Playfly Sports Philadelphia has officially acquired both Collegiate StarLeague (CSL) and WorldGaming Network (WGN). The sports marketing and management firm intends to enhance amateur esports experiences and increase opportunities for high school and college students.
Who is Playfly Sports Philadelphia?
To understand the potential benefits of this acquisition, we must first understand Playfly Sports. This sports marketing firm was founded in 2020 by media and sports executive Michael Schreiber, who also co-founded streaming VOD service Hulu and is a general partner of SeventySix Capital. The company may be new, but Playfly brings a tremendous amount of credibility to the table. Investors include Baltimore-based investment firm Access Holdings and media company Sinclair Broadcast Group. Schreiber alone offers access to both the entertainment industry and working capital.
Playfly has created a new esports division made up of CSL and WGN.
What CSL and WGN Get Out of the Deal
The acquisition of Collegiate StarLeague and WorldGaming Network by Playfly Sports promises to be a symbiotic one. Both companies operate amateur esports events, which have become more prevalent in recent years. Esports organizations and event organizers know that in order to maintain a sustainable esports economy, competitive gaming must continuously nurture the next generation of star athletes—much like collegiate sports trainers condition players with recruitment in mind.
Collegiate StarLeague is a college esports event operator with a network of over 1,800 schools and 11,000 teams. CSL will continue to offer online league operations, intramural leagues, curriculum development and on-campus events as a subsidiary of Playfly. Meanwhile, Playfly’s marketing clients will gain direct access to students and fans as they support their schools.
WorldGaming Network is an amateur and semi-professional esports tournament company that holds partnerships with the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. WGN uses these connections to add prestige and open doors for aspiring esports players. As part of Playfly, WGN will offer custom event operation services to brands hoping to connect with esports audiences. Its new parent company will, in turn, gain valuable access to major North American sports leagues.
As a marketing firm, Playfly Sports is an ideal owner for these two organizations because brand partnerships are the number one financial driver of today’s esports industry. According to Schreiber, Playfly will aim to help struggling colleges obtain funding through sponsorships, especially during the pandemic.
Rethinking the Esports Ecosystem
A steady increase of student esports leagues and college teams over the past year is a strong indicator of a shift in how the industry operates. Previously, esports teams were formed by groups of friends wanting to compete in local or online tournaments. Now, major corporations are acquiring or founding teams of their own. Leagues like the Overwatch League and multi-million-dollar tournaments like The International have created a market for talent that can no longer be fulfilled by a few friends playing online.
That’s where collegiate esports comes into play. Brands like TikTok, Microsoft and Coca-Cola, as well as esports organizations like G2 Esports, are becoming more involved in education to reach young consumers. These partnerships plant the seeds of brand affinity among gamers just starting.
Between Playfly’s marketing connections and CSL’s and WGN’s tournament experience, we can expect to see many major sponsorship deals announced in the near future.
On the other hand, a gold rush of collegiate esports sponsorships could result in oversaturation. There are now tens of thousands of college esports teams to choose from, root for and sponsor. This may present challenges for marketers like Playfly, who must help brands connect with the right audiences. Hopefully, the company’s new esports division led by Nerd Street Gamers COO and Philadelphia Flyers executive Rob Johnson will help brands and college students navigate this continuously expanding ecosystem.
Written by HB Duran