“We invest billions of won to tens of billions of won because we can sponsor teams such as Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Barcelona in the e-sports world and capture the global MZ generation.”
This is why companies that run League of Legends (LoL) professional gaming teams, such as T1 and Hanwha Life Esports, open their wallets every year. It is known that T1, the winning team of the 2023 LoL World Championship (aka Worlds Cup), which ended on the 19th, spent 18.3 billion won on club operating expenses last year, and the remaining nine teams in LoL Champions Korea (LCK) also invested between 7 billion won and 20 billion won. .
This is more than operating a basketball team, one of the four major professional sports in Korea, which spends an average of 6 to 7 billion won per year. Nevertheless, there is a clear reason why SK Square, Hanwha Life Insurance, KT, and Nongshim are investing large amounts of money in professional gaming teams. This is because LoL is something that hundreds of millions of people around the world are interested in. The LCK, the only Korean professional sports league to be exported, is currently being broadcast live in 7 languages.
In addition, as it is gaining enormous popularity among the MZ generation, which must be captured for the future of the company, more and more companies are creating a dedicated e-sports team and conducting marketing.
An e-sports industry official said, “In terms of soccer, the LCK is the same as the English Premier League and Spanish Primera Liga. Since it is the best league in the world, it is bound to cost a lot of sponsorship money.” He added, “In terms of international recognition, it is compared to baseball, soccer, volleyball, and basketball. “LoL professional gaming teams are overwhelming. In Korea, the number of companies showing interest in sponsoring professional gaming teams continues to increase as the promotional effect is great for people in their teens to 30s,” he explained.
Financial companies are most interested in sponsoring professional gaming teams. Hana Bank and Shinhan Bank are sponsoring T1 and DRX, respectively. KB Kookmin Bank has been working with the Live Sandbox team since 2020, and OK Savings Bank joined hands with the Brion team last May. It’s not just this. Woori Bank is actively promoting e-sports marketing as the main sponsor of the LCK.
An official from the financial sector said, “We are making various attempts to attract young customers, such as introducing financial products related to the teams we sponsor, such as Hana Bank and Shinhan Bank.” He added, “The age group that must be captured for the future of the company is in the 10s to 30s, and professional gaming teams are “We are achieving positive effects through this,” he said.
Among the teams in the LCK, the ones that receive the greatest promotional effect are those that participate in Worlds. Worlds, which determines the best teams in the world, is watched by more than 400 million gamers, so the promotional effect is beyond imagination.
An official from a professional gaming team said, “If you want to reach the top of the Worlds Cup, it is not a waste to spend 20 billion won a year. The power of the Worlds Cup in terms of marketing beyond e-sports is enormous,” and “This final is also not officially counted. Including China, approximately 500 million people were found to have watched the game. The highest number of concurrent users (PCU) was 6,402,760, far surpassing last year’s finals (5.17 million), which was the previous record, so companies are interested in sponsoring professional gaming teams. “It is bound to increase every year,” he emphasized.
The LCK made it mandatory for the 10 clubs to operate a second-tier team so that they can continue to be globally competitive. As it is important to consistently produce players with outstanding skills, most of the 10 clubs also operate a training team along with a second-tier team.
CEO Han, who runs a professional gaming team, said, “It may not be effective in the short term, but in the long term, player training is essential,” and added, “We are sparing no effort in providing all support, including accommodation and meals, so that the players can focus only on the game.” “There is a similar reason for hiring trainers separately,” he explained.
However, while most professional gaming teams are running at a loss, there are concerns about the rising cost of players every year. Faker, known as the face of e-sports, signed a contract renewal with T1 worth 10 billion won last year, and aces of top teams are also known to receive annual salaries of billions of won.