By Rob Carey
Online gaming as an industry has only been growing since its inception in the 1980s and 1990s, and has reached whole new levels this decade, as streaming and cloud platforms begin to draw in huge amounts of new players.
Football teams from domestic leagues all around the world are naturally looking to such huge companies for some sponsorship support in return for pasting their brand all over shirts, stadiums, and websites.
Here we take a look at the online gaming companies who over time have built special relationships with some of the biggest leagues and clubs in the world. Which of these classic shirt sponsors and stadium sponsors do you remember and what link ups could there be between the gaming and football worlds in the future?
French Ligue 1 has always liked gaming
The French top tier is all the rage at the moment, as Neymar, Messi and Mbappé all light up the league on a weekly basis for the cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain.
However, long before domestic French football was fashionable, there were online gaming companies who saw the potential in its worldwide reach and appeal; paying to have their brands plastered across everything from kits to advertising hoardings. Just some of the online gaming companies to have been involved with French clubs are PlayStation, who sponsored Auxerre for a time, as well as PokerStars and Atari, both of which sponsored Olympique Lyonnais at different stages of their development as one of the most dominant football clubs in France – before PSG came along.
With TV revenues sharply falling in the French leagues after a deal went sour with their television network partners, there is no doubt that more French clubs will be reaching out to online gaming companies very soon.
Huge companies sometimes plump for footballing minnows
While many of the French sponsorship deals mentioned above occurred many moons ago, there are more recent tie-ins being negotiated between clubs and gaming companies. However, some of these are coming in surprising forms, such as Amazon Prime Gaming’s deal with lowly Stevenage.
Perhaps this is just the gaming and online streaming giant dipping its toe in the murky waters of football sponsorship, before they make a big play to feature on the shirts of teams like Manchester City or Liverpool. It also probably has something to do with the fact that Stevenage have been one of the most forward-thinking clubs when it comes to online gaming and online marketing, with the club already having benefited from a viral Burger King ad campaign as well as creating its very own Esports platform called Stevenage FC eSports Arena. Much bigger English clubs should sit up and take note!
Teams close to gaming headquarters often benefit Most
Another obvious trend when it comes to shirt sponsorship deals signed by gaming companies are that despite being online businesses with global reach, they like to keep things local. This is evidenced by the number of teams that are situated near online gaming company HQs having sponsorship deals from said companies.
Some good examples of this are MLS side the Seattle Sounders, who until recently had Xbox emblazoned on their first team’s chests, because Microsoft has offices based in Seattle. The same trend applies in Asia, where the Osaka-based Capcom sponsored their local Cerezo Osaka football team. Of course, once one Japanese gaming company has a J-League shirt sponsor on their books, all the others must rush to save face. This means that other clubs like Tokyo Verdy (Konami) and JEF United (SEGA) have also garnered the backing of locally based gaming companies.