Can gaming bring about big profits? Can gamers earn consistently, in an organized way as well as reach relevant brands for partnerships and sponsorships? Can brands really take advantage of a gamer’s influence and reach?
We caught up with Robin Åström, CEO and co-founder of Wehype, a gaming influencer agency and platform, on what it’s like being at the forefront of gaming influencer marketing. Wehype’s data-driven technology and expertise connects brands such as EA, Sega and Ubisoft with billions of gamers worldwide, through content creators on platforms like Twitch and YouTube.
To date, Wehype has forged over 15,000 partnerships between brands and creators, with some creators making up to £130k through the platform. The company recently opened a New York office, to help better serve the booming American gaming industry, which is projected to hit $48 Billion in revenue by 2027.
We asked Robin about his experiences in founding Wehype with his childhood friend and his sibling, his views on the current state and the future of gamer influencer marketing and the passion economy as well as the direction in which Wehype is heading.
What first got you into entrepreneurship?
I’ve always been curious by nature and keen to create. I started doing this very early in my career with different social media projects and worked to form and build popular accounts on Instagram across men’s fashion and travel.
I’m also not afraid of trying and failing, which is really important when it comes to building a business.
Honestly, it was gaming that really got me into entrepreneurship. I spent hours playing in different teams on the game Counter-Strike, and often took the lead in building out websites and producing movies for my teams. It was a bit like running a small company in itself, working with partners, branding, and marketing.
What is the inspiration/story/vision behind Wehype?
My main motivation was always the drive to do something exciting and fun in gaming. Having worked in influencer marketing for as long as ‘influencer’ has been an established term, I’ve always been curious about emerging trends in technology and knew as soon as influencers began to scratch the surface of social media, that this was going to carve out the future of the media landscape.
As a gamer myself, working in this field was always an ambition, and Wehype was born through combining my twin passions of influencer culture and gaming. Emil, Gustaf and I had wanted to work together for a while and during a brainstorm I floated the idea of leveraging the power of influencer marketing in the gaming sector. The gaming influencer sphere was just beginning to emerge as something particularly interesting, and the three of us decided to take the idea and run with it. The uniqueness of Wehype, including our data-driven approach, grew from this initial passion for both gaming and influencer culture.
Tell us about the experience of starting Wehype with a childhood friend and sibling. What were the memorable moments as well as the challenges encountered?
I met Gustav, my childhood friend and co-founder, while playing Counter-Strike. Our aliases kept us from knowing each other for a while, but eventually we realized we came from the same city. We met up for a LAN party, and then 5 years later began working at the same company. Emil, Gustaf’s brother, and I then met, and the three of us started Wehype a few years later. In my opinion, our trio has a unique magic that was an important cornerstone for the establishment of Wehype.
Of course, running a business has its regular ups and downs, but the three of us have a strong bond that means we support each other through both the wins and the more difficult times. Founding Wehype, we have all been brought closer, and as everything about starting and running the company has been a learning experience, getting to share that journey with two of the smartest people I know is both exciting and rewarding.
In terms of challenges, we’ve all learned that it’s useful to ensure that everyone is on the same page. No matter how well we know each other, we make sure that we voice our own opinions and bring our different areas of passion to the table. We are all, especially Gustaf and I, a little restless when we aren’t challenging ourselves, so we make for a really hard-working team. Whenever you achieve particular milestones alongside people you know really well, such as when we opened our New York office this year, it is especially memorable.
Since launch in 2016, what do you consider as the most significant milestones?
While there have been too many exciting moments to count, opening our New York office this year felt like a physical indication that we are embracing the opportunities in important areas of the influencer sphere. We work across over 50 countries already, so being able to open an office on another continent was great proof of our increasing global presence.
Our annual revenue also grew by 300% in 2021, which was really significant not only to the company’s success but to the booming landscape that we work in. Gaming influencer marketing is growing exponentially and has taken on a life of its own beyond the influencer space itself, and numbers like this remind me of the power that we are helping brands harness.
Since establishing Wehype we have forged over 15,000 partnerships with brands and creators, which is another indicator of the industry’s growth, but also proves that our data-driven approach to gaming influencer marketing is paying off. Being able to help brands find talented content creators who are the best fit for them is really rewarding, especially when we’ve enabled influencers to earn up to $170,000 through our brand-influencer matchmaking and management of campaigns.
