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Five years ago the idea of playing esports at the Olympics would not have entered the minds of many sports administrators. And yet this is where the world stands are, on the cusp of a truly landmark moment in sports history.
Since 2016 the global esports audience has increased by over 33%, with the revenue in esport rocketing by 71%.
Infront recognises that it is only the bold, brave and opportunistic that will benefit from this new world of sport, and our recent movements within the world of esport clearly illustrates our ambition to be major players in what will be an exciting future for our industry.
Insert credits: Why esport matters
In December 2017, Infront made it clear that its scope and direction was being adapted to meet the market needs of not only today's sports fan, but also tomorrow's. In truth, esports has long been on our radar, even before last April, when we spoke to Alex Müller from SK Gaming.
With a global revenue of over $500m in 2016, an astonishing 113,000 fans passing through the gates at events such as the Intel Extreme Masters and prize money now pushing above the $20m mark at the abbzal DOTA2 World Championship, it was clear that esports was an industry that was clearly not going away.
We have spent the last two years researching, reviewing and patiently waiting for the right moment and opportunity to enter the esports market.
Press start: Marketing esport
Mid-December 2017 saw Infront officially step into the esport industry for the first time by announcing that French smartphone developer WIKO would become head sponsor for top German esports outfit PENTA.
We recognised that PENTA's focus on promoting young talent was the best esport marketing fit for a brand like WIKO, who are now beginning to reap the benefits of their association with the team.
"Our first priority was to understand WIKO’s brand needs, to showcase the massive potential that Penta Sports offers and to accumulate the process with creative and individual ideas for implementation and activation," Marco Sautner, Managing Director of Infront Germany said at the time. "Overall, we are very pleased with the result.
"The entire process – from first talks until final announcement – worked exactly as we imagine our future way in esports.
"This deal only represents the very beginning of a long journey that we start together with WIKO and PENTA Sports today."
The next step on that journey came just a few short weeks later in January.
It was truly a case of "New Year, New Infront" as we unveiled FOKUS CLAN.
The new FIFA esports team is the first of many joint projects with STARK esports and, following the PENTA announcement, was a bigger move into the arena.
It also helped us underline our ambition to adapt to our new strategy and is another example of reflecting ahead of time where the market is moving.
"The partnership with STARK and our joint project, FOKUS CLAN, are a very positive outcome," said Infront Germany Managing Director Reinhardt Weinberger at the time. "We wanted to be perfectly prepared and knowledgeable of the whole esports ecosystem before entering this exciting market and we feel we have made the right move."
That ambition was matched by STARK Managing Director Dennis Nirtl.
"Since founding, our mission is to connect the digital and the real world through innovative content, concepts and events.
"The strategic partnership with Infront is therefore the next logical step for us.
"With the brand FOKUS CLAN, we are excited to have a very special and major project to work on, together."
FOKUS CLAN stepped out for the first time at the FIFA eSports FUT 18 Champions Cup Barcelona, with “Sakul”making the quarterfinals in a sensational debut.
Esport expands to France
Infront France was the next player to pick up a controller and get involved in the esport landscape with their exclusive partnership with Team Vitality.
As one of the biggest esport teams in France thanks to their inclusion in the European League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS), Team Vitality called on Infront to take advantage of the commercial opportunities increasingly available in the sport.
"Our partnership with Infront, a world leader in sports marketing, demonstrates our ambition and illustrates Team Vitality's vision for the international esports landscape," said Nicolas Maurer, Managing Director of Team Vitality. "We will benefit from Infront's expertise and network to better educate the major brands that are now attracted by Team Vitality's sporting performance, international standing and growing audience."
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Is this it? Not at all. Infront is a leader in sports media and marketing, and we fish where the fish are. It is clear that esports is here to stay and – as we explained at the end of 2017 – we are adapting to fit the needs of the market.
This is just the start of an exciting journey as we continue to fill the esport arena.