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 (@NBAis making with the NBA 2K League (@NBA2Kwhich 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_ensigning a partnership deal with esports company Esportia (@esportiato 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’ (@EASPORTScontinued 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.

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 fans]…

“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

A summary of the most exciting news in multicultural sports marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • ValvolineValvoline extended its partnership with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022. The instant oil change company became a primary sponsor of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of 24-year-old driver Alex Bowman for two annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races over the next five seasons. According to 2011 data, 20% of NASCAR’s followers are multicultural fans; 9% were Hispanic and 8% African-American.
  • Claro Sports and MARCA Claro are ready for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics 2018. The broadcasters will bring the sports event to 17 countries in Latin America through a multiplatform approach: TV channels, their website and mobile app, and the Claro Video streaming channel.
  • OpTic Gaming announced a new event with NGAGE Esports, in Texas, called OpTic Arena. The event will run from June 8-10 and feature a series of public esports activities taking place at A-Kon convention. OpTic Arena will feature a series of gaming events including Call of Duty, Super Smash Bros Melee, Dragon Ball FighterZ and Street Fighter V. In 2015, 12% of US esports fans were Hispanics, according to Statista.

  • EA and the NFL announced on Friday a partnership with ESPN and Disney XD to broadcast the two-part EA Sports Madden NFL 18 Championship Series. This is ESPN’s first long-term, multi-event competitive gaming agreement. With 30 hours of scheduled programming across ESPN2, ESPNEWS and ESPN Deportes, the partnership with Madden will be ESPN’s largest undertaking in the esports world to date.

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  • The Professional Fighters League (PFL) agreed with NBC Sports Group and Facebook on an exclusive multi-platform distribution deal for 2018. NBC Sports Group will establish an exclusive live Thursday night PFL fight franchise, presenting seven regular-season live events exclusively on NBCSN, beginning June 7. According to a Washington Post poll, 38% of mixed martial arts fans are African-American, and 31% are Hispanics.

  • beIN SPORTSTelemundo Deportes broadcast the exclusive Spanish-language telecast of Super Bowl LII on Universo on Sunday, February 4.
  • Italian soccer star Christian Vieri joined the crew, where he’ll contribute to both the Spanish and English broadcasts of beIN SPORTS’ weekly studio show, The Locker Room.
  • MLB and the Cleveland Indians are retiring the use of the Chief Wahoo logo on game jerseys and caps starting in 2019. ”I applaud the team’s decision to show the city, nation, and world that Cleveland is an inclusive place that values all diversity – in this case showing greater honor to our nation’s first people by retiring the Wahoo mascot from uniforms,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

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