Essendon is the latest AFL team to enter the world of esports after announcing the purchase of Australian top tier outfit Abyss.
Essendon have acquired Abyss in partnership with Executive Sports and Entertainment, a commercial rights negotiation firm based in Sydney.
Abyss will relocate to Melbourne and from a branding perspective, unlike the Adelaide Crows and Legacy (Adelaide purchased esports team Legacy in May) Abyss will become "fully integrated" with the Essendon football club by taking on its branding, naming and logo.
The re-brand of Abyss will be announced in early 2018.
Similarly to Legacy at the Crows, Abyss will make use of Essendon's facilities and resources at the club with the view to immerse the esports team with the AFL's elite sporting environment. The esports players will have access to dieticians, their own coaches and gym facilities, for example.
Abyss will participate in the Ocean Pro League and Oceanic Challenger League in 2018, playing the video game "League of Legends".
"esports is the fastest growing sports category in the world and is quickly changing the entertainment and sports landscape," Essendon's chief marketing officer Justin Rodski said.
"The international audience is close to 300 million people, the majority are aged 14-34 years, providing a unique platform to engage and reach a younger demographic of fans.
"As a club, we are looking at ways to diversify our business, invest in growth and create new opportunities to drive incremental consumer and commercial revenues.
"esports teams are no different to any other professional sports club model and esports fans are no different to any other sports fans in their passion to support their team."
The Crows, Philadelphia 76ers and Paris Saint-Germain have similar arrangements with esports teams in the US and Europe while the Miami Heat, Melbourne City FC, Manchester City and the New York Yankees have arrangements with individual esports players.
eports is the global phenomenon of professional video game players competing in teams, or individually, for lucrative prize money. Competitions take place online and in stadiums. They are watched by millions around the world.
Individual players and teams have amassed huge online followings and struck enormous sponsorship deals. Australia's eports industry is not yet as lucrative as the industry in the US, Europe and Asia.
Fairfax Media has previously reported that the GWS Giants have been interested in owning an esports team and that the AFL is keen to host an esports tournament at Etihad Stadium.
Essendon, Adelaide and the AFL believe clubs owning esports teams is no different to AFL clubs with AFLW teams or netball teams.
The esports audience is skewed extremely young and they see esports as a way of putting AFL brands in front of these audiences in places that they spend a lot of time. A group of Australia's leading esports figures presented to AFL CEOs during the 2017 season.
"This is an opportunity for brands to reach a younger audience.," Rodski told SEN on Friday morning. "That millennial younger fan is typically very difficult to reach, very difficult to talk to so this gives them a platform and an opportunity to do that so that's where we see initially, the incremental consumer revenues."
Essendon recently announced a bumper $5.1 million profit for the 2017 season.