the feedback we received - both from the team and from the event’s attendees - was excellent. 

How does team sponsorship differ between esports and traditional sports?

At a fundamental level, partnerships with esports teams and traditional sports teams work on the same principle. The company sponsors the club’s training and tournament appearances, and the club, in turn, provides informal support to the brand, which drives brand awareness and builds its reputation.

But beyond just buying logo space on players’ tops or by the usernames, I think there’s still a way to go before we really see those more progressive team partnerships in the esports industry. As pioneers in this area, we pay close attention to the needs of our audience, and we’re constantly experimenting. The most interesting projects tend to come from collaborations, like the recent Match of LeGGends. We invited two legendary teams that we’re partnered with - Team Vitality and Natus Vincere - to play a friendly online showmatch. It’s worth noting that our partnership with both teams has gone a bit beyond the norm for a while now. 

 When Russia attacked Ukraine, we knew that we couldn’t just sit on the sidelines. We had to help in any way we could

We ‘vibe’, so to speak. They share their ideas and we share ours. Then these brainstorming sessions lead to an avalanche of new ideas and before we know it, we’re planning an event. Many large brands are ready to offer great collaborations, but you also need esports players to be willing to experiment and take some initiative. 

We want players and club managers to understand just how important this is, for our entire industry. Every event is another opportunity to get your audience’s attention. The more interesting the event, the more people will get interested in the games and start watching the tournaments and playing themselves. I think partnership collaborations are one of the key areas for future development in esports.

How difficult was it to organise an event like Match of LeGGends?

The entire process, from the initial idea to implementation took seven months. It all started during the IEM Rio Major in 2022. That was the first Major in which Natus Vincere and Team Vitality locked horns after teaming up with GG.BET. We were literally glued to our screens; the excitement was off the charts. And then we thought, ”How cool would it be to organise a match between these two teams?” But we wanted something more light-hearted, without the pressures of a tournament. 

We worked from different time zones, sometimes calling each other late at night or directly from the airport. We needed to find and prepare an arena and then find a free slot in both teams’ training and competition schedules and get them together in one city. And it took over 100 people to bring it all together. 

We had to learn on the go, because some situations were impossible to predict

We had to learn on the go, because some situations were impossible to predict; they happen when you’re already on air. For example, after the broadcast started, there were some problems with the server that caused a lot of interference with gAuLeS’s audio. 

We and our partners were on opposite sides of the ocean, trying to work out what was going on, and by that point over 20,000 people were already watching!  But in the end, the showmatch went extremely well and we now consider Match of LeGGends to be one of our most successful projects. 

James Banks interviews Aleksib (NAVI) before the start of Match of LeGGends, 2023. Photo by GG.BET

At its peak, we had 76,000 concurrent viewers and over one million views in total - we're talking S-Tier tournament numbers. Interestingly, GG.BET wasn't the only bookmaker to cover the Match of LeGGends event; it was on our competitors’ platforms, too. All of a sudden, we'd reached that 'holy grail'.

I think the main reason that this event was so successful is because we developed a format that we ourselves found interesting and the teams enjoyed playing it too. Imagine this: two bitter rivals, ZywOo and s1mple, who battle for the MVP title at every major tournament, finally find themselves on the same team. 

Or, we mix up the players between the two teams and see how they work together and take out their opponents live. The thing is, these events aren’t just a box-checking exercise. You need to ask yourself, ”Would I find it interesting?” This is the approach we use at GG.BET and you can see the results for yourself.

During Match of LeGGends, you also held a charity fundraiser. Could you tell us a bit more about the charity side of GG.BET? How does this charity work fit with the brand’s partnerships?

The idea of a betting company doing charity work may seem a bit controversial. But when Russia attacked Ukraine, we knew that we couldn’t just sit on the sidelines. We had to help in any way we could. A large part of GG.BET’s team are Ukrainian and the company's roots are in Ukraine. Which means it’s our war, too. 

So, GG.BET began to host different types of events. For example, at PGL Antwerp in 2022, we set up a booth where we collected donations to purchase medical equipment. People came to us from all over the world, and many were surprised that GG.BET was involved in that sort of project. But for us, it just makes sense. Weapons should stay on the computer screen, where people can playfight to their heart’s content, instead of sitting in a shelter waiting for the next bombing. 

This year, we held another collection that was also aimed at an international audience. It was held during Match of LeGGends, and together with the audience we collected funds to restore an IT classroom at a Ukrainian school that had been destroyed. 

We’re looking forward to launching GG.BET in Ukraine, and are working on projects that will support the country in its fight for freedom and independence.

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