Why Pro Teams Invest In eSports



The Miami Heat Invest In eSports Team Misfits (Photo: Ginx TV)

TNL Infographic 027: The NBA's eSports Investment (Source: The Next Level   Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

This week, John Gaudiosi wrote an article on alistdaily titled "Miami Heat And Misfits Find Synergy Between Basketball And eSports" - which sums up everything I've said for almost the past year. 

I'm going to quote directly from the article, Miami Heat executives and Misfits CEO Ben Spoont to look at exactly where the venn diagram of Pro Sports and eSports overlap.

Here's what Heat CEO Nick Arison had to say about the deal: "The Miami Heat pride ourselves on being innovative in all aspects of sports and business. For us, it made perfect sense to partner with Misfits, a young and ambitious franchise in a sport that is blazing a trail in terms of 21st century recreational competition amongst Millennials"

Quick story: When I was in college back in the Triassic period, I interned at the Miami Heat and Nick Arison was 14 years old then. This quote is from Bloomberg "Nick Arison, the Heat’s chief executive officer who declined to comment for this story, has spent most of his 32 years chasing basketball autographs -- first on posters and scraps of paper and now on hundred-million-dollar contracts". I got him Michael Jordan's autograph. I'll leave it at that.



The young eSports Audience (Photo: Riot Games)

While the average NBA viewer is not as geriatric as Major League Baseball, 37 is still older than than the "prime" advertiser demographic of 18-34. But eSports fit's squarely in that target market with the average viewer age around 25.

Michael McCullough, Miami Heat's EVP and CMO said “The opportunity was the fact that the eSports audience is, for the most part, younger and digital and social media savvy. We were interested in finding out if there was any crossover with their audience and ours, and how we could access that youthfulness for the benefit of the Miami Heat."

Schalke 04 was the 2nd team in Germany's Bundesliga to invest in eSports after Vfl Wolsfburg. What they recognized was the potential of eSports in attracting a younger audience.



The Miami Heat At Home (Photo: Sports Illustrated)

McCullough has seen Misfit fans who are Heat fans and are excited they have an NBA team they can root for and Heat fans who are eSports fans come to the forefront. 

Read that again. The marketing opportunity goes both ways.

Manchester City made moved into eSports in May 2016 by signing Kieran ‘Kez’ Brown.  Kez is a Twitch streamer, branded videos on YouTube as well as Facebook.

Since the start of the 2013/14 season, Man City’s Facebook page has grown 287 per cent.



ASUS ROG Sponsors French Team PSG eSports (Photo: PSG)

PSG FC (Paris Saint-Germain) has not only made the eSports move but heavily promote their team across social media.

It's not shocking that they've been one of the first Pro Sports associated eSports team to garner a sponsorship.

VfL Wolfsburg’s eSports team partnered with Turtle Beach and will use their gear and accessories during competitions.

The Miami Heat are handling the sponsorships, sales and activation and marketing for Misfits directly. Misfits CEO Ben Spoont said that one benefit of having the Heat handle that business is that brands that are non-endemics to eSports are endemic to basketball. The professional service an NBA team can provide is unparalleled.

“We’ve seen potential business partners who are either involved in the eSports world or want to be involved and are excited we partnered with Misfits and are looking to do things with both of us,” said McCullough. “That’s been the most eye-opening thing in this experience so far. We didn’t expect that.”

Read that again.



Germany Soccer Club Schalke 04's eSports Team (Photo: Schalke 04)

This is an absolute no-brainer - merchandise and jerseys make a lot of money for Pro Sports teams.  Now leverage this with eSports.

Pro Teams that have invested in the space - like PSG, Schalke 04, VFL Wolfsburg - all have their eSports athletes wear the traditional Sports team jerseys.

McCullough said the Heat are creating an entire line of Misfits clothing by its in-house creative team for the Heat-specific brand Court Culture.  

“It’s very localized and we can react to things quickly on the court with player-specific shirts that resonate with fans,” he said. We’re implementing the same process we use for Court Culture, where it’s all locally designed and created and we have local distribution through the Heat store channel." 


By investing in eSports, Pro teams get access to 1) a younger audience 2) a potential new International fanbase 3) Marketing opportunities for both the traditional team and the associated eSports team 4) Brand opportunities and 5) Sell more merchandise. 


Your move MLS and NFL.