The pandemic has enabled advertisers to capitalize on esports marketing opportunities beyond gaming events alone. Efforts such as connecting on mainstream social media, offering fans branded merchandise, and leveraging celebrity endorsements have helped to facilitate a substancial boost in investment and revenue. 

Insider Intelligence is sharing five valuable esports teams to watch in 2021 and what their success reveals about the future of the industry.

1. TSM 

Formerly known as Team SoloMid, TSM is a Los Angeles-based esports organization valued at $410 million, with half of its $45 million estimated revenue coming from esports. Founded by Andy Dinh and his brother Dan Dinh in 2009, the company has grown from a single league esports team to a multi-vertical media company known as Swift Media Entertainment

In addition to TSM’s long standing partnerships with companies like Logitech G and Geico, Swift offers value for many more brands through its streamers, influencers, and portfolio of educational gaming websites. TSM’s success suggests that esports teams will need to diversify their revenue stream to engage audiences in unique and productive ways.

2. Cloud9 

Founded by Jack and Paullie Etienne in 2013, Cloud9 has become one of the most recognizable organizations around the globe. This esports team has since won championships in games such as League of Legends, Fortnite, Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, and Valorant—​​ and was named Esports Organization of the Year in 2019. 

Cloud9 attributes its success to not only being devoted to winning, but to unlocking the skills that help people become their best selves. They also consider themselves to be unmatched in all categories, including viewership hours and extensive benefits packages for players and staff. The company’s focus on performance driven by hard work, commitment, wellness, and a love of the game, is a strategy that other up-and-coming teams may want to emulate.

3. Team Liquid

Team Liquid is a well-known professional gaming organization owned by aXiomatic Gaming, Victor Goossens, and Steve Arhancet. Since being founded in 2000, their collective teams have won the most prize money in the history of esports and have earned trophies across different titles and countries. 

The organization has expanded into other areas within the gaming space to become a full-fledged media enterprise. This includes the creation of their 1UP Studios(a video content production area), Liquipedia (a highly used esports source), and Liquid Media (an influencer management agency). Team Liquid’s success can be attributed to their openness to innovation and represents where future esports investments may be channeled.

4. FaZe Clan

Since being founded in 2010, FaZe Clan has become one of the most prominent and influential gaming organizations. The team stands out due to its disruptive original content and hyper-engaged global fanbase of 342 million viewers across social media platforms.  

The pandemic has sped up the trend of celebrities and other public figures endorsing esports, and FaZe Clan has jumped at the opportunity to further engage audiences via influencers such as NBA star Ben Simmons and NFL quarterback Kyler Murray. 

FaZe also created an apparel line with its partners Champion and the NFL.

5. 100 Thieves

100 Thieves is a premium lifestyle brand and gaming organization founded by Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, former OpTic Call of Duty captain, X Games gold medalist, and 2014 Esports Athlete of the year. Haag created 100 Thieves in 2017 as a creative outlet, but managed to guide the team through multiple major championships in Call of Duty. 

He didn’t stop his pursuits at gaming events, but instead expanded the company’s reach to top gaming podcasts, sold out apparel, and partnerships with major companies such as Red Bull and Cash App. The company has raised over $60 million from investors, including Drake.