A few years ago, Germany’s biggest soccer teams noticed they had a problem: The age of the average fan had reached 42 – older than the target demographic that most advertisers covet. But efforts to attract younger supporters with traditional marketing and promotion weren’t working. “Everyone between 14 and 30 is super difficult to reach,” says Constantin Rittmann, German country representative for the Swiss e-sports agency MYI Entertainment. “They don’t watch TV or listen to the radio, but they’re all gaming.”
So football clubs decided to go where the kids were. Nowadays, iconic German football clubs like Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen “field” teams to play virtual soccer and compete in tournaments featuring games like League of Legends, Smash Bros. and Fortnite.
With football clubs lending the scene legitimacy and Covid-19 pushing more people online, Germany’s e-sports are poised for explosive growth. Globally, almost half a billion people play e-sports. “From a niche sport, e-sports athletes have become among the best paid sportspeople in the world,” says Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) analyst Oliver Wilken.