1. FC Cologne First German Club to Invest in eSports Company – with Mercedes Benz

German cult club 1. FC Cologne and the Daimler AG become shareholders of eSports company SK Gaming – for the benefit of the football, though, Cologne insist.

Having a genuine eSports section and various players for your club is far from a novelty. Investing in an established eSports company is indeed. That’s just what the popular German club 1. FC Cologne have done. They are now officially associates at SK Gaming, eSports experts for over two decades. And Mercedes Benz, or rather the Daimler AG have followed suit. Investment in eSports on this very level seems shrewd. Cologne have emphasised how the move shall support the football side and its right to exist in years and decades to come.

eSports is becoming more and more integral in a football ecosystem

The 1. FC Cologne, known as effzeh (German pronounciation of FC), is the country’s first club to kind of merge with an eSports company. They’ve recently announced that they did invest in SK Gaming, a company that exists for 22 years now.

It was only in January 2018, when that company announced a partnership with the club, which since has been relegated to the 2. Bundesliga. Their appeal to the fans has not vanished, though. They still are one of the most liked and followed teams in Germany and remain a progressive club. Not only their RheinEnergieStadion, which is quite a venue for a club far from their most successful days, shows that.

Entering the realms of eSports isn’t just optional for clubs these days, it’s rather obligatory. Nowadays there are Virtual Leagues connected to the football associations for eSports in most countries. In Germany, the Virtual Bundesliga Championship, where EA Sports’ FIFA matches are played, just starts for the first time – and it will even be shown on free TV as well as numerous streams. And Cologne will play VfL Wolsfburg in their own stadium first. Their chances aren’t too slim either as they will have Mirza Jahic, Niklas “Bomb“ Flöck, Dylan “ DullenMIKE“ Neuhausen and Timo “Praii“ Gruneisen playing for them under the SK Gaming stewardship.

Besides, unique shirts have been created with a shared Logo for this competition.

Shirt for FIFA eSports players at 1. FC Cologne/ SK Gaming, © 1. FC Cologne

Furthermore, the teams from SK Gaming, world-class at Counterstrike in the last few years, will play League of Legends, SMITE or Hearthstone in the future, too. And they will wear the lettering #effzeh on their sleeve. Colognes executive Alexander Wehrle said:

Our previous cooperation has shown that the FC and SK Gaming fit together very well. Now there is a unique opportunity to enter a top company of the boom, to which we have a personal bond and with which we share our roots in Cologne. We wanted to use this opportunity. Daimler becoming shareholders as well shows how eSports has developed and what economic potential it has.

Yet, he stated that the club doesn’t want to establish eSports at the expense of the football side. Instead, it wants to make sure that “ideas, trends and business models” ensure the right to exist for the very football club.

Daimler has realised that potential

The Daimler AG, who own the brands Mercedes Benz or Chrysler, have also become shareholders at SK Gaming with immediate effect.

Mercedes Benz invest in eSports, © SK Gaming

In 2017, Mercedes Benz had already become main partners for the ESL. Investing in an eSports company might be something of an unexpected operation. But with the sports growing in importance due to its rising audience and the opportunities the marketing inventory holds, being one of the most prominent brands in the market certainly seems well calculated.

eSports has that overlap with football; it is mainly reduced to EA Sports’ FIFA, though. But eSports is far more and it reigns amongst young audiencens, while it gathers ever more interest elsewhere. Football clubs and brands are right to invest. Although you have to admit that acquiring an eSports company is quite an astonishing step to accomodate oneself to that social and media development. It’s pioneering, but it could become the norm. In the future it will be interesting to see, whether eSports teams will help assure the football clubs and their football teams of their raison d’être. Or whether those football sides will someday be distant reminders of the clubs real roots. The latter seems unlikely for now; but digitalisation implements change much faster than one had thought before.

If you want to have a look at renowned eSports company SK Gaming, watch their video from YouTube:

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