Of confidentiality and its axioms
If your TV is broken and you’re missing out on your favorite soap operas, you’re in luck this weekend. Once again drama comes down hot and heavy on the StarCraft 2 scene as dirty laundry is aired publicly, following the debacle around Team Axiom and the Acer TeamStory Cup. But underneath all the dirt that is being tossed lies a lesson in Public Relations, professionalism and privacy that we can (and should) all take to heart.
Written by: hattfatt
On Wednesday it was announced via Axiom’s Twitter page that the team would not be able to attend the offline section of the Acer TeamStory Cup due to “unfortunate circumstances.” Soon thereafter Millenium, fifth in the group stages, were said to be the replacement and all was fine at that point. It wasn’t until a day later that Genna Bain took to TeamLiquid to give an in-depth statement as to why Team Axiom were not able to attend. In that post she provided chat and e-mail logs from the conversations between her and both parties’ affiliates, indicating that the travel costs of all teams would not be covered in full, an issue that was not discussed between the two previously.
TaKe didn’t take too kindly to the disclosure of what he perceived to be a private conversation, which in turn might put the main sponsor of the tournament, Acer, in a bad light. He went on to say that he hopes that she is legally liable for publishing that information, which, once again, she released publicly and word for word on the TeamLiquid forums in her farewell address. As John “TotalBiscuit” Bain, co-runner and sponsor of Team Axiom, as well as husband of Genna Bain, pointed out in a SoundCloud file uploaded today, the strenuous task of running a team on her own on another continent with little means of communication has put her in a position where handing over the team was the inevitable outcome, this ordeal being the final straw.
Where did it all go wrong? If you’ve followed Team Axiom from the very beginning you know that the team and its management’s commitment to transparency is unrivaled. The general financial status of the organization as well as the relationship between leadership and players has never been a secret. The team, which draws close to its first year anniversary, has always believed in connecting its players to their fans. While the general sense of openness towards Axiom’s followers is a perfectly viable form of branding, grey areas do exist and in this situation, the line was crossed.
The way the Bain family has treated their business has put them in a positive light, but so far it has been their own business they have been so transparent about. This time around, they released information that concerns other people outside their operation. By releasing the entire chain of communication between Axiom and the people representing TaKeTV, they have disclosed information about other teams’ financial capabilities, TaKe’s stance on support for the teams, and most importantly ties to his sponsors. Bear in mind that while Axiom’s budget is largely composed of self-funding and sponsorships of close friends (e.g. Husky), TaKe’s enterprise is the result of long-term relationship building with big companies.As far as they are concerned, the P in PR does not stand for philanthropy and unintended PR is often unwanted PR. Giant brands such as Acer sponsor tournaments and teams with distinct aims; having their lack of funding published certainly wasn’t one of them.
While it is reasonable to assume that the fortune of ones own company lies in ones hands, there are certain limits. One such limit is overstepped when the businesses of others are involved. In many aspects and for better or for worse, eSports still operates on a basis of good will, trust and lenience. One generally understood factor of that is that private conversations remain private. That is a basic rule that was broken; TaKe is right to be upset over the breach of confidentiality. Such an act can hurt his relations with sponsors and other teams, and even damage the reputation of the entire scene.
How could it all have been handled better? Given the circumstances, a public statement was in order. However poorly the situation was dealt with, Axiom fans have come to expect a certain level of interconnectivity between fans and the team. No statement at all would have raised more questions.
Lack of funding is something we have come to expect from the scene, so I doubt people would have reacted as harshly as they eventually did. Even moreso now that MVP has had to hold a fund raiser to attend the tournament. There was no mystery around the fact that teams have had trouble securing their participation. But from an outsider’s perspective and with the help of the logs provided by Genna Bain, TaKe and his team seemed more than happy to cooperate and help out as much as they could (as they have in the case of Team Liquid). Throwing TaKe under the bus like this because of one missed e-mail clarifying the situation, is a reaction unwarranted and perhaps rightfully drawing criticism from the community. And giving the original blog post an antagonizing title such as “AxiomHate 2013: The ATC Edition” certainly didn’t help.
As much as I’ve always appreciated the fresh take that Axiom had on the entire sphere of eSports as an organization as well as their interest in improving the status of players, I cannot help but feel slightly disappointed in the way they handled this. I understand how tumultous the last year must have felt in the Bain household, and based on the heart-felt SoundCloud TotalBiscuit put out, I do hope Genna finds a way to put this behind her in one way or another, recoup her strength and wits and one day return as the person that so many admired over the last year.
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