According to reporting from Kevin Hitt in the Esports Observer, the Call of Duty League (CDL) and the Overwatch League (OWL) are planning on relaxing their stance on betting and alcohol sponsors for the two events.
This would mean that teams taking part in either of the two leagues would be able to take on sponsors from the betting and alcohol industries. They had previously balked at the idea of these generally 18 plus products and experiences sponsoring teams that take part in their events. This would be a huge boon to the two esports as they have been flagging in popularity compared to the giants of the esports world.
Both of these leagues, run by Activision-Blizzard, had previously operated on a location-based business model. They were dependent on fans buying tickets to live and in-person events around the world. After Covid hit the globe, this plan did not seem so profitable. Leagues, organizers, and teams all needed some major investment and the best way to get a quick cash influx is get a sponsor.
There are plenty of companies that are open to sponsoring esports organizations but cutting off such a major stream of revenue from alcohol and betting companies is very short sighted. There are only so many gaming companies that want to sell you mouse pads and gaming chairs willing to sponsor teams, eventually you will need to expand and look for companies like esports betting sites.
There are plenty of good reasons to be wary of betting and alcohol sponsorships and much has been written about the importance of protecting children from harmful influences. The important thing to note is the average esports fan. According to a report from Esports Charts and the International Data Corporation, the average age for a fan of esports is 32. Far from an impressionable youth.
By broadening their horizons, Activision-Blizzard will allow teams that may be hurting from the pandemic and lockdown to continue operating without fear of becoming bankrupt. It seems silly to say but companies would not sponsor esports events if they didn’t think they could get something from it.
Outside of the Call of Duty League and the Overwatch League there have been plenty of betting and alcohol related sponsorships. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has had plenty of betting sponsorships and as a result of their relatively lax approach to regulating team sponsorships, both the esport and the sponsors have seen a major bump in popularity.
Call of Duty and Overwatch are not the most popular esports titles in the scene, but esports betting sites could be more open to Call of Duty betting if they were able to sponsor teams taking part in official events. This could be a huge benefit for the teams and the sponsors, they could grow each other’s business and their reach. People would be more likely to start betting on Overwatch matches if that was presented to them as a viable option.