Sports Direct and GAME have announced a collaboration deal that will see BELONG arenas and GAME retail concessions sited within Sports Direct stores. So consumers will be able to pick up a football shirt, a copy of FIFA 18 and hang out to play others at the game, all in one visit.
As we argued last summer, when Sports Direct acquired 25 per cent of GAME, it was likely to be BELONG that really interested owner Mike Ashley, also owner of Newcastle United of course. And the new deal makes that clear, with Sports Direct purchasing a 50 per cent interest in BELONG for £3.2m.
Beyond the obvious ties between sports and esports and the crossover of leisurewear and the traditional core market for console games, young and male, the deal makes sense from a property perspective too.
Sports Direct has numerous, large city centre stores, which could easily find space for such concessions. GAME meanwhile has gone on record to say that it will be reorganising many of its own leases this year in order rework the size and placement of its stores - largely to provide big enough premises in premium locations to make the BELONG concept work.
Those lease negotiations will now benefit from the added flexibility of Sports Direct concessions. Which will likely mean a more fiscally efficient GAME presence on the high street.
The collaboration agreement covers every imaginable combination of stores. From Standalone BELONG arenas, to combined GAME and BELONG concessions in SPorts Direct stores, and everything in between.
Martyn Gibbs, GAME Digital's CEO, said: "I am delighted that through the Collaboration Agreement we are able to accelerate the implementation of a key element of our transformational strategy to move from a seller of physical products to providing gaming experiences.
"As more consumer focus and spend moves to experiences, we are well advanced in delivering unique, world class gaming at both local and national level. Having launched the BELONG brand just over a year ago, we have now opened 19 arenas and are very encouraged by the popularity and performance of these locations. We look forward to collaborating with Sports Direct to increase the availability and scale of BELONG and to capitalise on the increasing overlap between sports and esports fans by bringing this unique experience to a wider consumer base.”
Jon Kempster, Sports Direct’s Chief Financial Officer, said: “We are very happy to partner with Game in building an increased presence in the esports market through the BELONG brand. This is a very good example of building a commercial relationship via our strategic investment approach.”