It is no surprise that betting companies have identified opportunities in the esports market as it is experiencing rapid growth.
As a result, bookmakers – endemic and non-endemic – are rapidly changing the sponsorship landscape, in much the same way that betting participation now dominates most traditional European sports.
Image credit: Shutterstock
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Within traditional sports, there is debate as to how appropriate sponsorship betting is, with countries such as the UK having several advertising restrictions that limit advertisements to approximately match time (which is only intended to protect sports funding). were allowed) and may even limit who can join them. This has created minimum allowances for betting companies to advertise around the game. Nevertheless, the sports betting sector creates valuable sponsorship opportunities for many sports clubs.
In esports, the international level of competitive gaming tournaments is likely to further complicate gambling sponsorship, with legalities varying on a country-by-country basis as time goes on.
The esports betting ecosystem has already seen examples of uncertainty. Betting company GG Bet abandoned its sponsorship of Heroes last year after the Esports Integrity Commission banned CS:GO Coaches for integrity issues.
With iGaming (the industry’s preferred terminology for online gambling) companies moving into the sponsorship market, esports has seen a dramatic uptick in commercial revenue. It could also be a sign of a wider public perception of competitive gaming changing, with more people taking the view seriously.
Despite a few misfires and controversies, this market is here to stay, with organizations opening up new revenue sources along with sponsorship deals throughout CS:GO and Dota 2.
A Brief Introduction to Esports Betting
Like traditional sports, there are countless esports titles to bet on. As such, it is important to highlight which titles are classified as ‘Tier-One’ games within the esports betting sector. The ‘big three’ are CS:GO, League of Legends and Dota 2. The organizations associated with these titles are usually the teams that get the most attention from iGaming companies.
Sports simulation titles, such as FIFA, have also seen an uptick in betting activity. Some operators reported that this was especially prevalent during the pandemic when football and other traditional sports were not available.
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There was a time when many expected that Overwatch would be a major market for esports betting sites, however, this never actually happened. This highlights the risks of jumping on trends too quickly given production constraints as an esports bookmaker. Perhaps the next potential tier-one opportunity in the esports betting sector is Valorant, which is largely down to the game’s publisher Riot Games and its similarity to CS:GO from a betting perspective.
Major Industry Betting Partnerships
Most esports betting sponsorships are targeted at CS:GO, and there are a few reasons for this. One major reason is that the geographic audience of the title plays a major factor. It is impossible to supply South Korean and Chinese audiences as gambling is illegal. The United States is also complicated by state by state laws, meaning that sports with spectators outside these regions, for example in Europe, are far more attractive to potential betting sponsors. This leaves CS:GO as a precursor.
1XBet last year bypassed sponsoring specific esports organizations and went on to partner directly with ESL, one of the largest esports tournament organizers in the business. With the ESL running the CS:GO and Dota 2 leagues, the deal was seen as an important partnership for both the organizer and the sportsbook.
CS: GO esports series BLAST Premier has also forged an exclusive partnership with bookmaker Betway. With a range of content activations featuring Betway, Blast Premier integrates the bookmaker’s branding into its broadcasts.
Image Credits: FaZe Clan, Draft Kings
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2021 marked the beginning of significant development within US esports betting, opening up space for sponsorship. Most notably, DraftKings has teamed up with the leading North American gaming and esports organization FaZe Clan. The deal also includes sponsorship across players’ individual channels, making it one of the most prominent eSports betting team sponsorships ever.
A variety of DOTA 2 esports organizations have gained notable betting sponsorships. In 2021, PSG Esports, the esports arm of football club Paris Saint Germain, signed a partnership with Betway for their Dota 2 team PSG.LGD. This is perhaps one of the more obvious sponsorships football clubs have long been sponsored by sports betting companies.
Boom’s sponsorship is certainly one of the biggest deals out there from esports bookmaker rivalry. It can’t be tied to a single esports title as Boom operates teams in everything from Valorant and DOTA to mobile esports.
After back to back international championships in 2018 and 2019, OG secured a partnership with Fun88. In announcing the partnership, the organization claimed that betting has become part of the ecosystem, allowing fans to ‘connect even closer’ with teams. The deal included a variety of branded content manufactured with OG and Fun88, which has become the norm within esports collaborations. Ultimately, these deals open up a lot of engagement opportunities for both sides.
