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The launch of the eSerie A of esports and the impact of advergaming

Advergaming and sponsorship opportunities in football leagues of eSports tournaments

The eSerie A of esports has now been launched, unveiling new questions on potential legal issues relating to advergaming.

Consumers’ demand for esports and the growth of organized video game competitions have generated considerable attention from the sports, event, and entertainment industry. With a little delay compared to expectations, and especially compared to the other European leagues, also Italy will have its own digital football esports championship: the eSerie A.

The advergaming in eFootball league tournaments

Esports tournaments directly linked to football leagues are quite popular across Europe. The eLigue1 is at its fourth edition in France, the Spanish eLiga cooperates with the LVP, the Liga de Videjuegos Profesional, the Virtuelle Bundesliga welcomes players and teams from Germany and Austria, while the ePremier League and the eMLS are now part of the official competitive circuit of the FIFA20 video game for England and the United States.

Several esports teams make a majority of their revenues from sponsorships and advertising:

  • sponsorships allow companies to gain potentially global recognition when the team qualifies for international tournaments. However, jersey sponsorships are not as effective as they would be in traditional sports since the camera is not centered around the players;
  • in-game advertising – which is a particularly useful form of ad consisting of the product placement directly in the match – seems to be well disposed towards brands appearing during digital competitions, considering the brand as an element that increases the realism of the gaming experience.

Advergaming is a different form of advertising, which – benefiting from the enthusiasm of the player – proposes a “game into the game” related to the advertised product. This scenario usually happens in specific moments of competitions strategically identified (e.g., to obtain additional lives or boosts). In this way, gamers directly interact with the proposed brand during specific breaks of the digital competition.

The legal issues of advergaming in esports

From a legal perspective, advertising laws may apply and, in particular, EU rules on unfair commercial practices and misleading advertising as well as the majority of local codes of marketing communication self-regulation apply, regardless of the advertising technique.

In Italy, advertising messages shall comply, inter alia, with article 11 of the Italian code of marketing communication self-regulation, which prevents communications that may cause psychological, moral, or physical harm, and which may exploit their credulity or inexperience. Similarly, marketing communications must not include a direct exhortation to children to buy the promoted product or to persuade other people to purchase it.

Likewise, companies approaching these new advertising techniques in the digital competition industry shall be sure that the advertising message is perceived as such by the audience. It shall be recognizable, which is particularly tricky, for instance, in the case of influencer marketing. Regulations do not provide for specific and compulsory methods to communicate this message to the audience. Nevertheless, the use of expressions like “Advertised by” or “Sponsored by” is highly suggested and in use by the most of the brands. The main aim is to avoid to mislead the audience and to permit to distinguish easily and immediately the advertising purpose of the commercial message.

On this topic, we hope that the DLA Piper esports laws of the world report is useful. And you can find interesting the article on the essential nature of eSports and its classification within the broad category of sports.

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Vincenzo Giuffré

Trainee Lawyer at DLA Piper IPT Italy, Milan| Graduated Student at Bocconi University: Major Business Law School | Exchange Program at University of Minnesota - W. Mondale Law School | Visiting Student at National University of Singapore (NUS)

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