What: La Liga’s Real Betis club’s partnership with esports company Esportia is the latest example of a soccer organization delving into the gaming world.
Why it matters: Following the NBA model to a degree, these clubs can use esports as a low-entry barrier to gain new fans and marketing opportunities.
While in the States much is being made about professional teams investing in esports franchises, or the creative advances the NBA (@NBA) is making with the NBA 2K League (@NBA2K) which concludes this weekend, the work global soccer brands have made, and are still making in the space is still evolving and showing ROI.
This week some of those clubs and partners took another step forward, with La Liga’s Real Betis (@RealBetis_en) signing a partnership deal with esports company Esportia (@esportia) to expand the soccer club’s presence in the gaming industry. Real Betis join a number of top-flight Spanish clubs in signing recent partnerships with Esportia; both Getafe and Villarreal are among the company’s recently acquired other clients.
Then came the news of EA Sports’ (@EASPORTS) continued expansion with FIFA, bringing in the video game license for Serie A champions Juventus. The deal means that EA Sports not only holds the license for four out of the top five European leagues –Konami holds the license for France’s Ligue 1 – as well as the rights to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League in April.
“We are very happy to come back in a famous and popular game like FIFA 19,” Serie A’s Gaetano Micciche said in a statement. “The agreement signed with an internationally renowned partner such as EA Sports testifies to the worldwide recognition that our championship has.”
The growth of FIFA on a global scale, not just as a fan engagement tool but for some clubs as a training tool, is the model professional leagues can look to, and what the NBA is trying to do with NBA 2K as esports and gaming take more of a market in the coming years. While it is doubtful NBA teams will suddenly be using 2K in lieu of practice for their elite players, the strategy skills in advanced FIFA have come in very handy for clubs looking to better improve the thought process of their younger players who are used to being immersed in video games when they are away from the pitch.
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The barrier to entry for fans around the world to build their affiliation with a club through playing FIFA is also very low, giving global soccer clubs an interesting leg up in fan engagement strategy in emerging football markets like the US and even China. Cultivating those young fans in a manner they are accustomed to, on a small screen, can lead to longer-term engagement with brand partners, players and even with such things as purchasing kits and attending events down the line. It is that type of engagement that the NBA is seeking with NBA 2K, and that MLS and the NHL seek with their video game investments in the coming years. Not as much for enabling esports aficionados to make a cross to traditional sports, but to enhance those gamers who love traditional sports to enhance their engagement and then translate that engagement into a fan for life with the game, and the team, and the athletes themselves.
So while the buzz remains hot around traditional competitive esports like World of Warcraft, DITA, League of Legends and others, the real engagement window for traditional sports is through the enhanced games now being grown in partnerships with leagues. FIFA and EA have set the standard, and it continues to grow.
Cover Image: Esportia