Game On – NBA Gets a Stake in Growing eSports Market

esports marketing sponsorship

Being an effective marketer doesn’t just entail mastery of the current standards, it also requires staying ahead of the curve and being aware of the latest trends and innovations new to the advertising industry. Advertising is a game of numbers, and the earlier you are to a new medium of exposure the fewer rivals you’ll have to compete with.

Many global brands have recognized the potential of a new industry, eSports, and are buying in with enthusiasm. eSports are competitive video games, and the industry is already thriving well enough to sustain professional scenes across more than a dozen major video game titles. Recently major NBA franchises have joined the movement started by other premier international brands. From a marketing perspective, eSports offer all of the strengths of a traditional sports sponsorship like intense customer passion, loyalty and enthusiasm, and combines it with the data-driven immediacy of digital marketing. It’s no surprise that companies are foreseeing major growth potential.

eSports Explodes onto the Market

There have been recent major developments in the world of eSports with the Philadelphia 76ers purchasing two eSports teams and aXiomatic, a new eSports ownership group headed by Peter Guber and Ted Leonsis, acquiring a controlling stake in Team Liquid, another major Professional eSports franchise. Co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, Stephen Kaplan, also increased his stake in the eSports organization Immortals. These moves mark the next step in the rapidly growing eSports industry as North American sports giants publicly recognize the market potential of eSports games and players.

The heads of aXiomatic are already major players in the sports industry. Guber currently co-owns the Golden State Warriors (NBA), the brand-new LA Football Club (MLS) and the LA Dodgers (MLB). Leonsis’ foundation, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, owns the Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA) and Washington Mystics (WNBA).

European football clubs like Manchester City (England), FC Schalke 04 (Germany), VFL Wolfsburg (Germany) and Valencia CF (Spain) have all sponsored teams or individual eSports players already, and French super club Paris Saint-Germain made their first foray into the industry recently as well, but the 76ers were the first major North American organization to enter the industry.

The Appeal of eSports

eSports have become more popular over the last decade, but there has been a recent surge in the professionalism, production value and marketing capability of these events. Riot Games Inc., developer of the game League of Legends, hosted its 2013 World Championship Finals in the Staples Center of downtown Los Angeles. The event sold out and boasted 32 million unique viewers over the course of the competition, with 8.5 million tuning in at once during the peak. The event and others of its kind have only grown in scope since.

The popularity of video gaming at large has risen over the past two decades, and an increase in spectatorship of eSports gaming events are a natural consequence. New delivery mediums allow video game spectatorship to thrive, with services like Youtube Gaming and seeing tens of thousands of daily users watching others play video games, and millions tuning in to major competitions.

Companies have been taking advantage of marketing opportunities present for years now, beginning with electronics manufacturers doing direct sponsorships to promote their gaming gear, but the recent growth attracted sponsors from nearly every industry looking to use eSports as a vehicle to promote its brand. Companies like Razer, Turtle Beach, iBuyPower and BenQ were early adopters, and now almost every electronics company features ads near the games and services its customers use.

Sports organizations have always maintained diverse holdings; New York born Malcolm Glazer is the owner of both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) and Manchester United (EPL). Another example is FC Barcelona sports club in Spain, which operates two internationally-competitive teams in football and basketball. This year, however, we see these types of organizations who have previously only been involved with more traditional sports venturing into the eSports market.

What This Means for You

The eSports fan base is an untapped demographic in sports marketing — the most enthusiastic eSports supporters often hold no interest in traditional sports. The immediate and interactive nature of digital industries also present unique opportunities for brand leveraging and exposure. As the market continues to grow in North America expect to see more purchases of teams and sponsorship deals. Europe is witnessing a land grab as franchises across the continent attempt to get in on the ground floor, and the whirlwind of investments in North America suggests our market is trending in the same direction.

We stay on the cutting-edge of developments in marketing and sports, no matter what type. Appleton Creative is an award-winning, full-service Orlando marketing agency that specializes in sports marketing. Appleton works with local, national and international clients to develop prosperous and long-lasting partnerships that allow clients to maximize the capabilities of their organizations. Leverage the dedication and loyalty of sports markets with connections and strategies that benefit your business. Your sports marketing goals are worth a conversation: contact us at 407-246-0092 or

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