SBD/July 13, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Robert Kraft Calls Upstart Overwatch League The "Future Of Sport In Many Ways"



Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and Mets COO Jeff Wilpon are among the first batch of owners of charter franchises in Activision Blizzard's startup Overwatch League, and Kraft called the league the "future of sport in many ways." Franchises cost a reported $20M each, and Kraft acknowledged he is making a "big commitment financially, and there will be some rough times." He added buying an esports team is something "two, three years ago I could never relate to." Kraft: "But being around young people and seeing how they play this game for hours -- and they've got to be physically fit -- it's a whole new world out there." He added the Patriots and Mets both have infrastructures where they can do "marketing (and) sponsorship" around the teams. Kraft: "We have a great analytics department that can work on this, so if we get good quality product, we're going to be fine." He added, "This is a growth area. Look at a company like Facebook 20 years ago, look where they are. I think esports has the same chance to see the same kind of dynamic growth and we want to play in it.” Wilpon said owning an Overwatch team is "going to allow us to bring some of our traditional advertisers over to esports." He added, "We hope some of the traditional esports advertisers can come back and do some things with Major League Baseball.” Kraft said, "We try to think long-term with everything we do, and we've seen that there are 30 million people already involved with Overwatch. ... We see in the NFL that the Millennials and the Z Generation are consuming things differently through their mobile device, they’re playing games hours and hours a day and not watching sports the way we did. So we wanted to go with the best and try to participate in what’s happening in this whole new field.”

RIGHT TIME TO JUMP ALL IN: Wilpon said the Mets have been looking at esports “for a awhile" through their Sterling.VC fund. Wilpon: "We sort of skirted around it in the periphery, looked at a couple of teams, made a couple of investments in some companies that do work within esports but never had the real opportunity to buy a team like this. ... Knowing how committed Activision Blizzard is in this space, it made sense to come in. With people like the Krafts involved, it just gave a good feeling to this.” The Overwatch League will share revenues, which Wilpon called a "great model to be able to really grow this.” Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said the league was created "with the expectation that we would be able to celebrate, recognize our players in a way that would be consistent with traditional sports." He said, "The only way you really could accomplish that would be to have the very best traditional sports team owners participate in ownership in the league, along with all of these great entrepreneurs from esports. That's what we've done” ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 7/12).

WASTING NO TIME: The Overwatch League during last night's ESPY Awards on ABC aired a 30-second ad promoting its inaugural season. The voiceover for the spot said, “Blizzard Entertainment is proud to introduce the first truly global professional esports league, with home teams around the world.” The ad thanked the “founding owners” of the league at the conclusion of the spot (THE DAILY).
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