May 19, 2022
Celebs in esports: the stars who invest in the industry
8 min read
This article will tell you about celebrities who invest in esports, partner with esports organizations, and also help Ukraine.
A growing number of celebrities from the sports, music, and cinema industries are investing in esports organizations and joining initiatives in this area. While writing this article, we became aware that many of them are also supporting Ukraine in the ongoing war, which is why we have also included the stories of those who are not only moving esports forward but also contributing a lot to the victory of our country.
Why does esports attract celebrities?
According to analytics provider NewZoo, by 2024, the esports audience will reach 577 million (in 2021, it was 474 million people). The future looks bright for esports: it is rapidly growing, and the broadcast records set last year are a case in point. For example, The International 10 — the most important Dota 2 tournament — recorded its largest peak viewer number ever, at 2.7 million. The League of Legends World Championship 2021 broke the previous world record, getting 174.8 million hours watched.
Esports is also a stable and sound sector. During the pandemic, while football matches were being canceled, esports tournaments would be held and broadcast the world over. This is what makes esports so attractive to investors. There are a lot of investment opportunities in the industry: you can buy into esports organizations, game developers, tournament operators, etc.
Recently, the industry has been attracting celebrities who themselves play video games and are interested in esports, who are looking for a new way to express themselves, or want to expand their audience. Esports is not just a dynamic field that provides opportunities to implement fun ideas, such as creating images for animated films and writing songs for world championships. Funding esports organizations and joining the industry in other ways has become a trend.
Professional basketball players were among the first to invest in esports. In 2018, NBA legend, American basketball player Michael Jordan purchased shares in aXiomatic, the parent company of Team Liquid (Team Liquid’s Dota 2 roster won The International 2017).
The six-time NBA champion has invested $26 million in the organization. He did it along with Curtis Polk, managing partner of the professional basketball team Charlotte Hornets, and David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest investment funds.
A lot of football stars are investing in esports teams. Two-time Ballon d’Or winner, Brazilian soccer player Ronaldo along with professional poker player André Akkari and Brazilian Series of Poker CEO Igor Trafane have acquired a 50% stake in CNB e-sports Club. It is one of the largest esports organizations in South America. The team is known as one of the strongest in Brazil, taking second place in Riot Season 3 Brazilian Championship and Solomid BR Invitational 1 in League of Legends.
Professional boxers are also deciding to join esports. In December 2020, on the last day of the WePlay Dragon Temple tournament for Mortal Kombat 11, the undisputed world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk “faced” Shao Kahn, a character from the world of MK11, in the fighting ring.
WePlay Ultimate Fighting League. Video: WePlay Holding
After that, the athlete announced a collaboration with Yura Lazebnikov and Oleg Krot, managing partners of WePlay Esports, and together they announced an upcoming fighting game league. Later on, they presented the WePlay Ultimate Fighting League in the Mortal Kombat 11, SOULCALIBUR VI, and Tekken 7 disciplines. The first season took place in the spring of 2021, with Oleksandr Usyk, world featherweight and lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko, and WePlay Esports all contributing in equal measure. Also, as part of the cooperation between WePlay Esports and promotion company USYK-17 PROMOTIONS, a series of boxing fights titled the Ultimate Boxing Night was held in April 2021. The night of ranked matches was held at the WePlay Esports Arena Kyiv, with boxers from Ukraine, Great Britain, Hungary, and Belarus participating.
Musicians and movie stars
Singers have also turned their attention to esports and are not only investing money in esports organizations but also joining the industry in other ways.
In 2021, Rihanna’s American cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty became an official partner of League of Legends (LoL) publisher Riot Games. Fenty Beauty helped design the looks and select content, and also created makeup for the characters in the LoL-based Arcane cartoon series. The collaboration resulted in vibrant images emphasizing the characters’ personalities.
In 2020, rapper and singer Post Malone became the co-owner of Texas-based esports and gaming company Envy Gaming. The musician has repeatedly noted that he had grown up in Texas, played videogames all his childhood, and wanted to be involved in the development of esports and the team from his hometown. The musician also acts as an ambassador for HyperX, a gaming peripherals manufacturer. Post Malone also occasionally streams his gameplay on his Twitch channel playing titles like Call of Duty and PUBG.
