SBJ Esports: Fans of Yankees, Cubs show gaming crossover - Sports Business Journal

Epic Games wrapped up its two-week fundraiser for Ukrainian relief. By selling items in Fortnite, the company and its players raised $144 million to benefit several charities working to help people in Ukraine, such as the United Nations’ World Food Programme and chef Jose Andrés’ World Food Kitchen. Efforts like this and Extra Life — a charity in which gamers raise money for children’s hospitals — show that gamers can care for the world around them.

Now, if we can just unite to get so much of the toxic behavior and gender and racial discrimination out of esports and gaming. — Jason Wilson
Opening Day is as good a time as any to look at where the crossover is between fans of MLB and esports. An SBJ analysis of data from Zoomph shows that Yankees fans are the ones most into esports among the 30 MLB teams. In terms of affinity, fans of the Cubs, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Dodgers round out the top five.
The MLB fan bases that haven’t quite gotten on the esports bandwagon yet? The Padres, D-Backs, Marlins, Rays and Rockies. Where does your team rank? Check out the chart below — Jason Wilson.
The Minnesota Røkkr took advantage of hosting its first Call of Duty League Major last weekend, bringing potential sponsors in to experience the event — a move that has already led to follow-up talks. “Everyone that came was blown away by every part of the event,” said Version1 COO Brett Diamond, whose organization runs the Røkkr. “They walked away with a better understanding of what an esports event can be from a brand standpoint.”
Diamond noted 6,500 people made their way to Mystic Lake Casino Hotel just south Minneapolis for the four-day event. While the Røkkr and Vikings are both owned by the Wilf family, Diamond said that the company was deliberate in choosing not to host the esports event at a Vikings-owned venue, stressing the importance of “right-sizing your venue for any situation.”
“There will come a time where we can fill U.S. Bank stadium,” he said. But while the esports event was not held at a Vikings facility, there was still a connection to the team, as host venue Mystic Lake is a sponsor of the NFL team. Another key learning for Diamond was that the local audience was still interested in a hometown CDL team after two years of online-only competition. Around 65% of ticket sales came from Minnesota, with an additional 15% from other regional markets (Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota).
Version1 in its effort to deliver for fans even set up a Call of Duty esports museum exhibit in the venue to educate new fans on the history of the sport. The various attractions allowed fans to connect with the players and teams in a more authentic way. “If you walked through the casino floor in the evening, it was a really cool thing,” said Diamond. “You had some of the legends of the Call of Duty scene sitting at a table and fans not too far away.” — Trent Murray
Mystic Lake Casino played host to the Call of Duty League Major last week
With users putting out over 800 million tweets about gaming and esports to start 2022, the genre has become one of Twitter’s most-discussed topics. Twitter Gaming went through the data from Q1, and it showed an increase of 52% from the same period in 2021. Rishi Chadha, head of creator and gaming content partnerships at Twitter, sees a world where learning how to expertly navigate social media platforms is a must in any esports/gaming organization’s monetization model.

“Our intention with the platform, and what I’ve been really focusing on with my team, is how do we make sure that people can come to the platform and find a way to grow and engage their audiences?” Chadha told SBJ. “In addition to that, how can they build a business on the platform? You can use this platform to build a brand and grow your audience. From there, whether you’re playing still, or you’re not, you can use that audience, then monetize it in a way to build a business after you are done competing.”

Twitter metrics also reinforce that fact that gaming and esports has a global audience, one in which games and teams that may not be popular in North America can make big waves across the globe. It’s something Chadha had noticed about Apex Legends, an Electronic Arts-produced futuristic battle royale-hero shooter. “We actually see a significant amount of that conversation coming from regions like Japan, Chadha said of Apex. “Japan continues to be one of the top markets for gaming conversation, even over the United States. That’s been the trend for the past three years now.” 

Chadha says the platform is working on more ways to help those in the gaming/esports industry engage with their audiences — and one way is through Twitter Spaces. “We’re really excited to see how that continues to evolve,” he said. “The gaming audience has done a great job of leaning into that product.” — Kevin Hitt 
LaLiga North America extended its deal with Verizon to include esports competitions for two more years. The telecom brand will serve as the presenting partner for the eLaLiga All-Star Challenge. Last year’s inaugural event drew over 6,000 participants. This year, participants will compete for the chance to play FIFA 22 against popular LaLiga stars, a prize of up to $1,000 and a trip to Spain.

Verizon has greatly expanded the scope of its esports activity over the last 18 months. The company has deals in place with both major games and teams, such as Dignitas and the Valorant Champions Tour. Last week, it became a founding partner of Riot Games’ North American Wild Rift esports initiative.
The company has also sponsored numerous smaller events, such as the eLaLiga competition. Last year, Verizon became a foundational sponsor of the HBCU Esports League and teamed with Apple and Riot Games to host a preview competition for Wild Rift. — Trent Murray.
An esports title to keep an eye on could be Crossfire Stars, which just had the 10th anniversary of its five-day Crossfire Stars Grand Finals.
The game, published by South Korea-based Smilegate, has not yet developed into one of the globe’s bigger or more notable esports scenes since its launch in 2007, but it is currently played in 80 countries with around 8 million players. The game has developed something of an esports following in places like China, Brazil, Vietnam, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Smilegate was able to strike a deal with Amazon Gaming earlier this year for its Lost Ark, allowing for key exposure among Western Hemisphere games. But Crossfire Stars still flies under the radar in the U.S. A Smilegate spokesperson tell SBJ that videos for Crossfire Stars drew almost 420 million global views last year — a big number, and a testament to the reach the game has built.  

Crossfire Stars could be an untapped opportunity in the U.S. for sponsors seeking a loyal esports audience. Smilegate remains the only brand affiliated with its marquee Grand Finals event, but is “considering inviting sponsors in the near future.” — Jason Wilson
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