SBD/April 14, 2017/Colleges

Collegiate E-Sports Struggle To Find Revenue, Success Due To Structure Of Pro Scene

Amateur e-sports "trails the professional level in fervor," as eight livestreams this year of Big Ten e-sports matches "drew zero revenue for the league and a combined 2.1 million viewers, or less than a single postseason college basketball game can draw," according to Paresh Dave of the L.A. TIMES. E-sports event organizer the Collegiate Starleague -- the "top organizer of college e-sports by participants -- remains unprofitable." Because NCAA rules "don’t apply to e-sports, cash prizes are fair game." However, prizes "might be phased out as more schools offer scholarships, bringing e-sports in line with the norms of traditional college athletics." Keeping pace with player interest required Collegiate Starleague CEO Duran Parsi to "acquire sponsors and more employees." He got the capital by "selling majority ownership" in '15 to WorldGaming, a division of Canadian movie theater chain Cineplex that has "high expectations for diversifying its revenue." WorldGaming CEO Wim Stocks said, "We want to be the de facto provider for collegiate e-sports." But Starleague is "hobbled" because "many top players turn pro before attending college." That contributes to "reduced popularity." Parsi is "eyeing international competitions, hoping a global audience is sizable enough to pique advertisers." Game publisher Riot Games is "pursuing licensing and broadcasting partnerships with U.S. collegiate conferences, such as the Big Ten and Pac-12, in hopes that emphasizing regional rivalries such as USC-UCLA draws fans." Riot Games "prefers e-sports teams fall under athletics departments" (L.A. TIMES, 4/14). 

EXPERIENCE POINTS: AD AGE's Cecilia Streit noted Snickers was "early to esports," using social platforms to "unconventionally reach their audience by translating its 'Your'e Not You When You're Hungry' campaign into a live broadcast prank." Meanwhile, Gillette activated a partnership with e-sports event promoter ESL by giving fans the "opportunity to customize their own razor handles using 3D printing technology at its RZR MKR Design Studio, as well as providing grooming for all League of Legends competitors." Gillette Global VP John Mang said, "It's been exciting and eye-opening." Additionally, Twitch.tv sponsor Intel's involvement in e-sports "pushes its technology as the most reliable brand to play, share, stream and encode." That builds "brand awareness among younger consumers" (ADAGE.com, 4/11).
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