The Adelaide Crows this week became the first Australian sports team to dive into the realm of esports, with the announcement that it is ready to purchase its very own team.
The Crows will pay an unspecified six-figure sum for Legacy esports, one of Australia’s top professional competitive video-gaming outfits.
The deal comes just ten days after the AFL said it wanted to encourage footie clubs to embrace esports with a view to creating a competitive video-gaming tournament at its Etihad Stadium, featuring teams built or sponsored by AFL clubs.
The league said that, through esports, AFL teams could tap into the hard-to-reach millennial demographic and bring more sponsorship and revenue for their brands.
Crows chief executive Andrew Fagan agreed, telling Fairfax Media this week that the deal would allow Legacy’s eSports players an elite, high-performance environment in which to develop their skills.
“[Esports] is hugely popular with millennials and there are enhanced opportunities for current and new corporate partners to engage with younger, digital and social media-savvy audiences,” said Fagan. “In many ways, esports represents the intersection of technology, media and entertainment, which are all a key part of our strategic focus.”
The news also comes just a week after Australia hosted its biggest and richest ever esports event, the Intel Extreme Masters, which offered a prize pool of $260,000 and reminded us again of the power of esports to regularly pack out arenas, while putting on a spectacular show.
Esports is estimated to be worth some $1.2 billion, and it’s growing. Meanwhile, it’s watched, and bet on, by millions around the world, but Australia has been slower than some areas to catch on, which is why Fairfax Media called this week’s deal a “watershed moment.”
Big players in in the global sports arena already have similar deals in place, like the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA) and Paris Saint-Germain (French soccer), which is why, says Darren Birch, the AFL’s growth, digital and audiences general manager, it’s important Australian sports teams get in on the picture.
“Esports events sell out,” said Birch. “They are amazing live events. There are more screens, more activities going on, more lights, more LED displays. Some of the tournaments I have seen show that esports is more concert-like than sport-like, but that’s what appeals to that younger audience.
“All of these things make the experience bigger and bolder than your average sport.”
Legacy is likely to keep its identity and branding at this stage, although, as more AFL clubs come on board and build their own teams, and the AFL esports tournament becomes a reality, it may well take on Crows’ name and colours.