Paris Saint-Germain, the revered Ligue 1 club, recently announced a partnership with LGD Gaming, China’s most popular eSport team.
Since 2016, the French club has piloted several teams in eSport competitions, where video game players compete against each other, broadcast live and online to a wide audience. Paris Saint-Germain works in collaboration with several teams, who play on as many different games like FIFA, League of Legends, and now with LGD Gaming, Defense of the Ancients 2, better known as Dota 2.
LGD Gaming is without a doubt the first Chinese team. Internationally, at an annual Dota 2 tournament, one of the team’s players, called Forever Young, finished third and won a prize of $2,592,231.
The partnership was announced at a joint press conference in Shanghai with Fabien Allègre, Director of Merchandising and Diversification at Paris Saint-Germain, Yassine Jaada, CGO of PSG eSports, and Xuan Li and Jie Pan, respectively Strategy Director and CEO of LGD Gaming.
“This partnership is a perfect fit with our development strategy,” said Yassine Jada during the conference. This union will benefit from LDG Gaming’s management, operation and influence in the country, as well as the commercial value and the Paris Saint-Germain brand.
Double the bet
Like many European football clubs, Paris Saint-Germain has been trying for years to establish themselves on the Chinese market, but with mixed results.
For years, the best European clubs have played pre-season matches in Hong Kong and China, seeking to internationalize their brands. In recent years, however, many clubs have finally chosen to play in the United States.
Historically, English Premier League teams have been more popular in China than their European neighbors. Paris Saint-Germain has therefore recently sought to reduce this gap. Until 2015, the club had never played any preparatory matches in Asia but had already played in Africa and North America.
Many executives, such as Arsène Wenger at Arsenal and Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United, have strongly criticized the tax that these pre-season games cost players. While coach Laurent Blanc has defended this practice. Paris Saint-Germain also looked for the best ways to maximize the brand’s international potential, while asking players to do as little as possible.
This week, Paris Saint-Germain also partnered with the marketing agency Desports to manage its communication and marketing in China. The partnership will run until the summer of 2021. Earlier this year, both Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille played with the names of the players transcribed into Chinese on their jerseys.
The best of all worlds
eSports are very popular in China and, for many companies, have replaced traditional sports as a market entry point.
By 2016, marketing for eSports was worth nearly $280 million, influence marketing and sponsorship. This figure should easily exceed $1 billion by 2021. And by 2024, it could even become an Olympic discipline in its own right.
Famous Chinese brands, such as the brewer Harbin, have even turned to video game competitions to market their products. Anhuesr-Busch Inbev, the owner of Harbin, conducted a study in 2015 on Chinese men between the ages of 18 and 29: they found that the study group responded more positively to eSports than to traditional sports, food or music.
And the Chinese eSports landscape reflects this enthusiasm. The Zhongxian E-Sports Stadium, a new stadium located in Chongqing in the south-west of the country, is under construction and could accommodate 7,000 spectators for eSport events alone. The structure should open mid-2018.
Some universities have even started offering courses on eSports management and marketing. It is an industry that is developing massively in China, but also abroad. At the end of March, the Las Vegas Strip saw the opening of a new eSport arena, sponsored by a Chinese company, Allied eSports.