How to Start an Esports Team Without Breaking the Bank

I’ve spent over two years dealing exclusively with the business side of esports. Let me tell you this definitively: It is not easy to…

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I’ve spent over two years dealing exclusively with the business side of esports. Let me tell you this definitively: It is not easy to create a financially self sustaining team. When you put all the revenue generating opportunities for an early stage team on the table, it ends up coming down to two things. The first is prize winnings and the second is sponsorship revenue. Depending on how good you or your team is, the first option could produce real revenue, although probably not enough to support salaries and infrastructure. The second option is your best bet for revenue, BUT, will be difficult to obtain without a reasonably sized audience. The following points will help you keep your initial organization costs low so that you can SUSTAIN yourself in the industry.

BUILD YOUR INITIAL SQUADS LOCALLY

This seems obvious but I can’t tell you how many new team owners I’ve talked to who have their rosters spread out across the country or globe. I get it. You want to recruit the DOPEST players around. Here’s the thing about that: your tournament/event performance is only a piece of the “success pie” for esports teams. Hell, look at the Dallas Cowboys as a real sports example. I think they’ve won 1 playoff game in two decades yet are one of the most successful sports franchises around.

The point there is that the COSTS associated with getting non-local players to events is enormous. For example, let’s say you have an OverWatch team with 2 members in LA, 1 in Chicago, 1 in Dallas, and 2 in New York. If you are competing in an event in LA, that means you have to fly 4 guys out there. That’s expensive. If you are competing in an event where no-one on your squad resides, that’s even more expensive because you’ll have to fly out all 6 AND PUT THEM UP IN A HOTEL. This is big bucks. This concept flows nicely into the next tactic.

COMPETE IN AS MANY LOCAL EVENTS AS YOU CAN

Now that you’ve built your team locally (all team members within 3 hours of each other), it’s time to start competing. You need to DOMINATE your local esports scene. Every major metropolitan area will have competitions. Do not be picky here. You need to start building a track record and you simply cannot afford to waste the time or the money cherry picking only the most major events. Because your team is built locally, you can now travel to any destination within a (max) 5 hour drive radius. Sure that’s a lot of driving for a 1 day event, but it’s FAR cheaper than flying guys around and putting them up in hotels. You’ll save a bundle getting everyone together and carpooling. This also builds lots of camaraderie.

When you aren’t competing in physical events, you need to have your squad in an online event EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK. Some random league you’ve never heard of is hosting a tournament with no prize pool? Join and win. Another group is doing a $100 team entry fee tournament with prize pool distribution? Hop in. You’ve just got to rip the band-aid off and get in there. If this seems like a lot of work, well, that’s because it is. An esports team is a business and if you think you are going to just coast your way to success, well, you are probably just an entitled millennial (don’t be mad).

Gather Your Sponsorships Locally

Assuming you’ve taken the above steps, it’s now time to actually bring in some sponsorship revenue. If you have already tried to solicit investment or sponsorship revenue and are a new team, you have probably experienced the cold shoulder quite a bit. The truth of the matter is that if an investor or a sponsor is already looking to invest/advertise in esports, they have MUCH MUCH MUCH better options than your team. That means you are going to be soliciting to companies or people who aren’t yet sure they want exposure to the esports marketplace (or even know what it is). This is why it’s so important to build your team locally. Your local electronics store, LAN centers, apparel companies, etc are all potential candidates to throw in a few hundred bucks to get a patch on your team’s jerseys at your next big event. Think about this for a second, if I’m a local store, why would I care if people from Korea are seeing my brand? I wouldn’t. If your team is local, you compete locally, you will be a much stronger candidate to solicit a sponsorship from local companies.

No matter which way you look at building an esports team, it’s going to cost money. Assuming you don’t have a massive bankroll, the more money you spend the LESS TIME you have reach sustainability. On that logic, it make sense to keep your costs as low as possible and to maximize your opportunity for bringing in sponsorship revenue. Thanks for reading and go crush this!