The Miami Heat announced partnered with esports organization Misfits today, joining the growing list of traditional sports teams and individuals testing the esports waters with investments and acquisitions.
With the Heat’s new (undisclosed) stake in Misfits, the NBA franchise will help the esports organization with marketing, branding, retail, driving revenue and outfitting its players. Misfits, which has teams and players in Overwatch, League of Legends, Super Smash Bros., Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, has already rebranded to match the Heat’s colors.
“What we saw was an opportunity to partner with somebody who could help us reach this millennial audience while at the same we could help them reach a more mainstream audience,” Michael McCullough, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the Heat, said in a statement.
The Heat certainly have quite a bit more to offer to Misfits as the no. 1 retailing team in the NBA, but Misfits aren’t nobodies in the world of esports, despite forming as recently as May 2016. Misfits’ Overwatch team has recently won the Overwatch Open and DreamHack Winter, cementing them as one of the top squads in the scene. Meanwhile the League of Legends Misfits franchise finished first in the 2016 spring and summer European Challenger Series and qualified for the 2017 spring European Championship Series (which is the top league in League).
With the support of a well-established NBA franchise, Misfits will be able to focus on building and improving their existing teams and continuing to expand into new games. Misfits just jumped into Hearthstone in December, signing four top-level players.
Over the past year, NBA legends Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson have invested in esports teams, current NBA player Jonas Jerebko acquired the esports franchise Renegades and the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Team Dignitas. Team owners from franchises like the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Bucks have created, acquired and invested in esports teams over the past few months. People are paying attention to the growing status of esports.
The esports industry itself was estimated to be worth almost $900 million in July and that number is only expected to rise. The biggest money-making factors are sponsorships and advertising, which is where many established sports franchises have a lot of experiences with. The smallest money maker is merchandising, but that could change as these merch titans move into the scene.