Gazing into a crystal ball to predict the future for the esports sector isn’t an easy task. After all, who would’ve predicted a year ago that every major broadcaster would be planning on giving this digitally-native phenomenon extensive – even primetime – coverage on their TV networks?
Or, for that matter, identified the prospect of sports teams such as German soccer’s Schalke 04 – best known for playing in the country’s top-tier Bundesliga – entering the elite esports space with a team in the League of Legends Championship Series, competing in a multiplayer online battle game more suited to the world of Super Mario than the world of Mario Götze.
To date, many of the activities and business strategies taken in the esports space – including the two mentioned – may be perplexing for those used to the tried and tested ways of commercialising sport. However, by understanding the rationale of these early-movers, the haze surrounding future direction of the rapidly-growing esports space suddenly starts to clear.
esports has developed its extensive fanbase through live and on-demand streaming on platforms such as Twitch, YouTube and Azubu – very different to how ‘traditional’ sports have grown – nevertheless, the accepted methods of commercialising sport all translate into the esports space, and all have huge potential for growth.
“TV rights, advertising, sponsorship, ticketing, hospitality, merchandise… they’re all there, and actually there are far fewer barriers to entry, as you could host a tournament tomorrow and almost guarantee global reach by broadcasting online,” says Malph Minns, Managing Director at Strive Sponsorship, an agency that has an increasing presence in the esports space. Minns is the former Head of Partnerships at cycling’s Team Sky, where he helped attract non-cycling brands to the sport by helping them understand the opportunity, something he is looking to replicate in esports.
To find out more about the birth of esports, its audience and what the future holds, download esports How we got to here, and what comes next (Leaders Special Report).