Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of announcements regarding figures from different spheres of business, entertainment, and sports all investing in the esports industry.
Indeed, what was once a trickle of famous people backing esports franchises has now become something of a deluge. The industry continues to capture the imagination of players and fans alike and is more lucrative for investors than ever.
The announcements come fast and furious these days, so let’s take a moment to recap some of the famous names and faces involved.
A few heavy hitters
Famous as a DJ, but also as a gamer and Twitch streamer, Aoki is a majority shareholder in Rogue, a team that boasts CS:GO and Overwatch teams. Their Overwatch team has already landed some top prizes, including a $100,000 first prize in the Overwatch Atlantic tournament in 2016.
Tony Robbins and Magic Johnson
Famed for his effervescent motivational speeches and philanthropy, Tony Robbins and basketball legend Magic Johnson teamed up to start a company called aXiomatic. They’re now owners of the Team Liquid franchise.
Shaquille O’Neal, Jimmy Rollins, and Alex Rodriguez
This trio of sporting stars from the worlds of basketball and baseball are part of the team that owns the NRG eSports team. It boasts teams in CS:GO, Overwatch, and Smash.
The former Los Angeles Laker is the owner and founder of the Echo Fox team, for whom he successfully purchased a League of Legends LCS spot. The company now has teams across several different esports.
The famous owner of the Dallas Cowboys has purchased a majority shareholding in the esports company compLexity Gaming, which features teams competing in CS:GO, Dota 2, Hearthstone, and Heroes of Warcraft. As part of Jones’ investment, the new training facilities for compLexity Gaming will be in Frisco, Texas at the training facility of the Cowboys.
Another NFL owner moving into esports, Kraft is an Overwatch League owner. The Boston Uprising belong to him, not to mention the New England Patriots.
The owner of Arsenal football club and the Los Angeles Rams is also the owner of the Overwatch League Team the Los Angeles Gladiators.
Perhaps the most famous No. 23 in the history of sports, basketball legend Michael Jordan has decided to invest in esports by making a major investment in the aXiomatic company that owns Team Liquid. He joins Magic Johnson and Tony Robbins in doing so.
Through his company, USM Holdings, Alisher Usmanov, the Russian/Uzbekistan billionaire is most famous as a shareholder at Arsenal Football Club. He became the chief benefactor for the Russian esports team Virtus.pro after he made a $100 million investment back in November 2015.
The sitcom star is a major figure in backing the esports betting service Unikrn.
Other big names who have invested in esports include the following:
- Jennifer Lopez (actress)
- Marshawn Lynch (NFL)
- Michael Strahan (ex-NFL, now TV presenter)
- Kevin Nagle (Sports mogul)
- Pete Briger (Fortress Investment Group Chairman)
- Anthony Noto (former NFL Chief Financial Officer)
- Kevin Durant (NBA)
- Steph Curry (NBA)
- Odell Beckham Jr. (NFL)
- Anthony Noto (Twitter CTO)
- Fernando Alonso (F1)
Investing on the organizational level
However, it has not been solely individuals investing in esports. A growing number of sports teams and businesses are also looking to back esports. Let’s explore.
The 76ers were one of the first sports teams to make a serious commitment to esports when they bought the rights to Team Dignitas and Apex in 2016. The team is also one of the 17 NBA teams participating in the NBA 2K League. The Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, and Cleveland Cavaliers have followed suit with their own League of Legends teams.
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The Sun newspaper
Just a few days ago, The Sun, a tabloid newspaper in the UK, revealed it has now developed its own FIFA esports team. Dream Team Gaming, based on the Dream Team fantasy football game the newspaper runs, made their debut in the Gfinity Elite Series in Fulham last weekend.
Nine Formula 1 teams (all competing this season in the real F1 Championship, except for Ferrari) have representatives competing in the F1 Esports Series 2018, which has taken place throughout October.
The number of professional football teams that have at least some interest or investment in esports is increasing all the time. Some teams have elected to have players representing them solely in FIFA games, whereas others have invested in teams to play more popular esports games, such as CS:GO, Dota 2, and League of Legends.
Teams with at least some involvement in esports from around the world include:
- Schalke 04
- Ajax Amsterdam
- Bayern Munich
- Manchester City
- West Ham United
- Vfl Wolfsburg
- FC Copenhagen
- Paris St Germain
- Dynamo Kyiv
- Glasgow Celtic
- AS Monaco
- Sporting Lisbon
- Legia Warsaw
Furthermore, the Premier League in England announced last month that it will be running its own FIFA 19 eSports League, featuring representatives for all 20 of the Premier League’s teams. It’s set to launch in January on both the PS4 and Xbox One consoles.
As esports continues to grow, it is likely an ever-increasing number of famous names and teams will invest. What will be interesting is how these teams and individuals choose to invest and how this shapes the world of esports gaming at the highest levels for years to come.
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