Whilst the Pittsburgh Steelers were narrowly beaten by the Jacksonville Jaguars in last season’s NFL playoffs, the team is looking beyond football to invest in the world of esports. It was revealed in late 2018, that the Steelers would be partnering up with the professional esports team, Pittsburgh Knights. The move will benefit both teams by sharing the huge fanbases from both parties and it was one of the first moves by an NFL team to get involved with competitive gaming.
Pittsburgh Knights have made a good name for themselves in playing esports ranging from battle royale titles like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds to first person shooters such as Call of Duty. Whilst the esports team have only been around since late 2017, they have already managed to reach the PUBG World Finals to show their immense gaming talents in front of a global viewing audience of over 60 million viewers.
Thanks to the expertise of local esports entrepreneurs, Rob Lee and James O’Connor, the Pittsburgh Knights have become real contenders in the competitive gaming realm. But like any other sport, money is hugely important in taking things up a level which is where the new deal with Pittsburgh Steelers comes in.
In order for the esports team to fully partake in the inaugural year of the PUBG Pro League, they have sought the assistance of the Steelers. This will provide the Pittsburgh Knights will plenty of extra funds for training, and the Steelers have stated that they will also help the esports team gain from their experience and skill sets.
It might seem like a surprising move for the Steelers to get involved with esports. But recently we have seen many top sporting teams aim to diversify their brand names and attract a younger demographic through similar partnership deals. For example, the Golden State Warriors decided to invest in a League of Legends team and it marked a wise move to try and break into the world’s most popular esport that even has betting resources such as www.lolbettingsites.com dedicated to it.
Whilst many popular US sports like NASCAR racing have embraced the esports trend, football has been slow on the take-up. Despite this, we have seen some movement with there even being positions appointed to govern the introduction of esports into the NFL. The EA Sports Madden games have already proven to be massive hits with the footballing community, and whilst there are competitive gaming leagues for this title, it hasn’t benefited from the clear organisation and tournament structure as has been witnessed with the likes of NBA2K.
But with the Pittsburgh Steelers making the claim for being one of the first football teams to take esports seriously, there is real hope that many other top teams might follow suit. We have also seen the New England Patriots boss, Robert Kraft, investing funds in buying an Overwatch League franchise, whilst the Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, has even helped set up the esports betting site, Unikrn.
As traditional sports broadcasters like ESPN start to devote more time to cover esports, we can expect many other NFL teams to get interested. It’s important to remember that Super Bowl LIII was only watched by 98.2 million people, whereas the last major League of Legends esports tournament was viewed by well over 200 million people worldwide. As a result, we might expect to see something of a goldrush amongst football teams to try and harness new fans through their involvement with esports. So, whilst the Steelers’ investment in esports may look surprising, it could work out to be a very shrewd business move.