The importance of esports in football

Interest in esports is ever growing, Influencer Marketing Hub reports that in 2020 there are almost half a billion esports followers – and Newzoo predicts that the audience for esports will grow to 646 million by 2023.

Football organisations also have a presence within esports. FC Barcelona, Manchester City and Bundesliga are among the many clubs and leagues who run or participate in esports competitions.

The Entertainment Software Association found that in 2018 there were over 164 million adults in the United States who played video games. With the large amounts of people playing video games it makes sense for football organisations to become involved in this industry.

James Gallagher-Powell of CSM Sport & Entertainment at the ESI (esports Insider) Digital Summer conference said that esports can help football clubs to attract a younger audience.

“In terms of this younger audience, I’m sure that many of you have seen the stats before, probably from a brand sponsor perspective. So why do brands think about sponsoring an esports property over traditional sports property,” Gallagher-Powell said.

“The average age for a Premier League fan is 42 and rising, and no doubt is higher than 42 within developed fan markets like in the UK. This ageing fan base begs two questions to football clubs: How do the clubs ensure their longevity and remain relevant to the next generation of sports fans? And how do they ensure that their club remains attractive to potential sponsors?

“esports can provide the perfect channel for this. It’s a way that clubs can attract a younger audience to their core operations, i.e football, and it can help clubs to safeguard their future popularity and therefore their future profitability.”

EA Sports’ FIFA games have become incredibly popular over the years. FIFA 20 launched on September 27, 2019 and by October 10, 2019 over ten million people had played the game across various gaming consoles.

Although despite this popularity of football games, CSM Sport & Entertainment’s Account Director Debs Scott-Bowden at the ESI Digital Summer conference said that these games were only a small part of the esports world.

“But whilst FIFA and PES are good entry points for clubs to go into esports, for the wider esports communities, these titles are largely considered niche. So for clubs looking to reach a wider audience, football games aren’t necessarily the best route to achieve this.”

Bundesliga has its own Virtual Bundesliga Club Championship. The championship will start on November 10 and will be the third season of the competition. The Virtual Bundesliga Club Championship will feature clubs from both Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2.

The Chief Executive of DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga Digital Sports and DFL Executive Vice-President, Andreas Heyden told SportBusiness in November 2019 about the importance of the VBL.

“The growth of the Virtual Bundesliga since its inception shows how seriously we are taking the whole area of esports. We highly benefit from out club brands and players [being present] but also we have proven to have created ne of the highest degrees of authenticity of the Bundesliga in the virtual world of stadiums, clubs and players,” he said.

Bundesliga is taking its esports approach very seriously and has major plans for the Virtual Bundesliga and hopes it can grow.

“We want to grow the Virtual Bundesliga to become out third competition brand, alongside Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga in regards to media rights, participation of clubs and users in the open series.”

“There are not many leagues who are committed as we are to create an eFootball league, with the amount of focus we are giving and the investment we are providing.”

In Australia, Football Federation Australia has the E-League.

Matches are streamed live on twitch. The finals of the 2020 edition of the series unfortunately had to be postponed due to COVID-19. The finals were due to be held at an event in Melbourne on May 9.

At the end of 2017 when the E-League was announced then FFA Head of Commercial, Marketing and Digital, Luke Bould, spoke about the appeal of an esports league.

“FFA’s strategy is to build a competition that provides FIFA competitors with the ability to represent their favourite A-League clubs and create more fans for the A-League and Westfield W-League. This is also a great way to connect the League more globally and in particular, with an Asian audience who love football and FIFA, but may not yet know the A-League.”

During the A-League COVID-19 shutdown, a tournament was also organised which featured both gamers and A-League players.

It is great to see that FFA and the A-League does take esports seriously and is following the lead of other leagues such as the Bundesliga. The FFA should continue to do so and look into expanding its esports properties.

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Daniel Foley is a sports junior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and micro industry matters.

Brisbane Roar and AQUAME boost optimal hydration

Brisbane Roar and AQUAME

Brisbane Roar is collaborating with leading Australian water bottle developer AQUAME to provide their squads with high-tech water bottles.

