Leading esports organization TSM has seen a sharp decline in its combined social media following in recent months, following the departure of prominent team members such as Ali “Myth” Kabbani — posing a potential challenge for the esports team that Forbes described as the world’s most valuable in December 2020.
TSM had nearly 80 million social media followers across platforms in August. According to GEEIQ, a gaming and esports consultancy and data platform, the company’s combined social following has dropped to 49 million in the months since, a drop of nearly 30 million followers.
These figures refer to TSM’s total social media following, which includes the company’s branded accounts as well as those of its team members and influencers on Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Most esports teams use this combined figure to pitch themselves to potential brand partners and sponsors.
According to GEEIQ, TSM’s official branded accounts have a total of 9.84 million followers across platforms. The number of followers on these official accounts has dropped by 1% since September 2021, though Boyd claims that TSM’s social media accounts grew by 4% during the calendar year 2021.
Some of the decreases could be attributed to social media platforms’ recent purges of bot accounts, which are especially prevalent in the esports scene.
TSM’s more prominent influencers’ departure in recent months, like Ali “Myth” Kabbani, who boasts 21 million followers across platforms and declined to re-sign with the team when his contract expired in December 2021, was almost certainly the primary reason for TSM’s follower decrease.
Kabbani’s fans dutifully became TSM fans during his time with the organization, but their loyalty ultimately belonged to the influencer, not the team. Both traditional and electronic sports are affected by this phenomenon.
Though Kabbani’s departure was the catalyst for the biggest drop, TSM’s social media following was already dwindling before he left. Former team member Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng shared vehement criticisms of the team and its CEO, Andy “Reginald” Dinh, in November, resulting in a public relations crisis for the organization. Riot Games was reportedly investigating Dinh for verbally abusing his coworkers and creating a toxic work environment at TSM in January.
Finally, the loss of influencers like Kabbani could simply be a side effect of TSM’s PR problems. Kabbani blamed his decision on the team’s lack of a “family feel” in a video about his decision to leave.
Regardless of the controversy, the timing of this drop in followers is not ideal for TSM, which in June 2021 signed a massive $210 million, 10-year partnership with cryptocurrency exchange FTX. TSM’s combined social media following — then approaching 80 million — is likely why FTX signed this deal.
TSM is still one of the most storied esports organizations in the business, and despite its decline in popularity, it is still one of the most popular teams in North American esports, trailing only FaZe Clan (which has 33 million followers across its branded accounts and 207 million in total). However, TSM’s competitors continue to grow their followings, while TSM’s has remained stagnant in recent months. If TSM continues on this path, its dwindling fan base could jeopardize the organization’s future brand partnerships.