“We are like McDonald’s for gaming companies looking for influencers.” An interview with Dima Okhrimchuk about the new Drope.me platform, esports, influencers, and Ukrainian streaming

The fast-paced development of streaming platforms over the past ten to fifteen years has had a significant impact on the influence marketing sector. Users got new tools for creating and promoting content. The entry barrier to becoming a creator has dropped significantly — all you need to start a Twitch stream and interact with your viewers is a webcam, a microphone, and a decent computer.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the number of “beginner” bloggers and streamers has grown manifold over the years. They follow the lead of experienced and successful creators with millions of followers earning a lot of money with their work. However, achieving even a fraction of their success is no mean feat, especially with so much competition in the market.

This doesn’t make life easier for brands either. Of course, they want to promote their products through the top bloggers and streamers, but smaller companies may simply be unable to afford their fees. Thus, they have to look for smaller creators, negotiate with them, and supervise task completion. This needs additional time and resources that these brands may not have. The new Drope.me platform aims to solve this problem by transforming the marketplace for matching brands with streamers.

We spoke with the CEO and founder of Drope.me, Dima Okhrimchuk, who told us in more detail about the features of the platform, the modern influencer marketing sector, esports, and the streaming industry in Ukraine.

Dima, before founding Drope.me, you worked in corporate finance. How did you decide to shake up your profile and switch to esports?

This transition did not happen overnight. I started playing video games 20–25 years ago — I was a Counter-Strike and Starcraft fan and was drawn to gaming even then. What I didn’t know at the time, of course, was that it could become a career that you could make money off and that I would create a company that has to do with gaming. But as life would have it, in 2018 I met Oleksandr Dovzhenko, who was already developing the Stone Gaming esports team at the time. He and I partnered and combined our skills — my background in business and finance and his vast esports background, as he used to be a professional esports player himself.

For about six months, we worked on our first joint project, but unfortunately, we could not find the funding for it, so we had to shut it down and let the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team go. It was tough to watch folks who were so fond of gaming being forced to find something else to do for a living. I started looking for technological solutions to help my former team and e-athletes earn money.

This is how our first platform, Organization.GG, came about: we made it possible for esports athletes and streamers to earn money by playing with their audience on Twitch lives. Subscribers would get a free ticket that might allow them to team up with the streamer, or they could purchase additional tickets for money to improve their chances of being randomly selected.

The more tickets you held, the more chances you had to play alongside the streamer and prove that your game was just as good as that of a popular esports pro. We had streams like that, and even WePlay Studios would broadcast them. For example, Oleksiy “yXo” Maletskyi would comment on some show matches and play with his followers himself. By the way, he was probably one of the strictest leaders with his randomly selected teams — discipline above all else!

How did the idea of ​​creating Drope.me come about?

About a year into Organization.GG’s work, we realized that this project was not quite scalable enough. First, pro gamers and streamers get very exhausted when playing with non-pro teammates. And secondly, they are uncomfortable taking money from their audience. On Twitch, monetization for streamers is structured in such a way that 90% of revenue comes from sponsorship contracts with brands. This also prompted us to change the development vector of our platform. About seven months ago, we changed our positioning, rebranded, and started developing the Drope.me product, whose official launch took place a few weeks ago.

It is now a platform that allows even novice streamers to earn money from interacting with brands and at the same time makes life easier for gaming companies in terms of their communication with influencers. But unlike many marketplaces on the market that allow companies to find influencers and individually negotiate terms of cooperation, Drope.me uses a radically different approach.

Drope.me platform
Video: Drope.me

Companies now tend to make integrations with popular streamers on a case-to-case basis — this way, they can cover a large audience in one shot. It is also easier to reach an agreement with one streamer, brief them, measure the result, and make a payment. But the problem is that there are not many such streamers on Twitch — about 0.5%.

The other streamers, who have a large audience between them, are out of reach for brands because they don’t have the resources to manage ad campaigns that will include hundreds of streamers. After all, someone has to monitor task completion by each of them, conclude agreements, and resolve issues whenever they arise. The Drope.me platform has a framework that allows you to automate all these tasks, and most importantly, companies only pay for the results, unlike traditional sponsorship contracts, where a brand can measure performance only after the campaign is completed.

What are the features of the modern gaming market? How important is influencer marketing in it? Why are brands interested in Twitch?

