FaZe Clan Is Going Public—Just as the Creator Economy Shifts
The esports entertainment company can sell just about anything, but a recession may derail its business trajectory.
FAZE CLAN IS a powerhouse that’s on track to do the unthinkable for an esports organization: go public as a NASDAQ-listed company. Later this year, you might be able to diversify your investment portfolio by adding “FAZE” to the mix.
While FaZe Clan members compete in esports tournaments and play Call of Duty on Twitch, the company’s not-so-secret sauce is its high frequency of brand deals. Moving beyond obvious collaborations like headphones and gaming keyboards, FaZe Clan has recently helped sell everything from Nissan cars to the crispy chicken sandwich at McDonald’s.
AdAge declared the group one of 2021’s top marketers for a reason. It appears as though every marketing executive striving to forge a better connection with Gen Z has already asked their assistant to try to ink a deal. Here’s just a small sample of FaZe Clan’s collaborators: DraftKings, Totino’s Pizza Rolls, HyperX, Takashi Murakami, Disney, the National Football League, and DoorDash.
“Historically, music was the driver of youth culture,” FaZe Clan CEO Lee Trink told AdAge in 2021. “But now, gaming is youth culture.” The sentiment is bombastic and unsurprising to hear from someone who leads an esports media company, but he’s not wrong.
Trink cut his teeth as president of Capitol Records, and others who built careers in the music industry are joining his endeavor. Jimmy Iovine, cofounder of Interscope records, not only invested in FaZe Clan, but also helped lead a round of funding for it in 2020. Artists like Offset are putting skin in the game as well. The group’s new president and chief operating officer, Zach Katz, was poached from the music industry. Even Snoop Dogg got in on the action and transformed into FaZe Snoop.
The over 90 members of FaZe Clan are split into two primary categories: content creators and professional players. Many of the content creators, like FaZe Deestroying and FaZe Rug, have a cultural cache that their competitors lack. Even so, the group is no stranger to controversies. A former member sued FaZe Clan over contract disagreements and a current member repudiated the LGBTQ community in June over social media, but neither have deterred the company’s ability to turn charismatic gamers into influencers and attract lucrative brand deals as a result.
A few months after snagging the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2021, the group announced a planned SPAC merger with a valuation at $1 billion. The unicorn horn may disappear before the company goes public, though. Sports Business Journal reports that an amended SEC filing from FaZe Clan put it beneath the $1 billion mark.
Even a well-funded marketing machine doing everything possible to tap into youth culture (and parents’ pocketbooks) will have trouble maneuvering through the turbulent 2022 economy. The sheen has begun to fade from a once booming industry as creator-focused startups lay off employees and sponsorships feel tenuous to influencers.
As the threat of recession looms, entrepreneurs on LinkedIn gas each other up by spreading lists of companies formed during recessions. Microsoft, Venmo, and Airbnb did it—why can’t you? By going public during a potential downturn, FaZe Clan’s situation becomes even harder to navigate. The company could become an inspiring investment story or an overhyped cautionary tale.