Athletes turn to gaming
This week saw British F1 driver Lando Norris launch his own esports team, Quadrant.
If you have been following the driver in 2020 it is no surprise that this has happened. Lando has been a regular gamer this year, competing in many virtual racers during lockdown 1. These streams, have allowed fans to connect with the young British driver whether that be in his bedroom or on the side of a track, and have resulted in his online presence growing rapidly - his Twitch following has jumped from 185k to 600k and his Insta nearly doubling to 2.3m since the start of lockdown
Racing will be the focus for Lando's team, but he wants to slowly build a team that competes across other esports too. As we have seen with many other esport organisations (100 Thieves), Lando's team will have a content arm to it which will be sure to show the team's journey. I'm sure it won't be long before we see original content, merchandise and many brand deals happening for Lando and his team Quadrant.
Lando isn't the first athlete to create their own esport teams, with the likes of Gareth Bale and Romain Grosjean coming before, and he certainly won't be the last. More and more athletes will become involved with esports and gaming, as they fear missing out on this opportunity to connect with their audience. Lockdown 1 shined a light on some of the athetes who are big esport and gaming fans, whether that was showing them competing in organised events or seeing them stream playing with friends.
As more athletes become involved, a judgement day will come for the traditional teams, league owners and sponsors, as esports and gaming will begin to merge with the real thing. What restrictions will be placed on athletes competing in esports and gaming? Can a Dele Alli play as Barcelona in FIFA or will he just have to play for Spurs? Are teams and leagues happy to see athletes playing more aggressive games? Will athletes' behaviours be monitored when gaming? Will there be time restrictions placed on when and how much athletes can game?
What we do know is athletes' involvements in esports and gaming will continue to grow in 2021, some will follow the likes of Lando and build their own teams, others will join established esport teams, while some may just continue to grow their online presence through regular participation. So don't be surprised to see more conversations happening around the athlete's contracts with their teams, leagues and sponsors with regards to how esports and gaming sits within them. Big opportunities ahead, but it will need some careful handling.