COVID Chronicles: How the Esports Industry Is Keeping Sports Alive

COVID Chronicles: How the Esports Industry Is Keeping Sports Alive

COVID Chronicles: How the Esports Industry Is Keeping Sports Alive banner

The past few months have been difficult for many across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As leaders and medical professionals shifted to inform and guide us towards a new normal, our world has become different. I am a sports, entertainment, and event management educator and consultant, and this pandemic immediately pulled our industry into the spotlight. Instantly, we saw our favorite concerts and athletic competitions canceled. I recall getting ready to watch the NBA game between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder back in March. Immediately following, I received an email from one of my students who mentioned he heard that a Utah Jazz NBA player had tested positive for the virus. I heard the initial concern and then excitement in his voice as he broke the news to me. We later came to find out that the affected player was Rudy Gobert. The NBA immediately suspended the season, triggering a domino effect that instantly shut down the industry. Other major leagues including the NHL, MLS, MLB all followed suit, and the NFL was forced to host a virtual, at-home draft special instead of the in-person event they were planning. However, with the pandemic hitting us all across the globe, there was one segment of our sports and entertainment industry that continued to thrive: Esports.

A New Wave

Like most sports fans, I am missing watching professional sports live. On one Saturday afternoon, as I flipped through a few channels on TV, I stopped on ESPN when I heard the announcer broadcasting the event with such excitement that it leads me to believe there was a replay of a live sports competition. After waiting for a few seconds, I came to the realization that I was watching the EA Sports FIFA ‘20 Stay and Play Cup – a video game tournament between professional international soccer athletes.

The following week, I hosted a guest speaker for one of my event production classes, a gamer named Famous Enough. His real name is Derric Franklin. Derric spoke to my students about Esports and the game of NBA 2K, specifically, where he is a general manager and coach. Can you imagine being compensated a salary, plus expenses of approximately $40,000 and an opportunity to split a prize purse of up to $1 million for just six months of work? According to Famous Enough, this is the case for his six Esports athletes per team.

If you are doing the math, that is approximately $200,000 and it doesn’t even include the marketing and sponsorship endorsements that each athlete could potentially earn. Esports is definitely the new wave, as my middle son would say.

Virtual Sponsorship

Esports offers more than just an outlet for athletes to compete as a team. One day during the stay home orders, my youngest son began screaming in excitement because Travis Scott was performing live in his Fortnite video game. (If you have yet to hear about Fortnite, I encourage you to look into it because your teenager could very well be the next great player to earn a prize pool of $3 million dollars, like Kyle Giersdorf, age 16, who beat millions of players on his way to winning the first-ever Fortnite World Cup).

I filmed what I was witnessing with my son, and used it as content to share with students in my online Concert & Event production class at JWU. This was a popular artist using his platform to monetize his brand and he did so without having to leave his house. The millions of impressions that came from the stream of gamers went further than any live concert at an arena or venue could have achieved.

What we are witnessing is the world of esports and gaming is a multi-billion-dollar industry that is growing more so now than ever before.

Stay-At-Home Sports Careers

Jobs are becoming more prevalent in the Esports industry. Opportunities include team ownership, land gaming center operators, media broadcast professionals, content creators, streamers, coaches, trainers, athletes, agents, business managers, developers, consultants, camp operators, and many, many more. Conduct a search on LinkedIn and you will notice the increase in jobs under the category of Esports. The virtual gaming world is here to stay, and I am happy to be a part of it.

Recently, I spoke on a virtual panel developed and produced by a company called Gamerjibe. They hosted a Virtual Career Fest over the span of one week with top speakers from across the country. My panel, titled ‘How to Build a Career in Esports, Gaming and Content Creation,’ discussed how professionals, as well as students, are jumping in to find the next big opportunity in Esports.

Esports & JWU

Our SEEM program at Johnson & Wales University offers courses that prepare future industry professionals to thrive in the Esports space. I like to compare the Esports movement to the academic discipline of Sports Management 20 or 25 years ago, when many were still unsure as to how one could obtain a degree in the business of sports. Fast forward to present day, and we have seen hundreds of programs across the world focusing on some form of sports, entertainment, and or event management. Esports is no different.

Our JWU Providence campus boasts a newly-created Esports Athletic team. The North Miami campus, where I am located, has a club team with students focusing on various games from League of Legends to Overwatch, Rocket League, Smash Bros, and sports titles like Madden and NBA 2K.

Esports is definitely a cool industry filled with opportunities that continue to evolve. Now, I’m going to attempt to find some downtime to build my NBA 2K career avatar and live out the dream of playing professionally. Let’s see if I have what it takes to compete with someone virtually!

Here at Johnson & Wales University, our mission is to deliver top-of-the-line education that inspires success and lifelong personal and intellectual growth. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected]. You can also learn more about our online sport administration programs.