Historically, sports fans and esports fans haven’t had a whole lot in common. The very same could be said about the players, with popular conception viewing sports as purely physical while esports are purely mental, like chess.
In truth, there is a huge amount of strategy and playfield judgment present in traditional sports and an incredible amount of physical skill required for esports. As teams realize that their players – and fans – have more in common than not, some entrepreneurial sports teams are taking esports teams under their wing and sponsoring their play.
An alliance between major sports teams, who are undeniably some of the most financially powerful entities in any entertainment business, and esports teams could prove to grow an esports team exponentially over the course of a few months. Multiple such alliances could grow the esports industry in ways the world has never before seen.
While there is a lot of money in the video game industry as a whole, esports has, until very recently, only been a small slice of that lucrative pie. In recent years, a few major players have made moves to change that fact, operating under the idea that a boost in esports could prove to be one of the most financially successful steps the video game industry has ever seen.
Companies like Activision-Blizzard and Valve have aimed to formalize their esports scenes, creating sturdy leagues and major tournaments. The OWL (Overwatch League) went a step further than any other group had ever done, creating geographically-based teams just like professional sports leagues do. This move led to a surge in local fanbases as well as local sponsorships.
One of the best examples of traditional sports learning to synergize financially and culturally with esports teams can be found in the fantastic Boston Uprising Overwatch team. They made major news after announcing their purchase by the Kraft Group of Massachusetts, the very same group that owns the Superbowl-dominating New England Patriots. This level of sponsorship in esports is unprecedented, and it has opened the door for even more similar sponsorships.
Breaking down the walls between traditional sports and esports not only allows for fans of both to enjoy more of what they love, but it also can introduce esports fans to enjoying traditional sports (and vice versa.) Already, the buzz around the OWL has led traditional sports channels like ESPN to pick up major competitive broadcasts (on their primary channels no less,) which couldn’t be more exciting for fans of esports.
In the end, cooperation between traditional sports teams and esports teams brings nothing but benefit to both industries. Not only will organizations all across both industries grow, but players, coaches, and managers may end up learning time-tested skills from their counterparts in each industry. The future of esports is looking brighter than ever.