It is one of the greatest misnomers in business; to strike when the iron is hot when, truthfully, you do not quite know what your target is.
To see an opportunity is one thing, but to make a major company decision based on the direction others are taking, could be considered reckless.
Within the world of esports, the traditionalist is still getting to grips with what it all means – including the alternative routes available to them – and requires a more tactful approach.
To evaluate its options, World Rugby recently tendered a feasibility study that will contemplate what an esports strategy encompasses, and will help form a strategic decision before running into one head first.
This does not necessarily mean the governing body is ready to launch its own gaming series. If it did, it would certainly stir sentiment among fans of the 1997 PlayStation hit which, as one of the sport’s greats, the late Jonah Lomu lent his name to more than 20 years ago.
On the contrary, a move into esports needs careful thought and consideration around the organisation’s wider digital strategy, and, more importantly, how gaming would support the growth of the sport, globally.
To assist, Malph Minns, managing director of the UK consultancy firm Strive Sponsorship – which is also helping England cricket (ECB) evaluate the potential esports presents – has been brought on board to guide the process.
There is a lot of pressure on people within sports organisations to find answers to difficult questions, Minns told SportsPro. I am hearing a lot of people ask themselves: ‘While esports is the answer, what is the question?’
I think that is a really dangerous approach for sports entities to take, which is why World Rugby, and also the ECB, have taken a much more considered approach to better understand what esports may or may not offer them, rather than diving into the gold rush.
There is also a real risk from an esports industry standpoint that, while it’s receiving a lot of attention and outside investment, if partners don’t see a return on investment, whether that is audience growth or commercial, they are going to quickly start retrenching.
That’s my worry because, when someone decides to go into esports and it doesn’t work out, it might actually be the case that they have gone into it for the wrong reasons. There are many opportunities to be had, but only in a measured and strategic way.
Minns says there is a misconception that esports means following in the footsteps of the National Basketball Association (NBA) or soccer’s world governing body Fifa, which have both created their own competitive esports series. In fact, Minns points to multiple avenues sports entities are taking as virtual and real-world entertainment continues to overlap; whether that is creating an esports team that represents a particular club in a non-sporting title such as League of Legends, or by entering into a strategic partnership that leverages expertise from a bona fide esports developer.
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This article was first published on SportsPro Media on 10th May 2019.
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