With professional sports teams in Europe and North America beginning to invest into esports, Misfits owner Ben Spoont and Miami Heat executive vice president and chief marketing officer Michael McCullough emphasized that they want to set a new standard for partnerships in an interview with Yahoo Esports' Travis Gafford.
The Miami Heat bought a stake in Misfits on Jan. 10, though Spoont confirmed to theScore esports that the stake is not a controlling interest in the organization. Spoont emphasized that while the Heat will provide a number of benefits to the Misfits organization through integration, Misfits can also extend the reach of the Heat into other parts of the world.
"As we looked at a lot of the market research and some of the data about the crossover audience, there exists an opportunity for us to also help extend the Heat brand in areas around the world perhaps where it's not as strong via esports," Spoont said. "Where there are stronger audiences that are more engaged in esports than in stick'n'ball sports. So it allows us to further enhance the Heat brand that way as well."
McCullogh agreed, stating that partnering with Misfits provides the Heat with a learning opportunity that will allow them to connect both the Heat and Misfits with new audiences that were difficult to reach before.
"We're really excited about the audience makeup of esports," McCullough said. "And we think that there's a great opportunity for us to not only engage with more of a millennial audience but to learn. There's a good learning opportunity for us here with a new sport, that's going to allow us to flex our muscles a little bit and learn more about this audience that we need to learn more about, both from the Heat's standpoint and the Misfits' standpoint."
The Miami Heat have not been the only NBA team to wade into esports. The Philadelphia 76ers ownership group acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming in September, while Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wesley Edens purchased LCS team Cloud9 Challenger in December, renaming it to FlyQuest in January.
But McCullough says that the Heat aim to set the bar high for what an NBA team and esports team can do together, encouraging other teams to step up their game if they hope to compete.
"We definitely want to set the bar very, very high on how this sort of relationship can develop, and what a NBA team can do with and for an esports team, and vice-versa," McCullogh said. "What they can bring and what we can learn from them. We're going to be aggressive in what we do in promoting the Misfits and getting engaged with them. And hopefully other teams that get involved will see that, will understand that we set the bar high and know that if they want to get into this game, they've got to come where we are."
Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports whose journalism idol is Dino Ghiranze. You can follow him on Twitter.