Team Spirit, another notable Dota 2 organization, had extended its partnership with bookmaker Parimatch, however, the deal was terminated after Russia’s invasion of Urkaine.
League of Legends
In terms of sponsorship betting, League of Legends is probably one of the strictest titles out there. Despite League of Legends having betting partners in several organizations, the competitive rulebook forbids the exposure of gambling brands. As a result, most of these partnerships are targeted at other teams in organizations, such as Fnatic’s partnership with Parimatch.
Screenshot Credits: G2 Esports / Betway
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As mentioned earlier, organizations within the CS:GO ecosystem have accumulated a multitude of betting partnerships throughout the years.
Interestingly, of the top 10 CS:GO teams according to ESL’s world ranking, six – Team Vitality, ENCE, FURIA Esports, Cloud9, Copenhagen Flames and Heroes – do not currently have betting partners.
Of the remaining four, NAVI has partnered with Betway in GG BET, FaZe Clan with Draft Kings, and both Ninjas in Pajamas and G2 Esports.
Due to CS: GO developer Valve’s practical approach to its esports titles, sponsorships within CS: GO are less restrictive, thus allowing teams to indulge in the financial benefits of sponsor betting. CS: GO’s lower audience age than other titles also makes sponsorship betting more prolific. Still, the fact that the game contains violent themes may turn some potential sponsors away.
Call of Duty Sponsorship Opportunities
Last year, Activision eased restrictions around partnerships for its Call of Duty (COD) and Overwatch titles, allowing gambling and alcohol sponsorships.
As a result, the London Royal Ravens became the first COD team to partner with a betting site in March 2021. It looks like this could be the beginning of a snowball effect within competitive Call of Duty, especially within the West. As a result, COD League is definitely a sight to keep an eye on when it comes to business opportunities.
What about FIFA betting?
In a twist of irony, EA iGaming is incredibly strict on sponsorship, despite a large number of football teams being sponsored by gambling companies in their games. Apart from image licensing rights for players and team jerseys, FIFA has little room for sponsors of betting.
Sponsorship from betting sites for Fortnite?
Similarly to EA, Epic Games is equally restrictive in Fortnite. The popularity of Fortnite among very young people would mean no betting sponsors anyway.
Chinese publisher Tencent owns a 40 percent stake in Epic Games, which could also affect the company’s stance on sponsorship betting because gambling is illegal in China.
What does mainstream betting sponsorship mean for esports?
There is a long list of pros and cons to securing an esports betting partner. The upsides are ultimately centered around creating more financial opportunities, increasing pressure to ensure fair play, and adding increased legitimacy to esports in the form of legitimate skill-based competitive pursuits.
Nevertheless, negatives include the ethics of possibly promoting gambling to unsuitable audiences, its implications for fan trust, and a potentially damaging eSports reputation if unfavorable betting sponsors enter the scene.
Image credit: Shutterstock
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Furthermore, when it comes to countries where gambling is strictly prohibited, there are sponsorship complications as well. Some of these, such as South Korea, are also large markets for export.
This could create problems for tournament organizers when it comes to potential streaming rights, as has happened in traditional sports. A prime example is the Welsh rugby team changing their sponsors from Breens (beer company) to Brawn in 2005 for some matches in France.
While it was certainly entertaining, it presented another set of potential issues for the industry and its overall perception. With such an international presence and audiences that are far more scattered, complying with multinational esports betting rules proves to be incredibly difficult.
Overall, esports gambling sponsorships have the potential to be a good thing for the industry at large due to the financial benefits they provide, although the sensitivity of betting and esports’ younger audiences will always be a cause for concern.
The biggest concern for the industry is that it could be, or arguably could be, dependent on revenue from sponsorship betting – and any regulation against it could be a rapid cause for alarm as teams and leagues tend to change sponsors. do scuffles. For example, the UK starting a review of the sponsorship of gambling in all sports in 2021 was a major cause of alarm for all sports that have become heavily dependent on the sector.
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In association with Jonathan Pearce, Gambling Advisor.