eSports might not be in the next Olympics… but does it need to be?
eSports was left off the list of nominated sports for Paris 2024, meaning it won’t get a chance to be part of the Olympics until at least 2028 in Las Vegas. But many spectators are asking whether the new form of competition even needs the publicity that would generate. As major global brands line up to pump more money into eSports sponsorship and viewing figures continue to increase, many people are beginning to wonder whether it might be the Olympics that needs eSports, rather than the other way around.
Take-Two Interactive’s share price has appreciated by 3% over the past five days
Source: Yahoo Finance
Last month, athleisure giant Nike announced it was sponsoring China’s Legends Pro League (an eSports franchise). Adidas, Mercedes and BMW are also in the process of announcing eSports sponsorship deals, and McDonald’s recently backed out of sponsoring Germany’s national football team so that it could focus its sponsorship efforts on eSports instead. That’s a lot of interest from some major players. The Olympics, meanwhile, is struggling to appeal to a younger crowd.
Phillip So, head of business development at Riot games (the developer behind League of Legends) said: “[eSports] already hit mainstream, a couple of years back. But the Nike sponsorship had a huge reaction from our fans when we announced it, even from the Nike side. I think it was surprising to everyone how much buzz it generated.”
While even industry insiders may find the “buzz” eSports generates surprising, they might have to get used to it. According to Goldman Sachs, eSports will reach nearly 300 million viewers by 2022 – that’s a similar sized audience to Amercian Football’s NFL.
Speaking at Sportel, the World Sports Media & Technology Convention in Monaco, Twitter’s Southeast Asian head of sports partnerships, Maurizio Barbieri, was candid about his view: "I think it would be great for the Olympic programme to have eSports because they are going to be able to capture the attention of a new audience that otherwise would disappear. But overall, (how would the Olympics help eSports) in general? I mean, the NBA didn't need the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to become the number one basketball league in the world."
At last year’s Asian Games, when eSports was on the card, its viewing figures outstripped those of traditional sports – even though the latter was televised and the former wasn’t. Phillip So thinks this is demonstrative of a new paradigm: “this is the time for gamers to come out. It’s revenge of the gamers.”
No one seems to have told the Olympic Committee… but, from eSports’ perspective, does that even matter?
Dominion holds Take-Two Interactive as well as number of other holdings involved in the eSports industry, in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.
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