Herschel “Guy” Beahm, a boisterous video game streamer who portrays the wig-toting character Dr Disrespect, is as polarizing as his name suggests. His popularity is unquestionable. On Twitter he boasts 2 million followers, his YouTube channel has 3.1 million and his now-suspended Twitch channel also had about 3 million before it was taken offline.
And therein lies the polarization. Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming platform focused on gaming, has never provided a public reason for why Beahm’s account was suspended. Through months of radio silence, uncertainty and speculation, Beahm’s fans stayed as rabid as ever. His brand partners—like Rogue Company, a new video game from Hi-Rez Studios-had to make a tough call, even without knowing the full details of the situation.
“I probably want to avoid that question but, no, we have not received any reason [for the ban from Twitch],” Beahm told Adweek.
On Twitch’s side, the company provided the same statement that has been its public facing comment on the situation for months: “As is our process, we take appropriate action when we have evidence that a streamer has acted in violation of our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service. These apply to all streamers regardless of status or prominence in the community.”
While some influencers and celebrities fall out of public favor due to grave acts of unprofessionalism, Dr Disrespect—and the questions around whether brands would stick with him—represents a more subtle and complicated issue for the streaming and sponsorship worlds. When a personality is under a cloud of uncertainty—but not publicly “canceled”—will fans and sponsors stick around? And will it end up being beneficial for the brands that do?
Beahm is controversial primarily for bringing a live camera into a bathroom at E3, a mistake that saw him suspended temporarily from Twitch in June of 2019. But this March, Beahm signed a multi-year deal with Twitch for an amount of money he described as “life-changing.” A few months later he was banned from the platform.
After a brief hiatus, his return stream on YouTube Gaming reached a concurrent viewer count of over 500,000 people, rarified air for an individual streamer. During that stream, Beahm played Rogue Company, an exposure that a game still in beta would just about chop off an arm and a leg for.
For months, Beahm had a back-and-forth with Rogue Company’s official social channel challenging the studio to let him design a map in the game, a skill he honed in his career before reviving the Dr Disrespect character. Thanks to the added fervor due to the mystery, Beahm’s tweets about Rogue Company did massive numbers.
“The strategy has worked because it’s organic,” Beahm said. “It’s not like we had this crazy pipeline or a Microsoft Excel worksheet that laid out which days we were going to tweet.”
With that being said, organic content is rarely lucky.
“The organic feeling of our social media campaign was built to not be forced,” said Trevor Williams, vp at Hi-Rez Studios. “We built a social media program which didn’t push a particular brand message, but instead leaned into the character and world of Dr Disrespect. Every social media exchange was drafted and revised until we felt our campaign fit neatly into his world. This synergy created a dynamic on social media which elevated both brands without feeling out of place.”
On Oct. 14, the much-anticipated map finally entered the game. With it, Rogue Company also added a skin of Dr Disrespect. Hi-Rez Studios attached its brand to the streamer for months, a challenge that some brands have found difficult when working with the boisterous character.
The Fans. The Brands. Social Good. The Future of Sports. Don’t miss the upcoming Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience on Nov. 16-19. Early-bird passes available until Oct. 26. Register now.