By: Matthew Rondina
World Gaming Network was able to chat with Chris Overholt who is leading the charge with Overwatch League’s newest team, the Toronto Defiant.
Chris brings a lot of professional sports experience to the table with a resume that includes the Canadian Olympic Committee, NHL, NBA and NFL. With all this sports related experience he has doubled down on esports lending his experience to OverActive Media, owner of the Defiant franchise. Chris was able to chat with us about building the framework for a new OWL franchise and shared his views on Toronto and his hopes to bring a perennial contender to the city.
What would you say was the key motivator to bring an Overwatch team to Toronto?
The way Toronto takes to sports, the fans in the city make franchises their own, and how they’ve done so over many years now, with the Leafs but more recently with the Raptors and FC. We just all really felt like this was a ‘can’t miss’ opportunity, both in the context of the space and the city itself, so we just didn’t see it as something we should pass on.
How did you decide on the Toronto Defiant as the name for the team? How do you feel the name embodies the city?
We certainly looked at a collection of different positions, but we started with the brand position, we didn’t start with the name. We talked a lot about the city, we talked a lot about the people that make up the city.
We spent a lot of time talking to each other about, individually and collectively, how do we feel about the city, what does it stand for? What are the elements of the city that define its brand? We really wanted to capture that in the way we positioned the team. We wanted to make sure that it spoke to the fans, and that it spoke to the city more broadly.
Over the next few years, we’re going to convert many people into esports enthusiasts and into Toronto Defiant fans. So, we wanted to make sure it was relevant and relatable from the get go.
There’s a certain evolution of Toronto in recent years, I think we’ve all been witness to it.
Everybody is so blown away by what a global city is, how truly international it is, how beautiful and safe it is. But also by it’s kind of inherent resilience, it’s got an underlying kind of passion that goes with it, and I think that really spills from the great eclectic collection of culture and nationality that we play host to in Toronto. It just all kind of feeds that narrative of resiliency, a certain amount of grit and determination.
When we start to think about the Defiant brand, and that name for the team, all the positive ways that define the word Defiant, that grittiness, that unrelenting commitment and determination, all those positive characteristics kind of floated to the top of the conversation. Once we landed on that, there was no turning back.
You have quite the incredible resume with the Canadian Olympic Committee, experience with the NBA, NHL, and NFL. How do you feel esports franchises are different or similar to more traditional sports franchises or organizations?
The principles are the same.
We’re going to have to build a fantastic and a wonderfully loyal and passionate fan base. We’re going to want to build out our brand, engage our fans in all the ways that traditional sport would. Over time we’re going to want to host them in our venues, and give them an undeniably fantastic experience that they talk to their friends and family about every day.
All those same things apply, and then of course in doing all of that, you want to make sense to the business community and convert that tribal following and that emotional connection into building a business and giving sponsors an opportunity to be attached to it and build their brands along with our Toronto Defiant brand.
What I think is unique about this, is it’s the level of passion that exists in the fans. I’m not saying that Raptors or Leafs or NFL fans or FC fans for that matter, I mean those are all great examples I think in our city of wonderfully committed and passionate fans.
But honestly from what I’ve seen so far, this is just next level.
The amount of content that they consume, the passion and the fever with which they do it, you know honestly I don’t know that I’ve seen anything like it. It’s almost unbridled. There’s so much to build around and it’s going to give us a great foundation on which to build over many years. It’s going to be great fun.
Can you speak a bit to your partnership with Splyce. What are you hoping their experience is going to bring to the Toronto Defiant?
I think Marty and his team and our close attachment to Splyce was the difference maker in terms of being awarded the franchise. Marty and his team have an outstanding reputation. They’ve been acknowledged, certainly by the league, and I think generally for all those that I speak to who know the esports space, they are known as great operators and really professional in the way that they go about things. I made it clear to our team as we came together in this and started working with Splyce that that’s exactly what we’re going to build.
We’re going to build Canada’s first, but I like to think over time globally, one of the best and most professional esports organization in the world. And to do that you need great people. So these guys know the space, they know the player community, they understand the culture and the posture around the fan community. And to have Jay and Bishop hired on as quickly as we did and have them go to work as fast as they did, that’s a really credit to Marty and his vision for all of this.
I think we’re greatly advantaged, you know we’re a first year team so we should want to temper our expectations a little bit, we’ve got to build from scratch. But we’re excited about the roster that we’re building. We think we’re going to be competitive, and make no mistake about it, we’re never going to be shy about saying that we want to be winners.
We want to build a winning franchise for the city, we want to do that for ourselves, for the people that support us. And you’re not going to win every year, but you hope that you can build a perennial contender. I like the way the league’s set up competitively, so if you start slow you can finish strong and still be in the mix. I think there’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic here, and a big part of that starts with the Splyce team.
About the Author: Matthew Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Follow Matthew’s gaming adventures on twitter and join in on the fun!