Why do you think gamers have become some of the most popular content creators? Do gamers represent the future of influencer marketing?
Gamers are some of the most popular content creators for several reasons, but I think the most obvious one is the increasing size and the passion of the gaming community. Much of content creation is optimized with the odd Instagram post or short TikTok – and these are important, booming areas that our creators embrace- but gamers bring a passion and sense of engagement that other social media spheres don’t have. Gamers will watch their favorite Twitch streamers for hours, because not only are they engaged with the streamers themselves, but they have a love for the game, and for the art of gaming.
Gaming has always been a social activity, which I think is one of the key reasons for this. There’s a reason why the stereotypical image of a gamer usually includes the headset; it’s because a game is a gateway to a community. Influencer culture grows every day, social media grows every day, and gaming will grow alongside these things – tenfold, perhaps – because the community and the object of the game has always been incredibly social.
How does Wehype identify the best creators for a specific brand and vice versa?
Our campaigns team is dedicated to pairing up the right content creators with the right brands for them. The key to making this happen is Wehype’s proprietary technology; few companies scrape Twitch data as often as we do (our analysis is updated every fifteen minutes), meaning we have an ongoing picture of creators.
This birds-eye view of Twitch (which we also apply to other platforms like YouTube and, increasingly, TikTok) allows us to swoop in quickly when a game is launched and find the perfect influencers to turbocharge interest and sales. Once we find those creators, we can reach out to them in a matter of a few clicks. This means that not only are brands being paired up with the right influencers to represent them – no matter how niche – but the influencers are being offered deals with brands that are suited to them and the content that they already create. Our influencer database means that brands can uncover micro influencers and increase diversity in who gets brand deals in the influencer sphere.
How do you define the “passion economy”? Do you think video content will remain as the driver of the passion economy? What about gaming influencer marketing?
The passion economy, in an ideal world, is profiting financially from creating content around something that you are passionate about, and it’s intertwined with the developing digital age. The digital tools that are now accessible to the majority of us, enable us to create content, and pass it on to monetized audiences online. This could be everything from offering French lessons on an online learning platform, to selling plant pots painted to look like cartoon characters on Etsy. In Wehype’s case, it’s about showing off your gaming skills, insight and personality to other gamers. The audience is often key here – because they have to be passionate about the subject too, in order to consume your content.
Authenticity is on the rise in the passion economy
At the moment, authenticity is on the rise in the passion economy, especially where a personality is concerned. This is where we may have to be careful – it’s hard to adapt and control a product when the product is you. But it’s about honesty and transparency and gaining an audience’s trust to properly engage them. That’s where the results seem to be at the moment, and I expect that to continue. We largely see this in video content – and have for a long time, really – whether this be in streams, vlogs, or short clips. I don’t expect that to change.
What emerging trends are you seeing in video content and the passion economy?
In short, video content is constantly changing. On one hand, you could argue that our attention spans are getting shorter; TikTok is the fastest growing platform in the world, and even slightly older shifts in content like the Instagram or Snapchat story show our need to flick from one piece of content to the next on a repeated loop. It’s getting easier and easier for creators to showcase their passions for a product, when the content that they put out is bitesize.
But long-form content remains incredibly popular, especially in the gaming realm. People are looking to these influencers for entertainment, and sometimes escapism; settling in to watch an influencer play through or discuss a game is best done in a longer video, and I don’t see this going away anytime soon.
In terms of gaming influencer marketing specifically, I think we’re seeing interesting developments in the space that will only continue to grow. Gen-Z and this shorter content are big on authenticity, genuineness and personality, which gives stronger engagement and more value to micro and mid-tier influencers. Gaming influencer marketing is about more than its stereotype; it’s about all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds coming together in gaming content creation. I think this can only get stronger as social media channels evolve. Live video and short-form content will lead the way, as it’s the best space to foster authenticity.
What’s next for Wehype?
I’d like Wehype to have eventually built a sustainable infrastructure for the gaming influencer industry. In doing so we could enable companies to put increasing amounts of money into influencer marketing, by helping them to scale campaigns and providing all the right data for these campaigns to run seamlessly, no matter their size or intent. Proprietary technology, plus world-class experts, will give the combination between machine data and human touch that the influencer world needs to thrive. I believe that Wehype and the services that it offers will become the automatic solution for any gaming brand’s marketing needs.