Why are so many football clubs suddenly active in eSports?

Credit: SV Werder Bremen

The Virtual Bundesling (VBL) is entering its third season in Germany. The competition is enjoying a new record number of participants. Twenty-six clubs from the first and second Bundesliga are sending gamers into the virtual German championship race. But why are the clubs taking part in the competition? What motivates clubs to sign up gamers and start their eSport team?

Consumer behaviour has changed within the younger target group


More and more young people are turning away from classic football. Generation Z stars are no longer standing on the pitch and playing football at the weekend in Cologne, Bremen or Munich, but are sitting in front of a screen with the controller in their hand. And this often in front of several thousand fans. A huge problem, especially for smaller professional football clubs. Sports fans usually choose their favourite club until the age of 14. They then often swear allegiance to their favourite club.


Therefore, it is of particular importance for the clubs to reach young people. And this is best achieved when the stars of the young people are on the road on behalf of the club. FC Schalke 04's sportsman Tim Latka, for example, has a proud 222,000 subscribers on YouTube. He regularly plays live for his fans. And that on behalf of Schalke 04.



Clubs want to pick up young people in theire familiar environmet

For many clubs, the advance within eSports is that they can pick up young people in an environment that is familiar to them. Virtual football plays a significant role in this. Especially for smaller clubs, which hardly can win big titles in real football, eSport offers an excellent opportunity to generate positive headlines for young fans. Besides, participation in tournaments such as the VBL can generate extra attention. Through strong performances in the VBL, the clubs can gain publicity in an alternative way, which is mostly reserved for the big clubs in real football.


Of course, the clubs' primary goal is to turn the supporters of the eSport team into fans of the team on the real pitch. But even if this does not succeed and clubs only find sympathisers of the eSport sector, the entry into eSport has already been worthwhile. Because the financial risk of entering is manageable. To make participation in the VBL attractive to as many clubs as possible, the DFL subsidises the teams' start.

eSports opens the door to new sponsoring deals

In addition to attracting new fans, esports offers clubs another great opportunity. Through eSport, the clubs suddenly become attractive for a completely new group of sponsors. Through its participation in eSports, 1.FC Nürnberg, for example, was able to win the in-ear monitoring manufacturer Hörluchs as a partner. Also, for other companies, especially those with a young target group, entry as an advertising partner of the team's eSport sector is lucrative.

New way to communicate

By working together with the gamers, the football clubs can win new sponsors who were not previously interested in cooperation. Many clubs increasingly rely on increased communication through social media. Most clubs have their own social media profiles for their eSports department, ensuring that the new fans can be addressed directly by the gamers through the new sponsors.


Often gamers and partners open the club a new social media range. With this, it is easy to generate target group-specific content. The content can be tailored precisely to young people. On the relevant platforms such as Twitch, for example, real football would not work.


Thus, eSport opens completely new doors. Participation in tournaments or championships such as the VBL also creates extra attention. Here fans can be emotionally bound to the club. If their favourite gamer wears the club's jersey during the competition, this creates completely new possibilities for the clubs to emotionally engage the young people.


In summary, especially clubs who participate in real football with manageable success have to fight for new fans and sponsors by all means. The cooperation with influencers and gamers opens up target groups that were utterly unreachable until recently and offered the team an optimal possibility to counteract fans' loss.