Overwatch League Will Require New, Unique Team Branding
Overwatch League officials have mandated that all teams participating in the inaugural season of OWL create new brands and team names unique to this league. Endemic esports teams often field several teams in different games all competing under the same team brand (ex: CLG League of Legends, CLG Counter Strike, CLG Hearthstone, etc.). OWL teams have started new entities to control their OWL teams although no team names have been released yet.
While Activision Blizzard has been under much scrutiny for the economics behind the OWL, requiring all teams to create new team brands for their Overwatch franchise is not an absurd request. This mandate makes sense for the upstart league but does raise new, interesting questions for the future of the teams and league.
Endemic esports organizations like Immortals and Misfits have had time to grow their fan base in esports, an advantage that new ownership groups without esports experience cannot enjoy. Out of fairness to all groups that spent $20M to enter this league, it seems logical to ask each group to start from the same starting position when building a fan base. It will still be clear which teams are owned by endemic esports organizations however, it will be especially interesting to observe how the city affiliations will translate into fandom. In LA, where Immortals and Stan Kroenke’s group will both call LA home, how will each use their LA roots to establish themselves as the dominant team in town?
From the league’s perspective, mandating new team brands also seems like a decision intended to keep OWL revenues within the league and to develop OWL partners. Endemic esports organizations are able to use revenue generated from their more financially successful esports teams to grow the org and invest in other esports teams. By requiring OWL teams create unique brands owned by separate entities than say, their Hearthstone team, it adds an obstacle to moving the funds away from OWL. However, endemic teams will likely use resources and staff members that work with other esports teams, taking away time that would go to developing and growing those teams’ infrastructure.
The NBA could add other esports titles in the future, in addition to their NBA 2K League
Brendan Donohue, the Managing Director of the upcoming NBA esports league for NBA 2K18, said this past weekend at Gamescom that while they are currently very focused on building out the NBA 2K League, they could be interested in adding additional esports titles down the road.
Thus far, the NBA has been one of the most progressive sports leagues in embracing esports and this position only further solidifies it. While other leagues mainly view themselves through the lens of their respective sports, the NBA see themselves as not only the pinnacle of professional basketball but also a robust marketing and operations platform in 30 major North American markets. The NBA immediately offers an esports title:
- A built-in fan base
- Established marketing channels
- Instant brand recognition
- Elite facilities for live events and practices
- League Operations experience
- Merchandise production and distribution capabilities
It will be interesting to see if an ecosystem emerges where several professional sports leagues build out their esports league operations to compete for esports titles. Would these leagues then compete or bid for games, with publishers deciding which is best for the longevity of their game (and respective unit sales/in-game purchases)?
This also begs the questions if game publishers should be operating their own leagues or if they should focus on their core business of producing the best possible IP?
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- NCAA to consider adopting esports