Software company SAP is today announcing a new, 3-year partnership with Team Liquid, one of the most successful esports teams in the world. The deal makes SAP the team's Official Innovation Partner and marks SAP's first partnership in esports.

SAP will work with Team Liquid to develop software based on in-game data with the goal of helping the team analyze and improve team performance in training, scouting new talent and during competition. The esports partnership is in addition to SAP's partnerships that include the WTA, NBA, NHL, City Football Group (Manchester City FC) and World Sailing.

I recently spoke with Milan Cerny, Technology & Innovation Lead, SAP Global Sponsorships about the new deal and why SAP is putting a premium on esports.

Is there anything about Team Liquid, other than its success at video games that caused SAP to specifically target that team as a partner? I.e. anything that stood out from a business perspective?  

Cerny: As with all of our partnerships, we spend a considerable amount of time to understand the space, the major players and the opportunities where SAP can provide impactful value. Esports was an area that we observed and analyzed throughout 2017.

After attending major tournaments and engaging in conversations with major properties across the esports ecosystem, we decided that a team partnership would serve as a great entry point and the best platform to showcase how our technologies could help teams and players improve their training and in-game performance.

Team Liquid immediately stood out to us during our evaluation process. Beyond their success at the international tournament level, they have a global presence like SAP, a passionate fan base and their teams span a variety of titles. Most importantly however, Team Liquid immediately recognized the value and impact that data and analytics could have on improving the performance of their players and teams and that's at the core of our partnership.

What is it specifically about the esports industry that made SAP interested in getting involved, and what is the projected ROI/how is it established?

Cerny: Many of SAP's existing and future employees, customers and decision makers are avid esports fans that watch tournaments and regularly attend esports events. We saw firsthand the growing popularity of esports in 2017 when we hosted an internal esports event at SAP's headquarters in Germany and had more than 800 employees participate.

As a leading and innovative global technology company, entering the esports space offers a variety of opportunities. For one, we'll be able to tangibly showcase how our technology and co-innovations based on SAP HANA are positively impacting the way the team trains, performs and even scouts new player talent. We're excited to bring Team Liquid onto the same playing field as athletes across other professional sports that are constantly using SAP solutions for data-driven analytics and insights. Long-term, we want to provide tangible added-value to the entire esports community based on our technology and skills, so we become an authentic and sustainable part of the ecosystem.

Additionally, this partnership provides another opportunity to help increase awareness for SAP as an attractive technology brand and employer of choice among a young, talented and tech-savvy esports audience as part of our ongoing talent recruitment efforts.

Why did SAP believe team sponsorship was the best route to get involved in esports as opposed to other opportunities for exposure/engagement? 

Cerny: For SAP, our partnerships across sports are focused on providing technology solutions that help teams, leagues and organizations improve performance, enhance business operations and connect with their fans in new and innovative ways.

We believe that a team partnership offers SAP the best opportunity to work hand-in-hand with players, coaches and analysts to truly understand their needs and collaboratively develop innovative technology solutions that will help achieve and improve their short and long-term objectives.