Why A Top Club Would Invest in Esports
FC Barcelona / Website
Earlier this week, one of the biggest football clubs in the world FC Barcelona joined the Superliga, a league organized by the Professional Video Games League. In 2022, Barcelona will join the Superliga with their very own League of Legends esports team. It has been 2 years since Barcelona entered the esports industry, but they don’t appear to be slowing down their rollout any time soon.
It may seem odd that a soccer team in Spain has joined a League of Legends esports league, but the league is far from small. The Superliga is the top LoL tournament in Spain and one of the best in Europe. By the Summer of 2021, the Superliga had over 5 million in viewership, 2.6 million viewing hours, and the final watched by over 300,000 viewers. Esports is a growing sport, especially in Europe, creating the perfect pathway for a top sporting club to enter the market.
Barcelona is one of the top footballing teams in the world, with major trophies in their cabinet and some of the best legends in the history playing at the Camp Nou with the likes of Lionel Messi, Johan Cruyff, Xavi, and Andreas Iniesta. Barcelona wished to be a main player in the esports sector in the coming years, similar to their reputation and status in the football world. As well as LoL and the Superliga, Barcelona currently has an eFootball team, a Rocket League team, and a Hearthstone team.
According to Barcelona, the club wishes to expand its brand further on the international stage, with hopes to expand its brand recognition and image in the likes of the United States and China. Barcelona, already being a dominant figure in the sporting world, appears to be aiming to develop its brand in new markets, especially among younger demographics.
However, Barcelona’s brand value is over $4 billion USD as of 2021. Introducing their team into the Superliga may cause some serious problems. Movistar Riders, the Summer 2021 LoL winners have been around since 2017 and have racked up over $200,000 in LoL winnings, only 20,000 x less than Barcelona’s brand value. Is it entirely fair that a multi-billion dollar sports club can enter this new league, with greater spending capabilities and resources available at hand? It’s similar to Newcastle United’s take-over earlier this fall (which you can check out on the Sport Marketeer). Will these smaller organizations be able to compete with the likes of FC Barcelona and their financial advantage?
On the other side, how can an organization like Barcelona compete with these already established teams in the Superliga? The Superliga has existed for over a decade, with multiple seasons and tournaments. A footballing team will surely find it difficult to compete with the top teams in the Superliga, despite their massive financial advantage.
Lastly, Barcelona now has 4 esports teams, founded over a 3 year period. What does this mean for sports teams going forward with the evolving landscape of esports? With leagues such as the E Premier League, with top English teams competing for the Ea Sports FIFA championship, we are seeing many more teams get involved in the rising industry of digital gaming. What’s next for this sector? Will these leagues eventually get more viewers than the sport itself? I guess we’ll find out.
Published: November 26, 2021 - Issue 15 of The Sport Marketeer