Power of e-sports keeping fans connected to sport

Worldwide lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic left fans longing to experience the excitement of a live game. Sponsors and rights owners had to find innovative ways to keep the fans' passion for sport alive. Gaming was the best way to connect with fans as amongst others, football, F1 motor racing and rugby created gaming competitions for professional sports people, bringing excitement to fans in the comfort of their homes.
One of those brands was Vodacom, which took gaming to the next level as South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby stars swopped their line drives for hard drives and took on the country’s top gamers in the newly created Vodacom Super Cup Series in partnership with Mettlestate.

In April, the Vodacom Super Cup Series featured three weeks of top gaming action, giving South Africa’s gaming community the opportunity to take on their Vodacom Super Rugby heroes in the games of FIFA20 and PUBG Mobile.

Each week saw a new champion being crowned, as that week’s top rugby player and top gamer pitted their skills against one another. Sam “Tech Girl” Wright provided the world-class commentary to this exhilarating esports action as she interviewed Vodacom Super Rugby players and gamers during the series.

Power of e-sports keeping fans connected to sport

Vodacom Super Rugby players who took on the challenge included Vincent Tshituka (Emirates Lions), Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls), Scarra Ntubeni (DHL Stormers) and Lwazi Mvovo (Cell C Sharks).

The winning Vodacom Super Rugby players for each week were:

Week 1 FIFA: Madosh Tambwe (Cell C Sharks)
Week 2 PUBG Mobile: Richard Kriel (Vodacom Bulls)
Week 3 FIFA: Dan Du Plessis (DHL Stormers)

Vodacom and SuperSport donated R50,000 each week to Vodacom Super Rugby’s #TacklingCancer campaign in the names of the rugby player weekly champs, making sure that their commitment to the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation continued during this time.

Power of e-sports keeping fans connected to sport

Each episode was released on YouTube and the links shared on Vodacom and Mettlestate’s social media pages.

Power of e-sports keeping fans connected to sport

As one of the first of these online gaming initiatives, the Vodacom Super Cup was a success reaching hundreds of gamers and sports fans alike. The participation showed just how much interest the event had. As a niche market platform this format is not as accessible as traditional sporting codes, but the world is rapidly transitioning to online experiences and entertainment.

Power of e-sports keeping fans connected to sport

During the lockdown, FIFA with their partner, Electronic Arts (EA Sports), created an online competition for nations for most countries whose competitions were suspended.

The FIFA eNations Stay and Play Cup was designed to encourage players and fans to stay at home during the Covid-19 pandemic and South Africa was one of a select group of countries invited by the world governing body to participate. This is also done to support the World Health Organisation (WHO) in their fight against the coronavirus.

Errol Madlala, Managing Director from Pitch Sports Entertainment and Media, who were responsible for the management of the e-sports rights on behalf of SAFA, said: “We knew FIFA 20 is the most played game on the console but were surprised by the increase in online participation by casual gamers.

"The Cassper Nyovest vs Trevor Noah online match created enough interest in the game and that was the reason Cassper was invited into the eBafanaBafana team."

In conclusion Errol advised: “The global landscape of FIFA has grown in leaps and bounds because of the interaction between gamers and players. FIFA has now ensured that e-gaming is part of their global celebration at the annual awards.”

Even though gaming will never replace the sensory experience attached to a live game, this unprecedented time has proven that sponsors and rights owners need to keep digital platforms in mind as part of the strategy to keep the connection to their fanbase.

15 Jun 2020 16:47