Movie stars are also investing in esports. Hollywood actor Will Smith has teamed up with Japanese soccer player Keisuke Honda to provide $46 million in funding for Gen.G, a global esports organization. This investment contributed to the development of the youth esports academy program and the industry as a whole. The company has professional teams competing in a number of disciplines, including League of Legends, PUBG, Overwatch, Fortnite, and Apex Legends. By the way, according to Forbes, in 2020, Gen.G. ranked sixth among the highest-valued esports organizations in the world.
Celebrities who move esports forward and also help Ukraine
Esports, like any area of our lives, cannot remain isolated from politics. That’s why the stars are putting lots of effort into both promoting the industry and publicly opposing the war in Ukraine. They write words of support on social media, cancel concerts in the russian federation, and donate millions of dollars. So now, we are going to talk about the celebs who are pushing esports forward and helping Ukraine.
Actor and producer Christopher Ashton Kutcher became the first Hollywood actor to invest in the esports market. Unlike his colleagues, he did not become a co-owner of an esports organization or team. In October 2015, the movie star bought Unikrn, a platform that allows esports fans to bet on professional gaming matches in real time.
Ashton Kutcher and his wife, actress Mila Kunis, recently agreed to donate $3 million for Ukraine’s humanitarian needs. Overall, they managed to raise $34 million in support of Ukrainians. They also recorded a video address in which Mila Kunis said she was proud of her Ukrainian roots.
Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, along with other investors, has invested $15 million in the esports company NRG Esports. Earlier, Andy Miller, former Apple CEO, and Shaquille O’Neal, American professional basketball player, joined the list of the organization’s investors. NRG Esports has rosters in Fortnite, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Rocket League, VALORANT, and more.
To support Ukrainians, JLo has shared a post by the international educational and human rights organization Global Citizen as an Instagram story and on her Facebook page. The post offers several ways to support Ukraine.
Polish basketball star Marcin Gortat has played in the NBA for 12 years. Having retired from traditional sports, Marcin became interested in esports and in 2020 invested in the “Polska Liga Esportowa S.A.” esports company. His love of shooters prompted the athlete to launch the Sokołów Gortat Cup project, which includes esports tournaments in Call of Duty: Warzone. Gortat is also known for his charitable activities. On June 16, Marcin’s team will play a basketball match against the Polish Army team, with all the proceeds from ticket sales transferred to Ukraine.
Imagine Dragons also collaborates with Riot Games. In 2014, the song Warriors and an animated music video were released specially for the League of Legends World Championship. The video premiered on the official League of Legends YouTube page. In 2021, the song Enemy, written by Imagine Dragons in collaboration with rapper JID, became the soundtrack of the animated film Arcane. It should be noted that some members of the band are investing in esports, too. In 2018, drummer Daniel Platzman and guitarist Wayne Sermon became co-owners of Team Rogue and esports organization ReKTGlobal.
On their official Instagram page, Imagine Dragons posted a blue-and-yellow flag and announced that concerts in the russian federation and Ukraine would be canceled. They have also performed at the Save Ukraine marathon, held in support of our country.
Soccer player and former England captain David Beckham became a co-owner of esports company Guild Esports in 2020. It focuses on Rocket League, FIFA, and Fortnite, seeks and trains talent. Its strategy for building the best esports team is based on the traditional sports academy model.
David and Victoria Beckham also did not stay away from the events in Ukraine. Through their 7 Fund and with the support of UNICEF, they are helping Ukrainian citizens and children affected by the war. The couple contributed £1 million. David Beckham also handed his Instagram account with 71.4 million followers to Iryna Kondratova — head of the regional perinatal center in Kharkiv. The soccer star wanted to show the conditions in which Ukrainian doctors are working now. He urged subscribers to support them and UNICEF.
Currently, professional sports athletes and showbiz representatives who have been involved in esports are supporting Ukraine. They speak up, cancel concerts in russia, donate millions of dollars, and explain how to help Ukrainians on social media. And on our part, we are accepting support and doing our best to hear as soon as possible: “We have won.”