Overall, this is a story not only about Twitch but also about any social platform in general. They each have their own celebrities with an audience of millions, and most of the time, these services will do everything to make these celebrities comfortable on their platform, since they generate, say, 80% of the profit. This is how Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok work. Now the Kick platform has appeared — yet another Twitch competitor that’s actively growing. Brands are interested in these services because it is a unique opportunity to access the Gen Z audience.

If you take television, radio, or even banner ads on the web, they no longer work with this audience. Influence marketing has become the main channel for transmitting information that would encourage them to buy something. If a streamer you’ve been watching and trusted for a while says a product is cool, or a game is cool, you’ll at the very least consider trying it.

On Twitch, an influencer communicates with their audience in real time, so they can immediately answer users’ questions and talk more natively about the product they are promoting. But in order for a streamer to become interesting to brands, they have to grow to a certain level, and there are actually very few of those who did. Of the total number of streamers on Twitch — and they are approximately 10–11 million — only 0.5% have currently such a level of audience as to get sponsorship offers from brands.

All the other 99% are streamers with a small niche audience that get somewhere between 20 and 30 online viewers. They are still far too small for brands, but they already have a very loyal, cool audience. And this is where our Drope.me platform comes in. We specialize in empowering these micro streamers to engage with brands. This is one of the main differences between Drope.me and existing platforms.

What are the key features and what makes the Drope.me platform unique?

Drope.me is an influencer marketing platform that empowers gaming companies to engage micro streamers at scale to promote their products. Our service has two main features. The first one is that instead of traditional sponsorship contracts, where it’s not always possible to monitor whether the streamer completes their tasks, we use a performance marketing mechanism that offers specific metrics for monitoring ad campaigns.

For example, when a brand wants to get a certain number of installs of their game, it comes to our platform, sets a specific task (let’s say 10,000 installs), indicates the cost of one install (let’s say $4), and can distribute this $40,000 budget among a large number of micro streamers who will advertise the game.

Streamers, on their part, get paid $3.20 for each download of the game by their audience, and the subscribers get the remaining 80 cents in the form of special points that can be exchanged for gift cards and other rewards on the platform. If streamers do not complete the campaign in full, the remaining money is returned to the brand. That is, brands only pay for the result. Drope.me, in turn, charges the brand a commission for using the platform, but it’s calculated separately from the advertising campaign budget.

Price customization for each campaign action on Drope.me
Image: Drope.me

The second feature is that a framework is available on Drope.me, which allows you to involve hundreds or thousands of micro streamers in advertising campaigns. At the same time, brands do not waste time on finding these streamers, negotiating, concluding agreements, monitoring performance, making payments, and other nuances. All this is completely covered by our platform.

We have over 40 different actions, for example, integration with Steam, which allows you to see if the game has been added to wishlist, if someone has left a comment, what score they got, if they downloaded the demo version, or if they bought the game. It’s also all automated, brands don’t need to do anything extra.

Plus we have a fairly small check for brands. You can come with $200 and launch an advertising campaign all by yourself. By the way, not all platforms allow you to launch campaigns on your own. So even small indie game developers with a minimal budget can register on Drope.me and get some influencer marketing results. But, of course, if these are advertising campaigns with a budget of $10,000 or more, our account manager will fully support the client.

We’re kind of like McDonald’s for gaming companies looking for influencers — you come in, pay for a hamburger (micro streamer), and quickly get a tasty and predictable result for your marketing campaign. Meanwhile, big streamers are like haute cuisine in Michelin-starred restaurants — a higher price, an unpredictable result, and inevitably an individual approach.

What are the most common marketing campaigns using Drope.me? What tasks do streamers get?

We have two groups of actions. The first one is aimed at ensuring that brands get a variety of impressions. For example, these are brand mentions by a streamer during a broadcast, when they talk about how cool a new game is. The streamer gets paid for each such integration, but we cannot track the effect of such impressions.

Action groups on Drope.me
Image: Drope.me

The second group is conversion, when we can clearly track who in the streamer’s community has done what and in what amount. If it’s a Steam game, we’ll be able to tell how many downloads there were, and how many of the streamer’s followers got a certain achievement, left a review, got into Discord, liked a tweet, or watched a YouTube video.

We have an interesting case right now. Fortnite Creative has added the possibility of monetization for users who create and have a lot of activity on their own islands. Recently, a client came to us who creates these islands professionally and wants to promote them.

