When you tell someone, a friend perhaps or an associate, that you are represented by Ford Models Inc., there is no doubt that visions of you walking down the catwalk showing off the latest fashions are coming to life in their head. However, Drew “Frozone” Bienusa is represented by Ford for other reasons. Those reasons being that he is one of the best Call of Duty players in North America and commands an audience of just about 100K followers on Twitch alone.
Under the direction of Justin Jacobson, Manager of the newly minted Ford Models Gaming and Esports division, Bienusa has become part of the first cadre of esports gaming and streaming talent signed by the agency.
And the partnership has already paid dividends. Enter XSET.
This past January, Bienusa, along with Ford Models negotiated a deal that saw the popular Twitch streamer and gaming sensation head over to the new competitive esports and gaming lifestyle organization XSET started by former FaZe Clan President Greg Selkoe, and Marco Mereu, co-founder and current COO of the organization.
Jacobson and Mereu sat down with The Esports Observer and gave us an inside look at the negotiations and what transpired.
“Frozone, as a person, as a content creator, makes so much sense for XSET,” said Mereu. “We are really looking at War Zone [Call of Duty] as a key content pillar for us. Activision Blizzard has turned Warzone into a platform in itself. Warzone has become a concept that they’re going to continue to iterate.. So, for us, we really want to have a presence in the title. We feel like all the best content creators and streamers right now are focused on Warzone and it’s probably the most compelling and competitive game you can watch right now.”
XSET as an organization, has seen how the gaming and esports space has evolved in terms of what works and what doesn’t. Whereas organizations in the past would rely on competitive esports teams and their winnings, Mereu and the folks at XSET understand that diversifying revenue streams is a top priority. Streamers search as Bienusa, who radiate talent and charisma are in high demand to help drive people to XSET’s content channels.
“We want to have the best, top-tier Warzone talent on the market as part of XSET,” Mereu said. “Talent like Bienusa enables us to really create our own programming and content that is ‘must see TV.’”
XSET, doing its homework and exploring who they wanted to fill out its content roster, saw Bienusa not only as a great player, but a great person as well. And when it came time to talk about coming along with XSET for the ride, it was Justin Jacobson and Ford Models who were needed to come to the table as they are the talent agency that represents Bienusa.
“When you have great players and great personalities to go along with that talent, it was important for us to land Bienusa,” Mereu continued. “He’s a super high character guy, which is important for us and he’s the kind of person that we want to have associated with our brand. So, I reached out to Justin. However, I wasn’t the only one as there were a couple of offers in front of him [Bienusa] and I wanted to get in on the discussion because I felt like we had a lot to offer as an organization. One thing I love about what we do is that our approach has been a little bit different from other organizations in terms of what we ask from our talent. It ended up being a great fit and we’re super excited to have him.”
Jacobson has been in the trenches with player negotiations in the past and as he explains it, he has an absolute duty to make sure his clients have all the information they need and then give counsel as to what it all means.
Some of the more shady organizations try to obfuscate or hide contract items such as the amount of time talent must spend streaming, how much compensation they can receive, logo and sponsor placement, and much more. What Jacobson saw was a transparent negotiation where those types of items were not hidden. Which was a big reason Bienusa went with XSET.
“It was the total package from the compensation standpoint to the added additional support for his own streamed production and some of the other kinds of general support and expenses that they’ll be able to with their internal staff that persuaded us at the end of the day,” said Jacobson. “One of the biggest offerings by XSET, in addition to the money, was the production and the support they provide to take everything you’re doing to that next level. You want an organization that supports you and understands where you’re trying to go and how they’re going to help you develop your career.”
Bienusa had multiple offers and credits Jacobson with helping evaluate those offers and finding the best fit.
“Justin and the team at Ford Esports really helped me evaluate each offer for both the long and short term,” Bienusa told The Esports Observer. “They helped me select the best situation and offer for myself and my family for my long-term career plan and growth.”
On the talent signing side of the fence, Mereu has dealt with quite a few agents and their clients. He has run the gambit of encounters and describes this one with Ford Models.
“I think there’s a real delineation out there right now between good representation and bad,” Mereu notes. “I think you can tell pretty quickly, which is which. This has been a good experience for us. Sometimes we have a conversation where they want us to make an offer before we even get on the phone with talent–which isn’t something I would ever do because I want to talk to the talent and find out what they want to do.”
Mereu then talks about a recent encounter where a negotiation didn’t go so well.
“I can’t name names on this, but we were having discussions with talent who’s more of a lifestyle content creator,” said Mereu “I had a conversation and they were very interested in joining us, but the next day they announced they had joined another org. That announcement had clearly been in the works because the announcement video was very elaborate. Was this a complete waste of our time to be on that call? I probably won’t work with that agent again.”
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