The current pandemic put most live sporting events on hold for the past month, and there’s minimal sign sports will be coming back any time soon. Leagues and their partners are turning to the virtual world in the absence of sports to reach sports fans and even build their audience when live sports eventually comes back.
Formula One launched the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series on March 22, which aired on Walt Disney Co sports channels ESPN in the US and Sky Sports in the UK. The first event attracted 3.2 million views online on Alphabet Inc’s streaming platform YouTube, Amazon.com Inc. platform Twitch, and Twitter Inc. It also garnered 1.2 million TV viewers.
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitation Series also gathered 1.3 million viewers when it aired on Fox Corp channels late in March.
Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, which is a video publisher, recently partnered with ESPN to air esports tournament hosted by Kevin Durant, an NBA superstar. Just recently, Fox Sports aired an NFL esports tournament that involved football players in raising money for charities helping to fight COVID-19 pandemic.
Unique Marketing Opportunity
Companies outside the esports business are also noticing the opportunity that the live sports shutdown has created. BMW, for instance, recently partnered with five different global esports organizations that include Cloud9 in the US.
Jessica Rabe, who’s a Data Trek co-founder, said that BMW sees esports as a unique marketing opportunity to reach its next-generation customers.
While many esports fans cannot afford to buy a BMW car or even drive at the moment, the luxury carmaker is presenting their offerings as an aspirational purchase. The company is expecting these young adults to earn enough money in the future and eventually become buyers.
The longer the world keeps on moving without live sports, the more sports fans may be interested in exploring esports for the first time. Many of those fans may enjoy it more than they expected. As a result, these fans may stick around even once live sports come back.
The crossover between live sports and esports could be beneficial for both industries. It exposes sports fans to competitive gaming and offers gamers a reason to watch live sports. For investors wanting to take advantage of a potential COVID-19 boom in esports, video game publishers may be the biggest winners.