Investing in eSports: How to get involved in the pro-gaming sector

Many firms want to dive into the eSports sector – but very few know where to start. MCV talks to Nathan Lindberg, vice president of global sales at Curse, about the company’s experience

“You should invest in the lucrative eSports sector.”

It’s a sentiment those working in games are likely to have heard countless times – whether in a boardroom meeting, a casual discussion between colleagues or via the pages of MCV.

But it’s easier said than done. eSports is still a nascent market and an unusual one. Few know what to really expect when they take the plunge.

One company that did decide to turn its attention to the sector is games media outlet Curse. The firm sponsored its own pro-gaming side, Team Curse, from 2011 until its merger with Team Liquid last month.

“We’re a company of passionate gamers and it seemed very natural for us to get involved,” recounts Nathan Lindberg, vice president for global sales. “Some of our executives are former World Cyber Games competitors, so our desire to support the industry has a personal feel.

“Our efforts have changed drastically over the last three to four years. We started out by buying teams and supporting them directly. Trying to sell sponsorships and custom content around the teams was a difficult proposition for us and the liability was too great. Because of that we transitioned from team ownership to team and event sponsorship. This transition has expanded and diversified our interactions with the eSports industry and allowed us to drastically impact more of the industry than before.”

“Gaming can become like the Premier League or NFL – it just needs to adapt some of that same mentality.”

Nathan Lindberg, Curse

Curse’s approach is somewhat unique – not every company will jump straight into sponsoring a team. But every games outlet in the UK has the ability to dip their toes in the eSports ocean, and even the smallest effort has the potential for considerable benefits.

“Retailers especially need to look towards experiential as a viable option for them,” Lindberg advises.

“Hosting regional qualifiers for major tournaments would not only increase foot traffic to their stores, but would also create a very aspirational association with their stores and a life in eSports. It would be a similar equation to a sports training complex to a professional athlete.”

He adds that outlets can utilise their physical presence to maximise engagement with eSports fans.

“Look to partner with leagues on promotional events,” he adds. “Consider in-store autograph sessions with professional gamers around product launches, or exclusive sessions for members of their rewards program.

“Leveraging experiential opportunities will give brick and mortar stores the edge they need to take back market share from digital retailers.”

The more firms – big or small – that invest in eSports, the faster the sector’s momentum will build.

But, like many championing the pro-gaming market, Lindberg states that investment isn’t needed just for the growth of eSports – it could ultimately decide whether competitive gaming is here to stay.

“The sector needs to figure out how to create the value proposition needed for more mainstream brands to invest,” he argues. “Major events like the CoD World Championships and The International can demand major marketing dollars but, outside of that, the size, scale and production value just isn’t there. Major blue-chip brands will be the lifeline with which eSports thrives or just merely survives.

“There’s a great audience to market to: emphatic, educated, affluent. It’s just about publishers learning to create the package pitch that strikes the right cord with these marketers.

“If you look at the Premier League, NFL or NBA, they’ve figured out how to make clients happy – and that’s why they’re billion dollar industries. Gaming can get there, it just needs to adapt some of that same mentality.”

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