Esports, as well as the culture surrounding it, have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. What is esports, you say? Well, the easiest way to describe the industry is competitive gaming and the employment of professional players or groups of players to form a team and compete at the highest level in tournaments and leagues ranging from national leagues within different countries to high production continent-spanning leagues. Esports is still a new concept for many people; however, there are traditional sports organisations worldwide looking into the industry and making headway investing resources. Some of these teams would be familiar to fans of traditional sports: Schalke 04, PSG, Golden State Warriors. These are just a few well-known names that have invested in the most popular esports title in recent years, being League of Legends.
An important question for many traditional teams would be, “How do we profit from this venture?”. One of the main benefits of running an esports team would be the reduced cost compared to a traditional sports team. Esports teams are much lower budget for a football or rugby team when compared to their primary sport. There are a lower number of players that will be representing the team in esports. Nevertheless, the contracts that esports players sign are not nearly as lucrative as traditional football or rugby player contracts. This is because the esports industry is far younger and less developed than most traditional sports. So, there is not the same level of investment and resources available to teams and players. While the industry is young and still not as developed as the major sports such as football and rugby, there is a massive backing by large investors and an increasing level of interest by big-name sponsors such as BMW, Intel, and Louis Vuitton.
However, for a smaller organisation, one of the major factors that would influence their participation in esports would be attracting a new set of fans to the club. For someone like myself, Munster Rugby has been around all my life, but I only ever had a passing interest in the team. However, I am far more invested in the Munster Rugby brand now that they have entered the esports scene through League of Legends. Munster Rugby has recently entered the UK’s League of Legends esports league. The NLC and has made me and several others tune into their games each week to cheer on the home team. Suppose teams at a national or regional level began to set foot into esports. In that case, they could grow their audience in a way that they previously could not have. Being able to attract the esports and gaming fans to their local club/team absolutely should be done, as it helps to build the club’s brand. Having an extra branch of sport that the club participates in will bring about more benefits than the club might expect. Having the extra audience is huge, but a regional club thrives off its fans. Bringing in a new wave of supporters should be a top priority for any club. Becoming a part of the esports scene could be incredibly valuable for a club’s future revenue. Doing so has a strong chance of attracting many new fans who will be loyal to the club. Seeing your regional football or rugby team engage in esports shows that they are forward-thinking and have a keen eye for what is popular in the modern era. It is clubs like that that will thrive as time goes on and as esports continues to grow.
Overall, the esports industry is proliferating year-on-year. With Irish clubs such as Munster Rugby entering into the scene, there is a high chance that more are soon to follow. With a growing awareness within businesses of brand extension and how vital it is for the continued success of the club’s name, esports provides the perfect avenue for clubs to expand and enter into a new and growing industry early.
Cian O Connor