eSports: Turning Pipe Dreams Into Reality

What does competitive sport, one of the largest youth demographics and an industry set to be worth $3 billion dollars have in common — eSports (1). An industry built on the dreams of children who aspired to be paid to play video games professionally. Whilst fifteen years ago many children’s aspirations would have simply been discounted as pipe dreams, in 2017 it is a real possibility; with pro-gaming teams such as Team World Elite going as far as to build purpose built elite eSports clinics, to train the next generation of e-athletes. When it comes to the live competitive tournaments, think of it as a cross between a Lady Gaga concert and The Super Bowl — elaborate lighting, giant LED screens and thousands of cheering fans. It’s hard to wrap your head around but it truly is a new era of live sport that’s introducing a new breed of athlete to millions of dollars in sponsorship, endorsements and prize money. Take a look at the video below, there is no time for the questioning of this sport, it’s serious business.

2015 World Championship: Moments and Memories

Here at the projects* we work alongside one of Australia’s most profitable football clubs, The West Coast Eagles, and have a deep understanding of Australia’s sponsorship and partnership landscape. We expect eSports to not just become mainstream, but also rapidly change the sporting realm globally. The growth of eSports in Australia has been exponential year on year, with official gaming leagues such as ESL now marking Australia as a legitimate participant, reflected in the 1st major tournament, the Intel Extreme Masters Series, hosted in May this year. Ten thousand fans packed the Qudos Bank Arena to watch both local and global teams compete in games such as Smite and League of Legends (2). However, the main eSports competition isn’t the only entertainment that lures the broad demographic of fans in. A multitude of technology businesses including JB Hi-Fi, Lenovo and HP also hosted interactive exhibition booths. This legitimising of eSports in Australia is not only fast occurring, but is also enabling the sport to become an object of desire for both broadcasters and sporting authorities alike. From AFL clubs looking to imprint on the thriving sector, to media companies such as Fetch TV and Seven creating dedicated eSports platforms. This once developing industry is now top of mind for many organisations.

“It’s huge — it’s just crazy big. And you just listen to the crowd, everyone loves it” — Tyler Reilly, Captain of Chiefs Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team

As attention on eSports increases, fans will be hoping that it delivers a similar impact to audiences, as experienced with NBA teams becoming involved in eSports in the US — the first of the four major professional sports leagues in the US to venture in the space directly (3). In May this year, the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software announced that seventeen NBA teams featuring the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks, will participate in the creation of an eSports league (4). With an increase in audiences and the involvement of reputable organisations in eSports club management, the attractiveness of eSports to sponsors in Australia will increase significantly.

“Our teams have expressed tremendous enthusiasm for eSports, and we are looking forward to forming something truly unique for basketball and gaming fans around the globe.” — Brendan Donohue, NBA 2K eSports league Managing Director

As of April, 2017 Australia’s eSports landscape still had few sponsors outside of those that were endemic to the category; with Peters Maxibon the real stand out after becoming the first FMCG brand to sponsor an Australian eSports team, Avant Garde (5). Fast-forward 60 days and the interest shown by sporting authorities such as the Adelaide Crows has been reinforced with global fast food giant and well known traditional sport sponsor, McDonald’s, signing a new eSports deal.

With an influx of prospective sponsors likely imminent for Australia’s eSports clubs and professionals, the ability to not be overwhelmed by lucrative deals and the glow of endorsements is integral. For those players looking to maintain their dream in an industry where the lifespan of a traditional player is fairly unpredictable, striking a balance between short-term reward and partnerships that enable extended industry involvement are those to work towards (6).

(Even) just when the players step on stage — it gives you something to strive for. Everyone wants to be on that stage. They want the cheers from the crowd, that’s what everyone is working towards.”— Tyler Reilly, Captain of Chiefs Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team

As an industry that is on the tip of everyone’s tongues, we too at the projects* will be keeping our an eye out for the latest developments in this increasingly exciting space. It’s all about where eSports will be going, and it’s clear that the only way is up. If you have insights to share or stories to tell, we’d love to chat.

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