Aug 27, 2020

Virtual Leagues – an Alternative for Traditional Sports Clubs?

Virtual Leagues – an Alternative for Traditional Sports Clubs?

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has changed the perception of many sports clubs on Esports. Mainly because all the matches and events were temporarily suspended, and Virtual Leagues seemed to be a natural alternative. However, the question is: should we treat them as a direct substitution for traditional sports? On the one hand, as it’s developing well in terms of its potential and popularity, the number of clubs that decide to invest in it, especially in western Europe, constantly increases. On the other hand, recent data has shown that it doesn’t bring as many profits and ROI to the clubs in the short-term as one could expect. In that case – what is the truth?

We ask five questions and look for reasonable answers to them to help you understand how virtual clubs might be perceived concerning traditional sports clubs.

OUR QUESTIONS:

#1 SHOULD ESPORTS BE TREATED IN THE SAME WAY AS TRADITIONAL SPORTS?

Many people think that Esports, as the name suggests, is the same as sports, but with one small difference – everything happens online thanks to technology. Such a simplification seems to be too imprecise. Indeed, there are many similarities between those two. However, it’s details that make a difference. When you delve into this subject and learn it thoroughly, it will turn out that the disparities are small but extremely significant.

Esports is close in perception to traditional sports but might be considered utterly unattractive by older generations. Why? If you’re used to enjoying your free time in the same way for many years, you are less prone to any, even minor changes. Moreover, what’s as important is the fact that Esports’ players aren’t so famous as real athletes. Predominantly, we don’t know their history, their life background and the difficulties they have gone through. Simply saying, we don’t have any emotional ties with them.

Football clubs may try to move their fan engagement from their regular athletes to Esports players for the time of quarantine. But, at the same time, you should avoid persuading them that it will be a direct replacement for the suspended games. Instead, strive to present the Virtual Leagues as a close alternative, which, however, has many different rules compared to conventional sports.

First, spend some time preparing your fans for Esports as if it was a completely new sports discipline. Educate them so that they are up for everything that comes with virtual matches. In this way, you will allow them to fully enjoy the pivotal possibility that Esports brings, which is very similar to traditional sports – experiencing emotions through fair competition.

#2 SOCIAL MEDIA – IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRADITIONAL SPORTS AND ESPORTS?

Social media seems to be the easiest way to verify and increase your fan engagement. If you’re a person running a sports club’s fan page, you know what’s the main factor influencing its activity – emotions that come from competition.

In traditional sports, such a fierce rivalry very often originates from geographical locations of the clubs or the differences in the social statuses of the people that represent them. All kinds of sports were initially a chance for various environments to fairly prove to their rivals that they were better. Such clubs gained new fans if they built a bond with the environment they represented.

The same happens nowadays, but reality has slightly changed. Now the quality of life of people from different regions and social classes doesn’t play a pivotal role. However, one thing hasn’t changed. It’s still crucial to create emotional ties with your fans to motivate them to support you.

Virtual Leagues – an Alternative for Traditional Sports Clubs?

Sports clubs are achieving such effects thanks to interviewing players and presenting their life stories to a broader audience. What’s more, they cultivate local patriotism by engaging both emotionally and financially in the events fundamental for the local communities.

Nonetheless, one of the essential factors in building the image of a team in social media is winning. The more you persuade the audience that by identifying with your team, they will be perceived as champions, the higher your chances to “win” new supporters. Everyone wants to feel the best.

The same applies to Esports. That’s why social media of virtual clubs are so similar to these which represent conventional teams. It’s easy to find many common points between sport and Esports. Therefore, for experienced marketers, there’s no problem in launching cross-promoting campaigns. We can observe it very clearly right now, after the COVID-19 spread.

There’s a social media explosion for Esports among the traditional sports clubs. They are either promoting their professional esports players or even asking their real sports athletes to take part in online games. That’s how they’re temporarily moving their fan engagement from sports to esports. The first results and opinions seem to prove that it’s the right path to facilitate the life of your supporters and fill their hunger for emotions.

#3 WHY MIGHT YOU PERCEIVE INVESTING IN ESPORTS DURING COVID-19 AND AFTERWARDS BENEFICIAL?

Apart from the fact that Esports is relatively easy to promote on social media devoted to traditional sports, there’s a great number of other factors indicating its potential.

A) INCESSANTLY GROWING MARKET

The video game market has recently exceeded USD 1.1 billion according to the statistics from the end of 2019. In the previous year, the Esports market rose 12.3% as compared to 2018, which means an absolute growth of USD 443 million in just a year. The rate of development is expected to remain the same. Thus, by 2020 the industry will leap to 600 million growth. All the data gathered suggests that it’s blooming rapidly.

This exceptional growth indicates the phenomenal opportunity this discipline holds. The experts predict that the market is to cross the barrier of USD 3 Billion in five years. Hence, it leaves no doubt that the market reserves high growth opportunities that still can be used.

B) HIGH USER ENGAGEMENT

The number of people that are spending multiple hours a day watching or playing Esports is unbelievably high. Limelight Networks, a company preparing reports, i.e. for the esports community, conducted a survey on this subject. They received the results saying that on average, all the gamers spend 6 hours a week, either watching or playing video games. Moreover, the younger the people, the more time they sacrifice. There’s an impressive figure that might be directly compared to the traditional sports, where the scale of engagement is similar.

