Why football clubs are investing in eSports

Over the past weeks and months eSports seems to be attracting attention in terms of sponsorship from football club’s, with West Ham getting the ball rolling earlier on in the year.

Ajax, Wolfsburg, Manchester City and more have already signed up their own eSports FIFA player who will represent them at tournaments, while the Bundesliga has filed for eSports related trademarks including the ‘eBundesliga’. There are currently 13 sports club’s involved in eSports, with that list expected to grow in the near future.

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First of all, it makes sense to explain exactly what eSports is. Electronic sports generally consist of several video games such as football simulation game FIFA, strategy game Dota 2, virtual card game Hearthstone and many more. The premise of the industry is that ‘athletes’ (often aged between 16 and 25) compete in video game tournaments for large sums of money, and with the industry growing at an alarming rate the prize’s will only continue to rise as the world opens it’s eyes to what is on it’s doorstep.

These gamers often make the industry their lives, with training occurring every day and for long periods of time and with the industry’s financial power, they are able to make enough money to set them up for years to come. Much like any other sport, practice makes perfect.

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So why FIFA? Why are football club’s beginning to get involved? It is simply a natural evolution in terms of sports media.

Similarly to that of having a club branded basketball team or even having a women’s football team, it gives clubs the chance to expand their brand into other sectors of sports. With eSports broadcasts commanding more than what you could fit into Wembley on an FA Cup final day, why would they choose not to dip their toes in the water!

Not only does it increase brand exposure into other sectors, eSports allows for football club’s to create even more unique media oppurtunities through their in-house channels than ever before. Manchester City’s eSports FIFA player Kieran ‘Kez’ Brown hosts his own YouTube channel and streaming channel on Twitch.tv, fully branded in the Manchester City colours and badges to allow for unique content that club will likely share through their website and social media channels.

As well as this, Kieran will represent Manchester City at every professional tournament he plays at.

This is not the only video game that club’s have explored either. European teams such as Beşiktaş and Schalke have invested in teams who play a popular eSports title League of Legends.

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According to researchers, eSports will reach a viewership of 335 million (NewZoo) in 2017 which shows the sheer scale of an industry you probably didn’t know existed! With stats like that, it is likely to compete with sports such as NFL and the like before even conquering the mainstream.

With more and more sponsorship deals and investment being pumped into eSports, it can only be a matter of time before it outgrows some sports that consumers have been watching all of their lives. ESPN already cover and broadcast professional gaming, while the BBC have explored broadcasting popular gaming tournaments and Sky Sports have begun briefly reporting on major events from time to time.

Based on the abundance of information out there on eSports and it’s growth, the real question should be why aren’t more club’s getting involved with eSports? With a growing industry that has yet to even come close to it’s peak, there is plenty of potential for businesses and sports teams alike to promote their brand and reach audiences who are simply not interested in mainstream sports.

It certainly won’t be long before eSports takes the sports broadcasting world by storm.