Soccer Esports in Europe: Brands, Partnerships, and Business Opportunities in Professional Football

Soccer Esports in Europe: Brands, Partnerships, and Business Opportunities in Professional Football

Remco M. Beek, Jos F. Verschueren, Inge Derom
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7300-6.ch006
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The commercial playing field of association football (soccer) has radically changed due to the professionalization of soccer simulation games into soccer esports. This new phenomenon is woven into the international soccer culture as global communities arise in the interconnection of professional soccer clubs, esports players, and fans. Global brands explore the opportunities to engage with these communities through partnerships. This chapter examined soccer esports cases in European soccer to (1) clarify the rise of soccer esports based on four stages of globalization (digital, social, geographical, and commercial), (2) categorize the brands involved in this complex ecosystem, and (3) identify business opportunities in brand strategies, attractiveness of the game, and sponsorship partnerships to improve the value co-creation processes for the soccer industry. This current state and future pathways support decision-makers in the sports industry and serves as a reorienting perspective for scholars to bridge the gap between business practice and academic inquiry in research and education.
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The Rise Of Soccer Esports

With various interpretations of what the esports industry actually encompasses, distinction is made between amateur participation in tournaments (i.e., focus on participation not on entertaining viewers), competitive games in general (i.e., non-organized live-streaming market, also known as game streaming), and esports (Newzoo, 2020). Esports is defined as professional and semi-professional competitive gaming in an organized format, such as a tournament or league, with a specific goal or prize such as winning a championship title or prize money (Newzoo, 2020). Esports in the context of video simulation games of traditional sports refer to the virtual esports as defined by the International Olympic Committee (International Olympic Committee, 2021). As the history of soccer videogames has a playfield that is by default international, it is important to define the growth of brands, partnerships, and business opportunities in relation to the processes of globalization. In this rise of soccer esports and the formation of its ecosystem, new business models have been created as more densely networked patterns and brands positioned themselves within global networks (Little et al., 2017). Previous contributions defined the stages of globalization in soccer, including geographical, commercial, digital and social globalization (Beek et al., 2018). These globalization stages enabled understanding the historical developments and the current state of the ecosystem, although these phases and patterns are continuous processes without evident origin or expected ending. Traditional professional soccer grew, first, by their physical attendances of fans in ever-growing stadiums and the migration of players started thereafter a geographical movement. The involvement of commercial organization in these local communities and digital improvements in broadcasting subsequently enabled linkages of regional clubs with wider international audiences that added a social engagement aspect.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Value Co-Creation: In perspective of the service-dominant logic, dominant in behavioral economics, it is a form of collaborative innovation and development. This process is about the application of humans’ competences to benefit others and reciprocally benefit from others’ applied competences through service-for-service exchange.

Soccer Esports: This virtual sport developed from soccer simulation video games to professional and semi-professional competitive gaming in an organized format (tournament or league) with a specific goal such as winning championship titles or prize money.

Soccer: Association football (soccer) is the physical team sport played with a spherical ball between two teams of 11 players and the world’s most popular sport.

Sponsorship Partnerships: The involvement of corporates in a community, developed from ad hoc projects into integrated structures. In this chapter, it is referring to the alliances and interplay between brands in the soccer and soccer esports ecosystem.

Community: Groups of individuals who are collectively engaged in a domain and share activities and experiences in this group. In this chapter this is mainly related to the domains of soccer and soccer esports.

Globalization: The process of the integrations of international markets with the benefits and dis-benefits of changing economic relationships with four stages (digital, social, geographical, and commercial globalization) in the context of soccer and soccer esports.

FIFA: The soccer simulation game by Electronic Arts Sports (FIFA in soccer esports) and the abbreviation of the worldwide soccer association Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA in soccer).

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