Esports and the Premier League are bonding like a house on fire that was started by a games console overheating! The pandemic has exhilarated esports’ growth from the postponement of Premier League games, which has been an instrumental revenue generator to substitute the lack of match-day revenue. Clubs and players are forming esports teams and signing up to streaming services which produce thoughts around the sustainability of the Premier League during this digitalised era.
The ePremier League Invitational Finals have accumulated 22 million viewers over the past two seasons. This years competition saw 52,000+ peak viewers, 235,000+ hours consumed and 13,000+ average viewers tune in. Despite the ePremier League Invitational being a content rescuer during COVID19, it’s enticed the younger generation to become the most influential audience at dictating how clubs create content. Premier League fans now support players the same way as their clubs. Football players are perceived as influencers to millennials which was the philosophy that contributed to the ePremier League Invitational’s success.
Traditional sports broadcasters have struggled to keep their consumers engaged without esports during the global pandemic. Due to COVID’s deficit on revenue, Sky Sports & BT Sport resorted to listing Premier League games on Pay-Per-View (PPV) which didn’t plan out the way they’d hoped. Most fans boycotted the first set of games when the PPV model was introduced due to the extortionate expense advertised compared to original subscription fees.
Premier League stars have also jumped on the esports wave. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has launched his own esports organisation, KRÜ Esports. The Argentinian starlet has been proactive throughout his injury spell by boosting his prominence across the online service, Twitch, by becoming a streamer. This marks as a lucrative opportunity to grow esports across the Latin American region while destigmatising the socio-cultural vision many have about video gamers. Welsh winger Gareth Bale has also set up his own esports team, Ellevens esports, which is made up of global streamers, gamers and content creators. Not only does esports endorse gamers, but also creators and other upcoming digital personalities to get their personal brand recognised through football.
Esports has become imperative to the marketing strategy of Premier League clubs. Aston Villa recently announced the establishment of ‘Villa Gaming’, an exclusive platform for fans to showcase their skills and abilities. Fans have the opportunity to connect their Twitch accounts to Villa Gaming. With the chance to win prizes including a PS5 and an Xbox Series S through the gaming channel. The platform leverages a broader audience from football as NBA 2k21 is available to play with other sports in the pipeline for 2021. Clubs like PSG, Tranmere Rovers, Stevenage FC and Wolves have inspired Villa on their gaming venture. This is a compelling long-term strategy to keep younger audiences enticed with club content during the off-season from football.
The real question is what symptoms could the Premier League experience from esports’ trailblazing impact? Well, the attention of live football could become diluted with esports becoming the new norm for sports content. This could lead to esports becoming a professionalised league which sits in the same row as other traditional sports once the appropriate sponsorship and commercial partnerships are met.
Bookmakers will be the first to captivate new financial entities from esports growth. A new audience of Gen Z will be targeted by betting companies that are highly engaged with online gaming. Therefore, responsible gambling must be promoted towards younger audiences to ensure they remain knowledgeable around the risks of betting.
Finally, Gen Z and Alpha will remain the newest and most influential audience across the traditional sporting demographic that content will be tailored for by sports properties.