Interview: Esports Circus, location-based esports events for colleges

In this interview, we talk with Jeff Stansfield of Esports Circus. This STEM certified company, as you’ll learn, is a location-based entertainment company specializing in esports and education. They offer live event production, a 10-step program to help your esports club out, and numerous fundraising opportunities for clubs.

They also offer internships that are both remote and on-site. You can check them out at www.esportscircus.com.

This interview has been edited for length.

First, can you give me a brief introduction of your own professional background?

I’ve been a broadcast engineer for over 30 years. I’ve built over 250 TV stations, production trucks, stadiums, and I actually helped build the Luxor HyperX Esports Arena.

My company, Advantage Video Systems, has been doing integration for the entertainment industry for over 20 years and I’ve been doing it longer than that. 

I also sit on a few boards like SMPTE and AI Ethics committee.

About a year ago, I was doing that some upgrades at Luxor, and I decided to get into the esports business more than I already was. I had set up some stuff for colleges and pro teams, but I decided to open up a new company to get into.

Great. Can you talk to me about why you started Esports Circus and what you do?

We looked into the education business and saw all the opportunities there. There are over 400 teams in the United States and over 7000 educational institutions that have opportunities for teams. A lot of our educational clients were already coming to us asking for help.

I looked at the biggest problems in the education esports industry and it’s that people aren’t playing on level playing fields. You look at University of California Irvine where they have high-end computers versus something like California State University Northridge where you may have needed to bring your own computer. 

Inclusionary things, some kids are playing with small groups, and some of their languages and mannerisms get a bit toxic at times. We saw that, and we also saw that kids aren’t being seen. If you’re in your dormitory or team room playing, you have seven people but no one is seeing you.

The only way to get seen is if you’re on Twitch and that’s not really a place show how you do esports. It’s a place to demo how you can play Fortnite and talk at the same time. Getting out there and playing is a totally different situation.

We had a World of Warcraft player and the first time he got on stage with 10,000 people watching him, he froze. They had to get him off the stage because he couldn’t move. He’s gotten over it, but a lot of these kids aren’t getting out in the field in front of people. Coaches aren’t able to see them, and they aren’t getting that atmosphere.

Kids also aren’t seeing all the career opportunities in esports. Some colleges like UCI are getting psychologists and nutritionists involved, but there are a lot of other opportunities: event production, social media managers, cinematographers, audio engineers, and more.

Finally, we saw a lot of these schools don’t know what to do in order to build a team. I put together a program that will help schools build the program, monetize the program, and helps them get profits. 

We’ll produce live events, which we aren’t doing right now due to the pandemic. This year we had planned events with Cal State Dominguez Hills, Fresno to help launch a few teams, and Full Sail University in Florida.

The way we produce them is this: the college can be a participating college where they play at our event. Or, you can be a hosting college and they give us five things: a place to play, internet, security, restrooms, and power. For that, they get 5% off the top of everything we make. 

Both participating and hosting schools can make extra money by bringing in sponsors. If a local company wants to put in a sponsorship for the event, we do a 50/50 revenue share with the school.

Then there are scholarships and product prizes that we get from some of our sponsors like HyperX.

It’s very similar to what DreamHack does, but we’re all collegiate.

So when you do these events with colleges, you’re bringing them possible fundraising opportunities, revenue, education, and showing students all the different avenues of esports? It sounds like an all-inclusive package that exposes them to the entire ecosystem.

Exactly. The other half of Esports Circus is team building. We help them build their team out and help them find new ways to build their gaming centers and arena. We helped Full Sail University build their arena.

And this is part of the 10-step system you have?

Yeah! We have everything from marketing to branding. We’re connected with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard esports teams. Because the GI bill pays for college, it’s a way to encourage students to come and play on your esports team and college.

 That 10-step system is the second part of what we do. Team building and an event-based company. Obviously, this year has been focused on team building.

One thing we focus on at NASEF is STEM and STEAM, which you also have a heavy focus on. How do all of the things you do connect with the goal of exposing high school and college students to STEM and STEAM using VR, Esports, and Battle Bots?

We are also STEM certified. I’m a big believer in Esports Circus not only being a business but also a business that helps build people and helps grow STEM.

I work in the movie industry where it’s all about creating visual graphics and creating visual art. I’m very big into helping promote and build those kinds of avenues of expression, whether it’s a beautiful math problem, building a skyscraper, or an art piece.

We’re very big into developing the arts and sciences and how they all collaborate with each other. Robotics is a big part of STEM in developing programs and stuff. We’re very big into helping our communities any way we can.

If people are interested in what you do and want to get involved or reach out for more information, where should they look?

You can always head to our website, www.esportscircus.com, and my contact information is there.

We have internship programs. Our internship programs are pretty aggressive. You come aboard, and if you’re with us for 60 days we start paying you. If you’re with us for 90 days, we pay you for the first 30 days. 

The reason we do that is that a lot of people come to our internship programs and cop-out after 30 days. So we want to invest in people and people to invest in us. If you can show you’re a contribution to us I have no problem paying you the very minute I can.

If you want to come in and work in a partnership program or social media—if I see you’re bringing things into my company and contributing to it, I’m going to want to pay you right away. I think we have a very aggressive program. We have a lot of perks that we give our support staff. A lot of people we have are professional industry engineers that we work alongside.

In addition to it being an internship, we have opportunities where you could learn how to be an audio engineer or how to run a lighting board. We’ll help you expand your knowledge and it will ultimately help you in the future, wherever you go. We brought a lot of interns with us to the conventions we went to last year, which represents a great networking opportunity.

And these are both remote and in-person internships?

Both! We’re going to be doing a couple of events, so those are going to be in-person, but I have a couple of people right now—a social media intern—who is working with my social media manager and is working remotely.

I also have someone doing video editing that is also working remotely. We have no problem with people working remotely, but if you want to be at an event, you have to be in-person. 

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us!

Photo Credit: Esports Circus