Esports is pushing the definition of traditional sports, as with, for instance, IeSF’s recent challenge to have esports included in the Olympics.
Furthermore, while esports are still striving to hang with the “big boys,” traditional sports organizations and professional players are having no problem identifying and capitalizing on the recent surge of competitive gaming and esports betting.
We’re here to take a look at some specific examples of traditional sports invading the esports industry.
Echo Fox will be returning to the NA LCS for their third straight split, and a lot of that has to do with the commitment of their owner. Rick Fox, former NBA player turned entrepreneur, is the owner and head of operations.
Fox entered the esports arena with a bang, purchasing the NA LCS spot from Gravity Gaming for a cool $1 million. He subsequently renamed them Echo Fox.
The organization wasn’t finished just there, though. Just a month later, Fox also bought Torqued, a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team and a member of the Turner ELEAGUE. He also ventured into unknown waters, partnering with Twin Galaxies, Daybreak and Twitch to form the first-ever H1Z1 esports team.
Just a few months ago, Echo Fox also signed top Street Fighter pro Julio Fuentes and formed a brand new Call of Duty team. Echo Fox is now entrenched in the esports scene and looks to be pursuing as many opportunities as possible.
While NRG eSports made just as big of a splash with its introduction into the industry (and with Shaquille O’Neal involved, it was certain to be a big splash), it hasn’t quite found the success of Echo Fox. NRG is really a collection of former and current professional players.
While Shaq gets most of the attention for being a co-owner, there is much more going on behind the scenes.
M7 Tech Partners, a venture capitalist company founded by NBA all-star and current New York Knicks player Carmelo Anthony, is one of the investors that laid down $5 million. MLB player Jimmy Rollins is also an investor. He is known to be an avid League of Legends player.
Alex Rodriguez, who recently retired from the New York Yankees, is right there with Rollins as an investor.
NRG has just recently picked up a professional Smite team and is looking at ways to get back into the NA LCS.[show-table name=cta-alphadraft region=US] [show-table name=cta-betway region=ROW]
As we reported last week, current Boston Celtics player, Jonas Jerebko, has purchased the rights to the Renegades eSports organization.
FC Schalke 04
FC Schalke went all in on esports this past year, jumping right in and grabbing spots in two popular esports. The second largest football club in Germany, behind only Bayern Munich, FC Schalke now has contract agreements with two FIFA players and also purchased an Elements spot in the EU LCS League of Legends bracket.
Moritz Beckers-Schwarz, the chairman of the board at FC Schalke 04 Arena Management, elaborated on his organization’s interest:
“We have noticed that the level of professionalism in eSports has continued to grow over the past years. Particular noteworthy is the development of structures within League of Legends and the flagship League of Legends Championship.”
Valencia went in a different direction than FC Schalke, preferring to make more subtle acquisitions in the esports industry instead of just boldly purchasing a professional team. One of the biggest Spanish soccer clubs, Valencia has started out by picking up a few successful Hearthstone players.
Valencia has also stated it will be aggressively seeking expansion into the esports industry, starting by sponsoring a Rocket League tournament in association with PlayStation.
Besiktas was one of the first true professional sports clubs to purchase the rights to a professional League of Legends team.
The Turkish club acquired the right to Aces High, then rebranded them as Beşiktaş OHM. The team now competes in the Turkish Champions League. And, yes, they still compete in the traditional white striped jerseys that the soccer club does.
Manchester City has just recently started to become active in the esports scene. That started with the recruitment of a young FIFA player who Manchester City then appointed to its lead role in its new esports division.
Recent rumors also swirled in the esports community of a potential bidding war between Manchester City and Fnatic over the rights to an Overwatch team. With Fnatic picking up the rights to the team, Manchester City has since stayed within the FIFA realm of esports.
Wolfsburg’s claim to fame is being the first sports organization to sponsor an esports player. The German soccer club picked up FIFA player David Bytheway from Wolverhampton. Wolfsburg has yet to expand beyond FIFA.
A popular Spanish basketball team, Baskonia has expanded on its esports operation quite significantly during the past year. While its roots can be traced back to a domestic League of Legends team, Baskonia now has venture obligations in FIFA, Hearthstone, NBA 2K, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Call of Duty.
As another Premier League Club diving head first into the esports waters, West Ham immediately signed Sean “Dragonn” Allen after his second place finish at the 2016 FIFA Interactive World Cup.
The London-based club has future aspirations of advancing into other markets.
Esports gambling companies
While this is more of a niche pick, considering Unikrn isn’t an esports organization, it does have some parallels. Unikrn is essentially an esports gambling site, but it uses a virtual currency instead of actual money and also offers Virtual Esports Betting.
It also has the backing of an NBA owner with deep pockets. Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban has heavily invested in the esports wagering service. Cuban has also invested in Sportradar, a company that compiles data for the sports betting and esports betting industries.