The NBA Becomes First Sports League In US To Create An Esports League
Esports Betting Report

Commissioner Silver Launches NBA 2K ELeague As Esports, Traditional Sports Marry Up

Silver NBA 2K Eleague
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick announced plans to launch a new esports league.

The NBA 2K eLeague, at a glance

The NBA 2K eLeague will kick off in 2018 with five-person esports teams playing for their sponsor NBA teams using Take-Two’s NBA 2K series of video games.

Initially, eight to twelve of the NBA teams will field esports teams. Silver said that eventually all 30 teams will be represented in the new eleague.

Teams will go through the virtual equivalent of the traditional draft process to select their players. The combine and draft will either be televised or streamed online.

Silver said:

“We believe we have a unique opportunity to develop something truly special for our fans and the young and growing eSports community. We look forward to combining our best-in-class NBA sports team operators with Take-Two’s competitive gaming expertise to create a brand new league experience.”

For Take-Two, Zelnick added:

“Through the NBA 2K series, which is renowned throughout the world for capturing the authenticity of the NBA and the passion of its fans, we have a proven track record of highly successful collaboration. With this new venture, Take-Two and the NBA aim to fuel the accelerating growth of eSports and take the thrill of competition to exciting new heights.”

France provided the blueprint for the partnership

The deal has received a huge twitter response, including comments that the deal is the first of its kind.

However, a similar deal is already up and running in France. In November of last year, all 20 French soccer teams in Ligue 1 launched the e-LEAGUE 1 in partnership with EA Sports. EA owns the FIFA 17 game.

At the time, ESBR suggested that the deal provided a template for other traditional sports to follow.

Plenty of traditional sports clubs have expressed their enthusiasm for esports. Franchises have employed a variety of strategies, ranging from sponsoring individual players to buying full spectrum esports teams.

For sports where a popular video game version exists, the e-LEAGUE1 and NBA 2K eLeague are the most natural routes into exploiting the growing enthusiasm for esports. The difficulty is getting all the teams in a league to jump on board.

Silver explained the motivation in a comment to the Associated Press:

“There’s going to be an opportunity for this first of a kind league to attract a group of gamers who might be playing some other game. Now, they can say ‘Maybe I couldn’t play for the Knicks, because I didn’t have the physical prowess to compete at that level. But I do have the mental and physical prowess to compete as an egamer for the eKnicks.”

League deals with esports games are a win-win

The size of the esports audience is not the only attractor bringing sports leagues and teams into the sector. Esports fans are extremely attractive as a demographic. They earn more than average, and they have a high level of engagement with their chosen esports.

Traditional teams face competition from esports for viewing time. Binding fans into the club brand by matching the live sports offer with an esports offer provides a strong defensive strategy.

The synergy created can support fan retention and extend the amount of time that fans devote to their favorite team. Ultimately this will feed through to increased revenues and profits.

The video game developers can lock in a multi-year deal with the sports league, and with the direct sponsorship of clubs establish themselves as the go-to game for supporters of that particular sport.

With both sides set to benefit, and an audience of esports fans being offered a closer relationship with their traditional sports counterparts, the partnership looks like being a win-win for all involved.

No doubt more such partnerships will arrive soon.

Image credit: Business Wire

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Joss Wood
- Former editor of Poker Industry Pro, gambling industry expert focused on legal online gambling and sports betting issues. For ESBR, Joss spotlights the intersection of the burgeoning esports industry with that of gambling.