Organized, competitive video gaming, or eSports, is an exploding industry. ESPN added an eSports tab to its banner alongside the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, Soccer, and NHL. Sports Illustrated has also taken note.
In 2016, the eSports industry nearly broke the half-billion-dollar mark at $493 million, according to market research firm Newzoo. The firm estimates 2017 numbers will be closer to $700 million.
Just how players and brands navigate sponsorship, content distribution, and everything else that goes with eSports as business is still being established, and the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center is positioning itself to lead the way as a source for information, as well as a potential cohost of eSports events.
“A lot of brands are seeing the participation in eSports—the engagement is off the charts—and asking how they can plug into that,” said Whitney Wagoner, Warsaw Sports Marketing Center director. “That’s where we come in. Sponsorship, analytics, fan engagement—it’s what we do. Adding eSports programming is a natural extension of our offerings for our students and industry partners.”
Despite its rocketing popularity, Wagoner said no other academic programs own the eSports space. But that doesn’t indicate a lack of interest.
“There isn’t a go-to resource for the business and economic value of eSports properties,” she said. “We want to be the flag wavers for eSports on campus, in the Pac 12, and beyond.”
The Lundquist College is already blazing that trail. Wagoner moderated a panel on fan consumption patterns and other topics at the inaugural Lagardère Sports eSports Rising conference hosted by SportsBusiness Daily in November. The panel also featured two sports business MBA candidates, Will McGirl and Justin Surber. Both said they came to the Oregon MBA to study at the Warsaw Center with the intention of entering the eSports space.
“The fan experience panel was an eye-opener to executives from more traditional properties, and an affirmation to the thousands upon thousands of eSports players and fans who have been telling us ‘we want this,’” Wagoner said.
“In 2018, the Warsaw Center will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and as we look ahead to what’s next with passion and enthusiasm,” she said. “eSports is a rapid-growth industry with near limitless scaling potential that is truly global. It makes sense to leverage the resources and expertise the Warsaw Center has been honing for the past quarter-century, and we aim to do just that.”