They tried to work individually with streamers: with some it went well, with others not so much, and they spent a lot of time on it overall. And then we launched an automated integration that lets us bring in the right streamers for the job [those who play Fortnite and stream in English]. They make an announcement and invite followers to visit our client’s islands. And within the island, promo codes are integrated, which can be entered on the Drope.me platform to receive bonuses.

How is cooperation with streamers organized? What are the requirements for streamers?

Our target audience is micro streamers. These are users who have been streaming for at least two or three months, have 250 or more followers and a CCV (Concurrent Viewership) of at least eight viewers over the past 30 days. But our main customers are streamers who have a CCV of 40–50. If you meet these requirements, you can register on Drope.me and join advertising campaigns from our partners. However, when creating their own campaigns, brands also specify requirements for streamers. Most often, it is the language and specific games that should match the genre of the game they are promoting.

What kind of brands are the most active users of Drope.me services?

If we take large consumer brands, they do not actively monitor performance indicators. It is better for them to go to a big streamer and sign a contract with them. It’s game development companies or publishers whose business is built on metrics and who are very dependent on them that come to us most often. And with us, they can track these metrics. It’s like in the example with the game installs: the client makes their offer — how much they are willing to pay — and spends this budget specifically on getting downloads for their product.

Mechanism for analyzing marketing campaigns on Drope.me
Image: Drope.me

Brands who need Gen Z audience and for whom the gaming community is relevant have also started to come to us. For example, we are currently talking to a brand that makes an oral spray. The spray contains caffeine, so you can get a quick boost of energy, which is great for gamers who spend many hours competing in tournaments or watching game streams.

The company is ready to pay for product integrations from streamers, and now it does not need to look for influencers on its own, negotiate with them, etc. All arrangements are handled by Drope.me. They like it, so this could be our first case with a non-gaming product of the sort.

What regions does the Drope.me platform target? Are there Ukrainian streamers among the clients?

The main region is the North American market, which is globally one of the largest. Plus, the English language — the most popular one on Twitch — allows us to cover the markets of not only North America, but also Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Therefore, we are focusing on the largest streamer segment and the language they use to communicate. And, of course, it’s no secret that North American gamers are prepared to spend more than those from many other countries. So, game devs also prioritize entering richer markets where users spend more.

As for Ukrainian streamers, there are no such clients on the platform as yet. Actually, Ukrainian streaming as a category did not even exist as little as two years ago. There were streamers from Ukraine, but they would mostly do their thing in Russian because the audience they could reach was bigger that way. But now, I am very glad that Ukrainian streamers have given up Russian, and a whole bunch of Ukrainian-speaking streamers with their own audience have already appeared.

And I want to note that this is amazing because a couple of years ago, brands would come asking to be advertised only to the Ukrainian audience, and there was nothing we could offer them. Now that situation has changed dramatically. I think it will also stimulate both companies to invest in influence marketing and streamers to make quality content because they will see that brands are looking at them.

An example of a Drope.me campaign
Image: Drope.me

What happens when a micro streamer’s audience gets a boost? Is Drope.me ready to go on cooperating with them?

We have no limits — you can come with 1000 CCV and still earn money, but I’m not sure that it will be commercially interesting for you at this level. In the future, we may add different streamer tiers to the platform, such as 80–150 CCV, 150–500 CCV, and 500–1000 CCV, and thus cover a larger audience.

Brands, in turn, will be able to run campaigns among a specific category of streamers. But now we are focused on working with micro streamers, who unfortunately happen to be not interesting enough to brands. And if you have 500 CCV, you are most likely already talking to an agency or brand that’s willing to sponsor you. We hope that these micro streamers will grow — through our platform among other things — and stay with Drope.me, and we’ll just add new tiers.

You had the experience of cooperation with Ukrainian esports team B8, which was founded by Danylo “Dendi” Ishutin. Could you tell me what kind of project was it?

We had a rather unconventional integration with them. We were raising funds for the United24 platform, and B8 hosted a broadcast where they invited big-name players from the U.S. On our platform, you could win prizes for donating to United24 — coaching from Dendi, the opportunity to play on his team, various game accessories, etc. We have done similar integrations several times and have raised about $35,000 in total.

Before that, we integrated with Organization.GG and raised $25,000, so in total, we donated somewhere around $65–70,000 to United24’s humanitarian initiatives. We hope that we can continue doing similar projects with B8 and other companies and streamers. Drope.me is a Ukrainian company with a Ukrainian team — everything that’s happening now because of the Russian invasion affects us. That’s why we are doing everything to speed up Ukraine’s victory in this war.

Більше коментарів!