While there’s much debate about whether eSports is considered sports, its popularity and ability to generate millions of dollars is making many professional sports organizations take notice. Multiple National Basketball Association franchises and players are beginning to invest in eSports. We discuss three high-profile examples.
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Last year’s NBA final between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors was arguably the best the league has had in the past 20 years. In the last 10 minutes of game 7, 44.5 million people tuned in to see if LeBron James would bring the championship to Cleveland, the New York Times reported.
How can anything other than the Super Bowl or the World Series compete with that? According to Riot Games, the creators of the game League of Legends, the 2016 World Championship finals, held in October, drew 43 million views. Yes, a video game was able to compete with professional sports.
There’s much debate about whether eSports is considered sports, but its popularity and ability to generate millions of dollars is making many professional sports organizations take notice. Multiple National Basketball Association franchises and individual players are beginning to invest in eSports.
According to a July report from market research firm SuperData Research, 2016 was the biggest year for eSports. Its global market is currently valued at just under $900 million, and its worldwide viewership reached 214 million. What’s more surprising is those numbers are projected to skyrocket in 2017.
Another SuperData study says part of the excitement from traditional sports teams and venture capitalists could come from the eSports audience demographic, which is predominantly 18- to 35-year-olds, with 61 percent of the United States audience being under 25 and 85 percent male. That demographic that is notoriously difficult to reach because they would rather game or spend time online than watch the NBA.
Here are three high-profile examples of NBA teams and players investing in eSports:
1. The Miami Heat invested in the European League of Legends team Misfits.
With the Miami Heat’s investment in the League of Legends team Misfits, the Heat will assist in managerial duties around the brand, including a new rebrand to match the Heat colors, marketing, brand promotion and sponsorship, ESPN reported. This has allowed Misfits to expand into games such as Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone and Super Smash Bros.
2. The Philadelphia 76ers bought two eSports teams.
The Philadelphia 76ers has purchased two eSports teams, Team Dignitas and Team Apex. They will merge the two teams into Team Dignitas. The new Team Dignitas will compete in the five biggest eSports video games—League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm and Smite. The Sixers will manage the day-to-day operations and help with sponsorships, social media promotion and player wellness.
3. Magic Johnson and Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber invested in Team Liquid.
Team Liquid is one of the biggest names in eSports, and it just got bigger with an investment from NBA Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson, Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber, entrepreneur Ted Leonsis and others. Team Liquid has teams in League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, StarCraft II, Street Fighter, Hearthstone, Super Smash Bros., Heroes of the Strom and Halo.
The NBA’s investment in eSports will help it reach a demographic that they have struggled to reach with basketball alone. The investments will continue as eSports revenues and viewers continue to rise, and the NBA will get to soak in the profits.