After long and serious consideration and exploration of all the data and options we have, we finally made our decision to go ahead with MC3 today. It will be held at Harrah’s in Atlantic City between Oct. 6-10, 2016. The format and structure will not be the same as the first two, and the details will be worked out before February is up.
When we decided to do MC back in summer of 2013, we wanted to take chess mainstream. Our long-term vision of potential income is from sponsorship, Media (TV) rights and merchandising once we grew big enough. While chess fans dearly wish to see chess get sponsors and be broadcast on TV, making it happen is a bit of a chicken and egg question. By making a bold choice to do a millionaire dollar tournament, we hoped to get some attention, and we did. After The New York Times reported on us on Sept. 1/14, we had interview request for 23 days in a row from all over the world! During MC1, our sponsor broker had a few potential sponsors such as Visa, American Express, Bulgari and Tesla showing interest, but they all declined in the end because they wanted to see proof of concept first. Documentarians came in for free to cover our first event. MC2 attracted a Emmy award winning production company, Sunset Lane Entertainment, that got both ESPN and NBC Sports interested in our tournament. Unfortunately, the price was too high for us to put on a network show (1.5 million dollars), so nothing came of the possible TV ideas. Nevertheless, as everyone chess player knows, we have established ourselves as one of the biggest events on the chess calendar, both in the US and worldwide.
Between Oct 2015 to now, we brought on a marketing and PR person who reached out to over 150 companies in an attempt to secure major sponsors. So far she has had no luck. Because nothing seemed to be sticking, we then looked into the option of canceling the 2016 contract so we can focus on widening the Dream Maker Satellite program for 2017. We had our lawyer reach out to the hotel, but they were not willing to reduce the cancellation fee. Our final decision now is to do half the price for half the prize 500K (300K guaranteed) tournament instead (as per the wishes of many players who can’t afford $1K and do want to play and support the event). This decision also has a lot to do with a comprehensive data analysis done by a data analyst we hired which suggests that playing on the East Coast with an attractive prize fund and reasonable entry fee is a great formula for success.
Our original goal was to have 4 tournaments a year, 2 in the States and 2 overseas. As long as we can figure out a way new to for each tournament to be self-sustaining, we still want to continue with this plan. With such a growing brand, our expectation is to be more attractive to sponsors who are looking for more year-long presence instead of a one and done tournament. Naturally, once we have the resources, we will bring commentary and broadcasting back and really show off chess in a big way.
We think the new satellite program is very important improvement for marketing the future of MC due to its global reach, it could be the one thing that attracts sponsors who are interested in having their name showcased internationally. We have a dual strategy of paying for the event by player registrations and turning a profit through acquiring sponsors, selling broadcasting rights, and selling merchandise. For now, we are far from that, but as long as the event can support itself, then it will be a matter of time.
Maurice and I have put in our heart and soul into the events with no personal benefit to this point. We have been deeply appreciative of all the volunteers who have put in lots of hours as well. We think we can make a difference to chess as well as grow our business.
The adventure continues!