AQUAME is a high-tech water bottle offering UVC sanitation, drink reminders, and real-time tracking, all guided by an AI-enhanced app for optimal hydration.

AQUAME’s AI-enhanced phone application enables users to see statistics regarding their hydration, with historical data and personalised coaching options to help guide users towards informed daily health decisions.

The device has been used and approved by Socceroos legend Archie Thompson and Melbourne City FC forward Andrew Nabbout, with the sports water bottle company moving into the football corporate world after recent growth.

Brisbane Roar CEO Kaz Patafta mentioned the importance the club puts on maximising player performance.

“We are proud to partner with AQUAME and believe these high-tech water bottles will greatly contribute to player wellbeing on and off the pitch. As a club we strive to see players have the best products at their fingertips to perform their best. We look forward to growing this partnership with AQUAME,” Patafta said via media release.

Founder of AQUAME Steve Aidun Xie spoke on the large market that this partnership with the A-League club provides for technology in sport.

“We are thrilled to partner with Brisbane Roar, a significant milestone in revolutionising the role of data in modern sports. In today’s competitive sporting landscape, the understanding and optimisation of athlete hydration remain underexplored. Our collaboration is set to bridge this gap by leveraging cutting-edge technology to collect vital hydration data,” Xie added.

“This partnership is more than just an alliance; it’s a step towards filling a crucial void in sports tech by integrating effective hydration plans into athletes’ routines. The insights gained from working with a professional club like Brisbane Roar are invaluable. They will be instrumental in refining our new hydration analysis software, designed to empower sporting clubs globally,” Xie continued.

“This tool will not only analyse but also illuminate how precise hydration planning can elevate athletes to their peak performance. We are excited to be at the forefront of this groundbreaking development, contributing to enhanced athletic achievements and wellbeing.”

Brisbane Roar have a focus with this partnership to positively impact player performance for both the men’s and women’s sides through high quality technological equipment, with AQUAME specifically focusing on the players receiving acute hydration.

FC Barcelona reach Latin American fans with Rappi

FC Barcelona and Rappi

FC Barcelona added Latin American home-delivery service Rappi to its existing group of partners, in what is being described as a hugely beneficial moment for fans in the region.

The current two-and-half year deal is a part of FC Barcelona’s continued brand expansion in the Americas, meeting several of its commercial targets as it asserts itself as one of the world’s leading sports brands.

Football is not new territory for home-delivery company Rappi. They actively sponsor several men’s and women’s football clubs across Central and South America, which has helped achieve its current status as one of the leading home-delivery services in the region.

This status as one of Latin America’s leading technology brands is evidenced by its mobile service that connects customers to food and e-commerce products and delivers them to homes within 10 minutes.

FC Barcelona Marketing Area Vice-President, Juli Guiu, highlighted the deal will be a win for Barca fans in Latin America.

“Through this partnership with Rappi, we are boosting our privileged position in this region and helping to improve the fan experience by connecting with them via imaginative, disruptive actions that drive emotions and empathy,” he said in a statement.

Astrid Mirkin, Chief Marketing Officer of Spanish Markets and Head of Brand/Sponsorships at Rappi, elaborated further on Guiu’s comments regarding fan experience.

“With Rappi becoming the exclusive delivery partner of FC Barcelona in Latin America, we will significantly improve the experiences of both the Rappi customer and the FC Barcelona fan at a key consumption moment,” Mirkin added via press release.

“This partnership with FC Barcelona will allow customers to receive additional special offers during games and drive additional orders to our merchants and couriers.”

FC Barcelona will provide Rappi with LED hoardings at the Olympic Stadium and its spiritual home, Camp Nou, when its renovation is completed. Further benefits for the company come in the shape of hospitality packages and brand association with the Barca Legends team.

Inter-continental relationships, particularly between European football clubs and non-European companies, offer substantial economic benefits that can enrich its impact on both football and society.

In addition, fans across the globe not only benefit from exclusive offers in their region, but get a deeper connection to clubs they support from afar.

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