C) TEAM SPIRIT AND COOPERATION

What makes many sports disciplines so unique is the ability of the weaker team to win against the stronger one thanks to the unusual cooperation between the players. The same applies to Esports. Individually weaker teams have the power to surprise with their results if they have an extraordinary team spirit. That’s why many people love watching their favourite clubs in traditional sports – they always have hope, which makes them believe in their team even if the chances are meagre. You can quickly transfer this value to your virtual club.

D) GLOBAL AUDIENCE

Esports is accessible to anyone who has internet connection on the decent level (meaning one that ensures the safety of the game). There lies almost no boundaries, restrictions or obligations to anyone in the world to become a professional Esports player. It’s safe and easy to start. You can play it from home – it doesn’t take your valuable time for transport. That’s why it’s so popular globally, not only in a small number of well-developed countries.

E) YOUNGER GENERATIONS

The younger the people, the more time they sacrifice on watching and playing esports. It meets the definition of everything that young people and, primarily, their parents expect. It’s safe, familiar and easy-to-access. Moreover, it falls under the definition of being “cool”. It’s modern, against the old rules of the world, and beyond the understanding of your grandmothers and grandparents. We discussed it in detail in the answer to question number five.

Virtual Leagues – an Alternative for Traditional Sports Clubs?

#4 WHY MIGHT YOU PERCEIVE INVESTING IN ESPORTS DURING COVID-19 AND AFTERWARDS DETRIMENTAL?

A) OFFLINE [LAN] TOURNAMENTS

On the one hand, it’s true that almost all the Esports tournaments, including top professional ones, can be conducted online with each of the players being at home. On the other hand, it’s offline events that always contributed the most to the fast development of this industry. COVID-19 has managed to negatively affect both traditional sports and esports in this way. However, even though lack of such LAN meetings may slightly decrease the pace of development of Esports, you should keep in mind that once the current situation finishes, all kinds of offline events will start taking place again.

B) PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH

It’s hard to say what mental health challenges are most prevalent in Esports, but many researchers point to these two: anxiety and depression. Both are believed to originate from lack of physical activity and extreme emotions that some video games bring. They’re also closely correlated with addiction. Nevertheless, if you do a search about mental health in esports, you may be surprised to find that competitive gamers are having a lot more to contend with physical injuries.

It has a lot in common with the sedentary lifestyle that many of the esports gamers take. This unhealthy attitude is associated with many serious diseases, including heart disease, cancer, weight gain, back or neck pain, osteoporosis, muscle degeneration, or mental health issues which we discussed above. If you want to know more about it, check the data gathered by “Get American Standing”.

Most importantly, remember that investing in Esports must be equivalent to taking responsibility for the players’ health.

C) CHEATING, MATCH FIXING AND GAMBLING

Where there’s money, there might be cheating and corruption. It relates both to traditional sports and Esports. A competitive match played with a pre-determined result, or partially pre-determined scenario is always a risk. Money corrupts. Corruption is even easier when no organization directly governs a specific tournament. Make sure your virtual club does everything to avoid it.

Esports match-fixing and corruption have something in common, gambling. And not just any type, but, primarily, an unregulated, non-age restricted gambling cataclysm. While you don’t need to be against betting on sports and esports, the primary issue is about the underage having the ability to gamble in a seemingly unregulated environment.

D) TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

Although all you need to organize an Esports tournament is providing players with an internet connection, minor differences can significantly influence the result of the game. The speed of the internet, the power of the servers, the quality and size of the screen… all of these things should be optimized in order to guarantee fair and equal competition to the players. It’s challenging, but without it, the idea of real, fair-play competition in Esports might be impeached.

#5 IS ESPORTS A NEW WAY TO ATTRACT YOUNGER GENERATIONS?

This question could also be expressed differently: Is Esports a melody of the present or the best investment for the future? Every couple of years, a new generation is born with a surprisingly immense amount of knowledge on what is understood by Playstation, Xbox, Esports, Online Competition, and Virtual Leagues. Therefore, is Esports a new way to attract younger generations to your sports clubs?

Virtual Leagues – an Alternative for Traditional Sports Clubs?

Yes, it seems to be. It meets the definition of everything that young people and, primarily, their parents expect. It’s safe as you don’t need to leave your home to start doing it. Every year it becomes more familiar to the parents as those who had their “first computers” when they were young, already have their own households. It’s easy-to-access as it’s relatively cheap to let your children try their best to become professional Esports players. Providing a console and an internet connection is now possible for many families without major problems.

Principally, it falls under the definition of being “cool”. It’s modern, against the old rules of the world, and beyond the understanding of your grandmothers and grandparents. It gives you a bit of freedom, as you can still type and say to your friends whatever you want while playing. It provides a bit of control to your parents. When they feel insecure about Esports, they can sit next to you and check what you’re doing.

It’s simply perfect in this way. Thus, it creates new dreams that seem to be relatively easy to achieve. Not surprisingly, the younger the people playing or watching esports, the more time they sacrifice on it.

CONCLUSION:

Virtual clubs and Esports are a satisfactory alternative for traditional forms of sports. However, they cannot be treated as the direct replacement – they will never become one. You should take it into consideration and try treating Esports as a completely new discipline rather than a substitution for conventional sports.

As time passes, more and more people will be interested in Virtual Leagues in the same way as in traditional sports clubs, mainly through generational change. The earlier you invest in it, the higher your chances to become a pioneer in your region. Nonetheless, you should keep in mind all the risks that are associated with Esports and do your best to prevent the development of their negative consequences in your environment.