For years, Esports players and traditional athletes have been diametrically opposed in several ways. Traditional athletes have always been perceived as role models and idols: the epitome of discipline, commitment and talent.
By contrast, Esports athletes have always suffered from the stereotypes that generally surround the gaming hobby. It makes sense: if casual gamers are often viewed as reclusive, lazy and unproductive, then professional gamers will be considered to embody those characteristics to an extreme extent.
However, the reality could not be more different. Esports professionals demonstrate all of the dedication and effort of traditional athletes and then some – according to Business Insider, League of Legends pros from Team Liquid practice for a minimum of 50 hours a week against the toughest competition possible.
When all this work and talent is unleashed on a tournament stage, the spectacle reflects the hard work – and so do the numbers. In May, the Free Fire World Series held in Singapore peaked at a record-breaking 5.4m concurrent viewers. For reference, the highly anticipated Premier League restart after lockdown last year peaked at 3.4 million viewers.
This kind of opportunity is not being ignored by traditional sporting organizations. In July, Wolverhampton Wanderers announced their partnership with North American Esports giants: Evil Geniuses, whose content reportedly reached 41 million people last year. With Wolves providing funding for training facilities, as well as aiding in English and Mandarin content creation, Evil Geniuses now boast the Wolves badge alongside their own logo on the uniforms that they wear to competitive events.
In doing so, Evil Geniuses will promote the Wolves brand to enormous new audiences in brand new geographical locations, and vice-versa. Wolves have a large audience in Europe, as well as a significant Asian market due to their Chinese owners, whereas Evil Geniuses primarily command a North American audience – meaning that both brands tap into an entirely new market as a result of the deal.
While partnering with Esports organizations provides lucrative opportunities for traditional sporting brands, several clubs (including Wolves) have taken the plunge to set up their own Esports teams. Among the most successful is PSG Esports, who have won major titles in FIFA, Dota 2 and Brawl Stars since their inception in 2016.
PSG’s Esports venture has seen them achieve financial success in several different ways. For one, their Dota 2, League of Legends and Brawl Stars rosters are comprised entirely of well-known professionals hailing from Asia – thus expanding their market reach in that region. Aside from this, PSG were able to secure a six-figure shirt sponsorship with Betway, whose branding will appear on PSG Esports’ jerseys: thus increasing Betway’s reach in a new market as well.
In short, traditional sporting organizations across the globe are seeing the potential of Esports, and using it to open up brand new audiences and markets to immense effect – and brands and sponsors such as Betway are able to reap the rewards from these expansions as well.