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Adelaide Football Club acquires eSports team to grow reach and brand

A few days after local rival Port Adelaide played the AFL’s first match in China, the Adelaide Football Club too has made a move to expand into a new market, announcing it is acquiring Legacy eSports, a professional eSports team based in Sydney.

Legacy eSports is one of eight top-tier professional League of Legends teams competing in the Oceanic Pro League (OPL).

Andrew Fagan, CEO of the Crows, said the club determined League of Legends eSports was “the most obvious choice” to get involved in as it’s one of the most developed eSports leagues in the region.

Fagan believes the club’s investment in the eSports industry will help expand the scope of its fan engagement, brand, and commercial platform. In particular, he said the popularity of eSports among millennials will provide “enhanced opportunities” for corporate partners old and new to engage with younger, more digital-savvy audiences.

“In many ways, eSports represents the intersection of technology, media, and entertainment, which are all a key part of our strategic focus. Across the globe there are sporting clubs, billionaire investors, and athletes becoming involved in eSports with a view to growing their brand and reach, driving commercial outcomes, and engaging with new fans.”

“Our traditional revenue streams are obviously strong…while we will forever remain focused on our core objectives of winning football matches, we need to continue to diversify our activities and programs.”

Fagan said the AFL club will bring its expertise in the world of professional sport to “support the high performance development of the Legacy players who are driven to achieve success in their field” and devote resources to supporting the growth of the Legacy brand.

The value of eSports has steadily grown since Amazon’s acquisition of games streaming platform Twitch in 2014 for almost US$1 billion.

Boasting an estimated international audience of 250 people, the majority in that all-important 14 to 34 year old age bracket, Newzoo predicted eSports revenues will reach US$700 million by the end of 2017, and US$1.5 billion by 2020.

Adelaide isn’t the first traditional sports team to look to cash in on this potential, with the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers and Manchester City also having invested in eSports.

The NBA is also launching its own league next year, the NBA 2K League, where players will represent the 17 NBA teams that signed on. Commissioner Adam Silver said that he sees eSports as another way to expand the NBA’s brand and reach new fans.

“The large part of my mission is to grow the game of basketball. There’s going to be an opportunity for this first of a kind league to attract a group of gamers who might be playing some other game. Now, they can say, ‘Maybe I couldn’t play for the Knicks, because I didn’t have the physical prowess to compete at that level. But I do have the mental and physical prowess to compete as an egamer for the eKnicks’,” he said.

It will be interesting to see whether other Australian sports teams will join the Crows in investing in eSports; the AFL itself had flagged the possibility of hosting an eSports tournament at Etihad Stadium earlier this month.

Image source: Legacy eSports.