Play Hard, Make History.

If you're not Danish (it's a very tiny country, odds are heavily against you being Danish) here's some backstory as to why North is interesting;

North is an esports team that was formed in 2017 by the biggest Danish soccer club - F.C. Copenhagen (FCK), in close partnership and co-ownership with Nordisk Film, the biggest Nordic producer and distributor of movies. NF is the official distributor of PlayStation in the Nordics, where they also operate the bigger cinema chains in the country.

When North was founded in 2017, Allan Mathson Hansen CEO of Nordisk Film, stated:

The eSport business is characterized by high growth, digitization and a young audience. It is a natural extension of Nordisk Film’s existing business areas of film, cinemas, games and gift services. We want to create a strong fan based Nordic eSport organization.

The team play from private training facilities at F.C. Copenhagen’s home field, Telia Parken, in Copenhagen. As is obviously fitting, when you're a part of the FCK family.

FCK Logo - a blue lion's head on a silver pendant background with red streaks and the words "F.C. Kobenhaven".
FCK Logo

So, the biggest sports club with the most prestigious soccer-brand, in a (for it's size) relatively proud soccer-nation. In co-ownership and partnership with the entertainment and media giant of the Nordics.

For North the sky is the limit. Even among the elite, the best of the best, the tier1 organizations, very few teams in the world are backed by that kind of performance expertise, business mindset, and maybe most importantly - budget.

On paper North looks like such an amazing package, even Kjaerbye's (now) infamous roster change in 2018 kinda made sense then. Put yourself in his shoes: you're a top5 Danish player in late 2017. You have two options:

  1. Stay with Astralis, who many in the community had written off as "close, but no cigar" for their inability to finish and win at the time.
  2. Join the biggest Danish esports project ever announced, a new darling-project run by two of the most consistently successful companies in the country.

Everything would be absolutely fucking perfect except for one small problem, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

 

Size does matter and Denmark's population of 5ish million comes into play here.

A tribal sequence featuring the new North Lion's head logo and old nordic scroll wording coiling around the lion's head.
North 2.0 

The Danish player-base is disproportionately represented in esports, as Denmark has a popular and established PC/LAN-culture, dating back to The Party 1991 and 1980's c64 copy-parties before that. Denmark was a nation of social gamers before the Internet.

Denmark is the smallest successful esports nation in the world, with a total player-base dwarfed by many other countries. But Denmark is already at Peak Esports, there simply isn't enough talent left in the gene pool.

The 5 best players in Denmark are also the highest earning CSGO players in the world. And they're called Astralis.

If Astralis lost a player tomorrow because <reason>, what player on North wouldn't kill up to 5 completely random strangers (strangely specific but with no specific meaning) to become that new 5th Astralis player?

Magisk, formerly of North and the newcomer on the team, has cashed out $1,3 million since he joined the Danish Boyband. Meanwhile North has claimed $1,2 million in the lifetime of the team.

Even the newest player on Astralis has cashed out more than all of North. It's hard to imagine what kind of business strategy or performance coaching, even just trying to imagine the level of transformation, it would take for North to go that distance..

North is doomed to fail as a runner up.

 

It's mathematically implausible that North (let alone any organization with less resources) could field a lineup with 5 Danish players to rival that of Astralis.
And while any team can beat any team on the right day, it's telling that North have won just four big tournaments in the last two years. Astralis didn't participate in three of those four.

So why are North rebranding themselves now? Well, the cynic in me can see two obvious reasons;

  1. The new logo creates more distance between North and the FCK-brand, I'm guessing that some soccer executive realized that North needed at least 33% more win to be lion. While FCK may over time successfully convert the old soccer-culture to support esports, this is entirely hinging on North winning games, being successful and it being tantalizingly easy to support.
  2. If you're the marketing guy in North, what the fuck else would you do?

Yes, it's seems obviously silly and utterly pointless to rebrand a two/three year old esports brand, especially one that hasn't accomplished a lot to begin with. But if your team isn't creating fan engagement and attention currency by winning, what do you do to build your brand?

You rebrand. So you look 66% more Viking.

And a lot less lion.

   

There is no alternate universe or any infinite number of parallel dimensions where any version of management in FCK and Nordisk Film doesn't see North as a failure. The team has simply not won enough stuff to climb out of the fail-army category.

There's also recently been a change of leadership in North. While the former CEO came from the soccer-side of the industry, the new shot caller comes from the business side of Nordisk Film.

And as a former McKinsey disciple, he will dive head first into min/maxing as soon as he can. If North doesn't somehow magically start winning stuff...poof!

 

No one dreams of being second best.

Denmark is too small for anyone to even notice second best anyway, another oddity about the little country.

 

TL;DR

North's new logo seems designed to distance esports team from soccer team, maybe because leadership are beginning to realize how North is destined to fail as a runner-up? Forever? At least to infinity and beyond.