On November 24, as announced by Fnatic founder Sam Mathews on Twitter, one of esports’ most famous western teams takes its next step on the way to become a lifestyle brand. The Bunkr, a “first-of-its-kind esports concept store”, opens its doors in London’s inner city district Shoreditch for a four week period up until Christmas.
For those unfamiliar with the London district, Shoreditch has been subject to considerable gentrification in the past two decades with rising property and land prices. Former Prime Minister David Cameron called the area around Old Street Roundabout, where web and tech companies from the second dot-com boom like last.fm or Dopplr based their offices, the “Silicon Roundabout” in 2010. The district has become a synonym for urban transformation to such an extent that the term “Shoreditchifcation” is used to describe the process in other regenerated urban areas as well.
Hip bars, cool clubs, independent cinemas, street food—Shoreditch has become one of the places to be among hipsters, millennials, and all sorts of creative folks. That said, it comes with no surprise that Fnatic chose Shoreditch to launch its pop-up store, basically a short-term sales space for their apparel and gear. Like Burton is for snowboarding or Vans for skateboarding, Fnatic wants to become a lifestyle brand for esports as CEO Wouter Sleijffers told The Esports Observer in an interview last year. The concept of flash retailing Fnatic products in one of London’s hottest districts fits into the mould.
Just like the crowdfunding campaign Fnatic launched to support the production of Fnatic Gear, its pop-up store is mainly about raising interest in its brand, and that’s regardless of fact that the Indiegogo campaign received backings from more than 900 supporters and raised $240,000. Neither pop-up retailing nor crowdfunding are about sales, they are about engagement. Both concepts generate a feeling of relevance and interactivity for the customers. And that’s what a lifestyle brand is all about: evoking an emotional connection between the consumer and the brand with products that embody their culture.
Neither pop-up retailing nor crowdfunding are about sales, they are about engagement.
That’s also the reason why Fnatic’s Bunkr will not only sell hoodies, caps, keyboards, and mousepads—but will also feature a virtual reality setup and a bar. Sure, Christmas business will help sell one or another jersey too but what Fnatic really tries to sell is an attitude. Hanging out at a cool place with your tech-savvy friends, having some energy drinks, discussing the latest League of Legends patch notes—all in a friendly, hip, and completely Fnatic-branded environment.
It’s Fnatic’s—admittedly not entirely selfless—contribution to further drag esports from mom’s basement into mainstream culture. And it’s surely not without a certain irony that Fnatic chose to call that place Bunkr.