Battle-Pitch: A New Way Of E-Sports Market Entry By Football Clubs


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There’s no ignoring E-sports anymore. This new market is catching the attention of all sorts of stakeholders: broadcasters, game publishers, sponsors (endemic and non-endemic) and sports franchises and clubs.

In this article, I will focus on the latter. We’ve recently seen an entry to the market by sports organisations from various sports: NBA, European football and lastly the NHL’s commissioner has stated during the Leaders summit that the league will be looking into E-Sports.

As with every new trend, E-Sports needs to be treated with caution and a defined entry strategy should be created. E-sports is a fragmented market. There is no official global governing body or global regulations which mean that the market is open to anyone in any way.

When looking at E-Sports from a football perspective, it is reasonable to assume that most football clubs will opt to be involved with EA Sports’ successful football simulation, the FIFA game title. However, clubs that are currently involved have proved us otherwise.

Before going deeper into the market, it is important to understand that the FIFA game is not yet established as other game titles.  The following infographic from the UKIE latest report explains the situation well.


It is evident that FIFA has space to grow into. That’s why football clubs took different approaches to enter E-Sports.

Schalke 04 market entry strategy was based on taking over an established League of Legends team, team Elements. That’s right, no connection to FIFA whatsoever. Instead, Schalke chose to represent itself in a game currently in the top tier of E-Sports.

Paris Saint-Germain’s approach was similar to Schalke’s but with an extension towards the FIFA game. PSG established a team from scratch and brought various players in, both for League of Legends and FIFA17.

AS Roma’s approach was also towards a team based E-Sports entry. The club partnered with the well-established E-Sports team FNATIC. The partnership will FNATIC was made in order to make sure that the club’s entry into E-Sports is smooth and calculated.

Another strategy is to sign a single player for FIFA purposes as Manchester City and West Ham United did.

Looking back at the tier segmentation from the graphic made me think. Let’s take for example a game as Counter Strike. The main stage inside the game are the different virtual battlefields which vary from a range of locations: a nuclear power plant, a train assembling factory, and several urban areas.

If clubs are not entirely convinced by FIFA’s position within E-Sports and its potential, they can use a tier 1 game such as Counter-Strike to introduce their stadiums as a combat arena. I mentioned the involvement of non-endemic brands earlier. Imagine a combat arena which is the Emirates Stadium, it is a 2 in 1, Arsenal tap into the market by introducing the stadium and Emirates airline receives exposure too.

Schalke’s involvement is in League of Legends, the club can potentially address the publisher to create a tailored gameplay environment which is the Veltins Arena.

Newzoo’s latest report reveals that sponsorship is the biggest stream of revenue, valued at 266.3M$ which accounts for 38% of the total market revenue in 2016. Major brands like Audi, Adidas and VISA signed sponsorship deals with E-Sports teams.

The inclusion of stadiums as combat arenas holds built in sponsorship places within them. Finally, the ethical aspect of associating football with a violent game title certainly presents a challenge, yet with football’s nature as an unpredictable game, we might as well be surprised in the future.

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