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Pixel Pitch: The Rise of Football Clubs and Esports

Pixel Pitch: The Rise of Football Clubs and Esports

Pixel Pitch: The Rise of Football Clubs and Esports

Football is so much more than just a game. It shapes communities, fuels rivalries, renders water-cooler chat, and in 2019, causes loads of kids to spend hundreds of pounds on their parents’ credit cards with the hope of finally packing Lionel Messi on FIFA Ultimate Team. Football is an identity; one which develops and shapes the lives of those caught up in its highest highs and lowest lows.

So, in summary, it’s pretty much a marketer’s dream. You have a devoted, captive community who live and breathe their beloved team and beloved sport. I mean how easy is it to just stick said club badge on ‘insert random item here’ and boom, you’ve got sales.

Okay, perhaps it isn’t quite that cynical, but the moral still stands: people want to be as connected to their team at all times - not just on the pitch. Football has a huge influence on fashion, music, television (have you seen some of Netflix and Amazon Prime’s exclusive documentaries? If not, watch ‘em), and of course, video gaming

In fact, the pairing of football and gaming is basically a match made in heaven. The meteoritic popularity of EA Sports’ market-leading FIFA franchise shows no sign of slowing down, with more and more players getting stuck into the exhilarating action every year. Tons of global FIFA competitions open and operate each year; attracting players of all ages world-over, battling it out for serious prize money. Official brand partnerships with the flagship leagues in world football are all involved too, with the Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), MLS (United States) and Ligue 1 (France) leading the torch.

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It’s no surprise then, that actual football clubs want a piece of the pixelated pie. After all, they are aware that the future of their fanbase - the next generation of season ticket holders - are the children wide-eyed at the possibility of playing Eden Hazard at LB with FIFA position modifiers. You see, for the youth of today, their football experiences by-and-large START with gaming; they learn about players’ stats, skills, nationality and more through playing the game, as opposed to spectating.

Plus, the game now has real-world connection, with official leagues’ Player of the Month being awarded with a specific challenge in-game; enabling gamers the opportunity to attain a special version of their hero. That’s really powerful when you think about it, because gamers are having a direct correspondence and influence with the players out there on the pitch

News recently emerged that Premier League powerhouse Manchester City had partnered with FaZe Clan; a leading North American esports organisation. Now, to a lot of older City fans, they’ll probably review this news with a furrowed brow and a response akin to “wtf”. But to younger City fans, they’ll probably rejoice.

Why? Because FaZe Clan are an enormous deal in the highly competitive, ultra-lucrative esports business. They boast tens of millions across their digital empire (largely founded on Twitch, YouTube and Instagram), lead the way in high-end fashion collaborations with the likes of New Era and Champion, and have an army of celebrity fans - largely from the hip-hop scene - include Lil Yachty, Migos and Lil Tecca.

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FaZe Clan’s biblical popularity and influence within competitive esports is attractive enough for a plethora of other brands, such as Nissan and G-FUEL, so its a no-brainer that a socially conscious, forward-thinking sports team like Manchester City wanted to get in on the action. I mean, have you seen how much prize money some of these esports teams and players win? It’s a lot more than what Sergio Agüero makes kicking balls about at the Etihad.

Lee Trink, CEO of FaZe Clan discussed the new partnership in a release, stating: “This alliance with Manchester City creates a powerful opportunity to join our collective fan base and cultures on and off the field. FaZe Clan will continue to push the boundaries of gaming and esports by engaging our fans with experiences that are meaningful, memorable and surprising.”

And Manchester City are not alone in this venture, either. In fact, more and more professional football clubs are transitioning into esports - with the likes of fellow Premier League clubs Chelsea Football Club, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and more all having official esports players to represent them on the digital stage.

But this is not a new trend. Similar to Manchester City in terms of social consciousness, Ligue 1 juggernauts, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), have been at this for donkeys. And their esports division is barely even linked to football. You see a lot of football clubs partner with esports teams with the intention of representation in FIFA football competitions, because that makes sense right? But oh no, that doesn’t work for the renegades at PSG, and it’s made them a fortune.

PSG’s official flagship team - the Chinese titans PSG:LGD - are masters of Dota 2; a hugely competitive online multiplayer which requires teamwork in order to thrive and conquer. They are also massive on League of Legends, Brawl Stars and Rocket League, in addition to FIFA.

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The logic behind their widespread success in esports is pretty simple, and yet completely brilliant: offering a larger pool of PSG branded content means more people can connect with them - regardless of an interest in football or not. Why alienate an enormous demographic of highly skilled, prize-money-gobbling players just because they might not watch Neymar Jr. do some rainbow flicks?

Consequently, other clubs are now following suit - widening their player pools by introducing new games into the fold. Manchester City’s partnership with FaZe Clan will likely mirror this too, as the team’s most favoured titles include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Fortnite Battle Royale.

What football clubs bring to the table in these agreements is heritage, identity, and devoted fanbases. Although esports is frequently dubbed as “the fastest growing sport of all-time”, it is still in a level of infancy compared to the terraces. The organic, deep-rooted culture of football has been amounted over generations, and that’s something esports simply cannot replicate overnight.

What it can do however is offer a portal to the future of the football club in question’s brand. It can attract new audiences - perhaps even bring people into the fold who have never even had an interest in the beautiful game before - and it enables longstanding institutions such as these to become more connected than ever before. Plus, well, it can make a lot of money.

Because, as we’ve already established, football doesn’t just start and end on the pitch. It lives and breathes in everything we do. When you pair it with gaming, you elevate that level of influence, impact and interactivity tenfold. So where does this leave you and your club? Well dear reader, you’re in luck. You made a good choice opening this article today.

HYPD is actively seeking partnerships and brand activations with football clubs; breaking the mould and thrusting them into the future. We’re attracting the best players and have the foundations to stage our very own gaming tournaments, in addition to entering professional players into elite competitions on the football club’s behalf.

With our diverse array of facilities and gaming experiences, HYPD is a market leader in the video game events sector, and we’re always looking for new opportunities to explore. Why not drop us a line and we can discuss yours today?

For more information on how HYPD can work with your football club, contact chris@hypdgaming.com