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OverActive Media just announced that traditional sports and media industry professional Alyson Walker has joined its Toronto front office as the senior vice president of business. Equipped with years of experience and expertise, Walker has worked with the Canadian Olympic Committee, as well as Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment with the Leafs, Raptors, and TFC.
With its headquarters located in Toronto, OverActive Media is a global esports company that owns the Toronto Defiant of the Overwatch League, as well as teams in the League of Legends European Championship and Call of Duty.
As OverActive Media’s newest member, along with Tyler Keenan, Walker took the time to sit down for an interview with Daily Esports. Walker shared with us her expertise, her thoughts on OverActive Media, and her insights on the growing esports industry as a whole.
DES: Given all of your experience, what are you most excited about when it comes to being part of OverActive Media?
Alyson Walker: I’ll answer in two ways. First of all, I’ve been very fortunate to work with those great organizations and across many different disciplines — from the partnerships to licensing businesses to production and a focus on data solutions. I have both the diversity and experience, and a lot of the best practices that come out of those established organizations.
I think that’s a wonderful segue into what is a new, but very quickly growing organization within a relatively new, but very quickly evolving industry. Chris and a number of my colleagues are bringing this experience. I think we can all see that, particularly, the lead based models are evolving in such a way that will follow all the great things we’ve learned from the professional sports leagues. I think it sets me up really nicely, and I’m pretty excited.
DES: On that note, you’re also on the WISE board, as well as being actively involved with e-mentorship for girls and ReachUp. How do these experiences contribute to the esports landscape as a whole, especially at a time when it’s growing and when young women are looking to become leaders within the industry?
Alyson Walker: I’m very passionate about supporting those that are in the industry. I’ve been very well supported with mentors and champions in sports and entertainment. So I think that’s why I spend so much of my volunteer time with these great organizations, mentoring and creating paths for others.
The reason I’m excited about taking that into sports is because I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for women at the leadership level, and certainly to demonstrate to younger women that anything is possible. Leadership is transferable across industries. There’s an opportunity for them in it — whether it’s a traditionally male-dominated industry or a new sort of digital age.
If others can see the big decisions I’m making to join this industry, then hopefully that motivates them and shows them that there’s a great path for them as well.
DES: Why is it important for young women to be uplifted and motivated within the esports industry?
Alyson Walker: In sports in general, I think that it’s really great for women to have champions and role models that can show them what’s possible. I had that and always saw that I could grow and become a leader in an industry — whether it was a non-traditional industry or a male-dominated industry. I really believe that the notion of the role model, sharing stories, and supporting each other is such an important part of who I am as a person and also why I do what I do.
I love my career and love the people I’m surrounded by, but if I can demonstrate a path for others, particularly young women, that there’s a path in this industry, then I think that’s great.
There are some tremendous players and, I’m sure, coaches and certainly leaders of different leagues and franchises that are out there ready for it. I see this growing and growing. I think you’ll see lots more women in esports, and I think it’s going to do nothing but grow the sport and bring diversity of thought to the industry.
DES: As you’ve mentioned, you have a lot of experience when it comes to sports in general. From your perspective, what are some similarities and differences between traditional sports and esports, and why are these important?
Alyson Walker: From a similarity standpoint, business is business. We’re trying to grow brands, create sponsorship opportunities, [and] create asset value for our partners. We’re trying to create a narrative that continues to grow this rapidly evolving industry and the teams that we are responsible for. The overlap of the traditional sports model, from partnerships and licensing and marketing and sales, to what OverActive Media is focused on — is exactly the same. At the end of the day, whether you’re playing basketball or playing video games, the business models are very similar.
The difference, of course, is what is really exciting. First of all, how often do you have the opportunity to join both an industry and an organization at the relative beginning and build something from the ground up? That’s a rare opportunity and is certainly one of the big reasons why I’m excited about it.
It will have its very important differences because esports are unique. A lot of opportunities within this industry are different and very positive because you’re speaking to a demographic and a global group of fans and players that are quite different and aren’t necessarily interested in traditional sports. There’s a real opportunity there to build brands that speak to them.
DES: What does it mean to you to be able to join your colleagues like Paulo Senra and Chris Overholt at OverActive Media?
Alyson Walker: We had a very special time at the Olympic Committee when I joined after Vancouver with Chris. He’s a tremendous leader. We were able to build from a certain ground up after a home game. You really do start over, and we had such a great time. It was a huge amount of work and a big challenge, but very rewarding and we had a lot of fun together. The [Canadian Olympic Committee] is like a family, so to reunite with some of those people, it was one of the reasons that I’m joining. They are fabulous people.
When you can create a business environment where there is deep respect, but also a lot of motivation to drive each other towards success, it’s pretty powerful. That’s something I’m excited to rejoin.
DES: Where do you see OverActive Media in the future in terms of its relationship with the esports community and the industry as a whole?
Alyson Walker: From an esports league standpoint, I think that OverActive Media will play a very important role in the development and evolution of the leagues themselves. The way we’re structured, the way we define success for the future, having a team in each of the three leagues is pretty powerful. I think there’s a very important part that OverActive Media is going to play in the overall league landscape, and certainly with Call of Duty, Overwatch, and League of Legends.
From a fan standpoint, I know we’re very focused on creating opportunities for Torontonians and Canadians to learn more about the phenomenon that is global esports, and to associate with brands, players, and teams that they can resonate with and can be a part of. The Toronto Defiant has been in L.A., and it will be nice to bring the team and teams, in time, home. We really want to engage fans and give them an opportunity to really make this into what they want it to be.
DES: What do you look forward to in terms of potential future projects at OverActive Media?
Alyson Walker: The first thing I look forward to is growing the business. The challenges and opportunities that come with it are definitely the reason I’m growing it with such a great group of people.
The second thing is that I think there are great opportunities to create an opportunity and a platform for women and for new fans that haven’t necessarily been part of the esports community. I’m excited about that.
I’m excited about the opportunity to also create a platform around health, wellness, active living, and making sure that all the players and the fans are able to practice as much as they need to, but also live a healthy lifestyle. I think it’s important. I think it’s important for the kids and the next generation watching, and I think that ultimately, it will make the players better.
The opportunity in one’s career to make a bold move or a bold change, and to have the opportunity to choose to try something new and apply all of their experiences to something relatively unknown, is actually a privilege. It’s a privilege, and I’m excited about. It allows me the opportunity to build something and shape something, and I feel very fortunate that I’m being given that opportunity.
I’m humbled to join. I’ve got lots to learn about these sports themselves, although I have been spending a lot of time with some of my colleagues understanding the games. I love the strategy component. There’s a huge strategy component that’s really interesting for traditional sport viewers. There’s a privilege and excitement that comes with joining, and I feel very, very honored.
For more insight about esports, check out our other interviews here at Daily Esports.
Note: this interview was edited for clarity.
Amy Chen is an esports journalist and enthusiast who specializes in in-depth interviews and breaking news. A recent University of Toronto and Humber College graduate, she is passionate about building up the Canadian esports industry. Her current favourite games are Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and she has always had a soft spot for World of Warcraft!
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