The professionalisation of Esports has continued at an unprecedented rate over the past year. With the announcement of franchising in League of Legends’ North American League Championship Series (NA LCS), Esports took another step toward traditional sports structures with the decision to have permanent partners and the creation of a Players Union.
Blizzard's Overwatch League (OWL) has also propelled the sport towards a more traditional structure with the decision to localise teams, a decision that should not only pay dividends for the partners of the OWL but also create a model for future Esports organisations to follow.
For most of Esports' history, leagues and teams have been tied to a specific location out of necessity. In order to cut costs, having all of your organisations in one place aids in efficiency and reduces operational costs (travel, accommodations, etc.) for the participating organisations.
With the recent influx of investment into Esports, teams, and leagues finally have the resources to branch out to other aspects of traditional sports, including localisation.
In traditional sports, the localisation of professional teams can create an instant connection between a potential fan-base and a new organisation. Instead of building your brand from scratch, a portion of the audience will be naturally inclined to follow your organisation over others.
This also increases the possible live attendance for the League as a whole by expanding the reach of the league to other markets. In League of Legends, fans who wish to see an event live in the US must either travel to the LCS Arena in California or hope for a Split Final or World Championship Stage to occur within a reasonable distance.
With the OWL, fans will have an opportunity to choose from multiple teams spread across the country, creating an opportunity to enjoy the live experience that further connects fans of Esports to those of traditional sports.
While we have seen organisations struggle to find their footing amongst fans in places such as the NA LCS, the teams of the OWL have seen immediate interest from fans in their home cities. In Houston, it was estimated over 600 fans attended the watch party for their first match, an encouraging sign as the teams look to move back to their home series in two years.
Having a team based in a specific city can also add ease to the marketing efforts of your organisation in both engaging your current fans or attracting new ones. With the OWL we have seen the use of billboards in a teams home market to advertise both the team and the start of the league, something that had never been previously implemented.This should only be the beginning of their marketing efforts as teams work to create connection with their communities.
Localisation of teams similar to that in the OWL should be a blueprint from which others in Esports can build upon, and will likely be the first of many to follow. It would not be surprising to find League of Legends NA LCS move to a similar model in the next five to ten years in an effort to capture a wider audience and stimulate growth for both League of Legends and Esports as a whole.
Written by - Christopher!