Nordeus is the fastest growing gaming company in Europe, and I have spoken with their Head of Business Development, Nikola Čavić. The most popular game placed by Nordeus is TOP Eleven, which will be the focal point of this article.
The game is built on the concepts and game play found in games like Football Manager that have engaged millions of football fans, but successfully managed to tie in some social features. Top Eleven managed to transfer the look and feel of desktop applications to Facebook. Since November 2011, Top Eleven is available for mobile devices, Android and iPhone. Two years after being launched on Facebook, Top Eleven was launched on one of the biggest Russian social networks – Odnoklassniki.
According to Facebook statistics, there were more than 12 million monthly users in 2014. In 2013 Nordeus introduced José Mourinho as official “face of the game”. Since then players can challenge José Mourinho in Top Eleven, and/or get some tips from him within the game. Besides José Mourinho, the game has another awesome feature. Users can purchase virtual jerseys from over 30 football clubs – among them are Real Madrid, Arsenal, Liverpool…
Can you tell us (in short) something about Nordeus?
Nordeus was founded 5 years ago, and quickly established itself as one of the leading mobile game developers in the World due to the success of our “Top Eleven be a Football Manager” video game. In those five short years, Nordeus has grown from a founding team of 3 people, working out of garage, to a company spanning across five offices with over 160 employees. It has been an incredible experience since the start, and while we are maturing as a company in some ways, the main reason why we are all here – making the best game in the world that we can, remains our passion and inspiration.
Your #1 product is ‘TOP Eleven’, can you tell us something about how you started? You had great competition in Football manager. It’s hard to become a ‘world player’ coming from this region, tell us something about your success story!
Quite much has already been said about our growth and success as a company, and it really all comes down to our talented and creative team of people, working across our offices around the world. Initially, the team was much smaller naturally, but from the start they had a clear vision and clear goals as to what they wanted to achieve with Top Eleven. Top Eleven was supposed to bring an experience of football management games from PC and Console over to Social and Mobile space. Competition was there since day one, but a combination of better gameplay, technology and growth strategy led Top Eleven to emerge well above everyone else in the market and stay there ever since then. Considering that our competition were “giants” in the gaming world, such as EA, it meant little from where we were coming. One of the main characteristics of our industry is that it is inherently global in scope with competitors in almost every country in the World. If anything, our region, understanding and proximity to the developing and emerging markets such as ours, gave us an advantage over other companies. While others focused exclusively on the Western markets, we had a different strategy and pursued growth via other regions.
You told us at SPORTO Conference: ”Engaging fans inside the stadium is easy, but how can we keep this engagement once they leave the stadium?” Your game proved to be a solution. Can you tell us something about this engagement, such as your ability to sell Juventus kits in Indonesia?
Engaging fans or customers is relevant for any business, whether it is a game company, a sports club, a bank, or any other business… We are all trying to engage our customers and keep their attention. Games as a medium of entertainment have always been one of the most engaging ones and considering the tech evolution and what is on the horizon in terms of the virtual reality, this will only be strengthened in the coming years.
In a world like this, you want to be as close to your audience and use the same mediums of communication or entertainment in order to sustain their engagement. Clubs have tried for a long time to figure out the “second screen” experience and how to connect with their fans through smartphones and tablets, create custom apps and experiences that would follow live matches etc….and that is great. They should try to enhance that experience, however there is much simpler way that has been around since ever – games. By being present in games, clubs can maintain engagement with fans not only during the match day at the stadium, but throughout the day, every time their fan logs in to play those games.
In case of Top Eleven, we allow clubs to engage their fans, but also generate additional revenue along the way. So far, we are working directly with over 32 football clubs around the World and sell their virtual jerseys and logos within our game. As you have mentioned, Juventus is one of the latest additions within the game and they have had a really great start. Not only are they seeing increased engagement and revenue within their domestic market – Italy, but they are seeing it around the World, from Brazil over to Indonesia. As one can imagine, both the fans and the club are extremely happy with solutions like these where both parties are walking away satisfied and happy.
— Top Eleven (@topeleven) April 1, 2015
It’s interesting that you don’t have banner ads or pop-ups within the game… you created a better solution. Can you tell our readers more about it?
You are right. Those methods of traditional advertising are not how I would want to introduce my brand to the gaming audience. Actually they are the opposite of what I would do. Regardless if you advertise via banner, interstitial, an offer or a video ad… you are disrupting the gaming experience of that person. It really comes down to that. Regardless of any reward that I might get for watching commercial video and how satisfied I am for that reward, it is interrupting my game-play experience and the immersion in the fantasy. That is terrible experience and one I would not want to associate with my brand.
So what should brands do instead ?
They should think about how they can enhance the experience of gamers, while connecting their brand to the better experience. In Top Eleven, we have never run banner ads or interstitials that would pop up and interrupt your game play experience. Instead, we think about how can we introduce brands of our partners in a engaging way that creates positive and lasting experience with our customers. One simple and very basic example of that would be sponsorship feature in Top Eleven.
Every player in Top Eleven has an option to select a sponsor of their football club in the game. When they select the sponsor, they start receiving regular income from the sponsor in the game and also the logo of the sponsor gets displayed on their jersey so that other players can see it too, and the player would also see it every single time they log in to play the game.
So think about this for a second… instead of annoying your potential customer with pop up ads, the customer is actually choosing your brand as a sponsor of their club, on their own, they feel good about it because their experience of managing a club is more authentic now, they see your logo few hundred times per month, and also they receive in game money from the sponsor, from you, every single day, reinforcing that positive connection with the brand.
I believe this experience is far more superior, engaging and effective than any interstitial or video ad you can throw at them.
Jose Mourinho and TOP 11? Tell us your secret with the Special one!
There is no secret here really. Just the two brands recognizing the fact that they are the best in their own segment and choosing to work together as a way of creating even bigger value through synergy. There were quite many football manager games on the market and we wanted to communicate clearly that unlike some of our competitors, Top Eleven is not about playing with football stars such as Ronaldo or Messi, but about managing your team as a whole and competing versus other teams around the World. Jose Mourinho was and still is the most known and recognized football coach in the world and an obvious choice for a Top Eleven ambassador. Getting the deal done was actually rather straightforward as both parties were interested in collaboration.
Do you have a strategy for our region? Dinamo, Hajduk, Rijeka, Crvena Zvezda, and Partizan are not in the game. You told us at Sporto Conference that most gamers are from Turkey and Southeast Asia. Can integration of clubs from the region give them a boost and help their marketing?
We do not have a strategy for the region and it has not been a part of our plans due to one main reason. Disposable income that people have in our region is significantly smaller compared to other countries, most notably those of Western Europe, US and some Asian countries. That reflects in their spending behavior within the game, and we have concluded that there is simply not enough players that would be willing to buy virtual jerseys from clubs, in order to justify effort and funds that we would have to invest in working with all regional clubs.