The Philippine sports and esports industries are currently thriving and the country has many competitive advantages that are fuelling the growth of these sectors, not just within The Philippines but throughout Southeast Asia.
Carlo Singson, AST’s Senior Advisor, and the Founder and CEO of SEM (Sports, Entertainment, Media) Consultancy Ltd shared with us his insights on the evolution, growth and opportunities of The Philippines’ sports and esports markets. Carlo is an expert on The Philippine market having spent over 20 years working for the NBA and most recently as the Associate Vice President and Managing Director of NBA Philippines.
“The Philippines has a large and young population – there are 110 million Filipinos and the average age is under 25. This makes it an ideal market for sports and esports because not only does this young growing population watch or attend sports/esports events, but they are also more likely to play, consume and interact and engage with athletes/gamers and sports/esports properties through digital and social channels.” said Singson.
As the market grows bigger there are more companies and capital entering the market which is creating lucrative opportunities.
1. The Philippines is becoming an important basketball hub in Asia
Basketball has been a leader in establishing and accelerating the sports industry in The Philippines, as Singson highlighted: “Basketball is The Philippines’ national sport and has a significant lead over other sports across all metrics, including awareness, fan interest, participation, and viewership. Over 75% of Filipinos are basketball fans, and one in three play or have played basketball. In no other country in the world is basketball this popular.”
The NBA helped grow the love for basketball in the Philippines: “The NBA enjoys immense popularity in the country and boasts close to 99% brand awareness, giving it an iconic status among Filipinos. Although the NBA has been very popular since the 80s, it was only in the last 25 years, during my tenure heading up the Philippine business of the NBA, that the League’s popularity translated to significant commercial opportunities and revenue for the NBA. The Philippines has become one of the NBA’s largest international markets in the world.” Singson explained.
The establishment of the PBA (The Philippine Basketball Association) in 1975 made it the first professional sports league in The Philippines and the first professional basketball league in Asia. The Philippines is becoming a basketball hub in the region. The Philippines has hosted NBA Exhibition games. As well, the East Asia Super League, an Asian-based premier basketball league that features the PBA along with other top-tier basketball leagues in Asia including the CBA (China), the B.LEAGUE (Japan), the KBL (Korea) and the P.LEAGUE+ (Chinese Taipei), will play games there later this year. The Philippines will also host a group phase of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 along with Japan and Indonesia and the Finals will take place in Manila.
In addition, sports tech around fan engagement, player performance and management, and youth development represent opportunities for leagues, players, and fans to reimagine basketball in The Philippines. (Read AST’s previous article on how basketball tech will transform basketball in Asia from the grassroots to the professional game in Asia)
2. More Filipino athletes succeeding on the global stage
More and more athletes from The Philippines are succeeding on the global stage in recent years and 2021 & 2022 represented significant milestones for The Philippines’ sports history with several unprecedented moments, especially for Women’s sports.
Recently, the country finished 4th overall in medal rankings at the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam, which was its best performance in an “Away” Games in 18 years.
Last year at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Filipino athletes brought home four medals, three in boxing and one in weightlifting. It ranked 50 in the overall standings, which was the best-performing SEA country. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won a gold medal, it was the first ever gold medal won by a Filipino athlete since the country’s first appearance in the Olympics in 1924; Boxer Nesthy Petecio won a silver medal, she is the first woman from The Philippines to win a medal in boxing.
The Philippines also hit a milestone in football development earlier this year in women’s football. The Filipinas, The Philippines’ women’s football team, sealed a historic qualification for the 2023 FIFA World Cup appearance. It will be the country’s first-ever football World Cup regardless of gender.
The future of The Philippines’ professional sports space is bright. The accomplishments of these young rising stars are contributing to a growing awareness of other sports besides basketball and boxing including football, tennis, fencing, gymnastics, pole vault, and more. We are seeing many young and promising Filipino athletes on the rise and it is creating opportunities for sports sponsorship: “As more money will now be invested in grassroots development and training, more media platforms will expose Filipino athletes as they compete and excel internationally, more sponsorship dollars will help fund local activations and programs, and more sports brands and properties will seek to establish their presence in The Philippines.” Singson added.
To support the development of the sports industry in The Philippines and to ensure more athletes can compete at a global level, advanced training academies and sports technology are necessary. “Sports venues and playing fields are also an opportunity to bring sports closer to communities and allow The Philippines to host local and international events. Strategic development planning with real estate companies, landowners, local governments and tourism boards can yield win-win solutions.” Singson added.
3. Tremendous growth in The Philippine esports market
The Philippines stands out as one of the key esports and gaming markets to watch in Asia and esports is one of the fastest-growing sports in The Philippines. We are seeing many esports and gaming business opportunities in the market that will continue to grow in the years to come.
Currently, the Philippine esports market has over 43 million active gamers and is steadily rising with a 12.9% YOY growth rate since 2017 according to a research by YCPS Marketing & Communication Group. Statista also indicated that the revenue of the Filipino mobile games market is increasing YOY and will reach US$1.5 billion in 2025.
This rapid growth is attributed to the market’s appetite for mobile gaming and the extensive deployment of 5G networks and a huge population of digital natives: Singson mentioned that:
“As more and more sports and esports content gravitates from cable TV to online platforms, there is a large audience of digitally-savvy Filipinos that could serve as a potential audience.”
Gaming-focused Media and Entertainment companies like Tier One, which recently won a gold medal at the South East Asian Games, and gaming influencers play an important role in accelerating the industry, creating local heroes and making esports more intriguing.
Singson thinks that now is a great time to capitalize on the gaming industry in The Philippines: “Both local and foreign companies and investors have taken notice, as evidenced by the growing number of esports teams and esports events in the country. For example, Hong Kong-based Talon Esports recently set up two esports teams for Valorant and DOTA2 in The Philippines. In addition, esports academies have sprung up to educate students about possible careers in the industry.”
As the country continues to open up from its COVID lockdowns, and with continued investments by private companies and support from the government, the esports industry should begin to soar.
The Philippine market is full of potential
The Philippines is a unique and interesting market and the growth in sports and esports is already accelerating: “With the interest in a wide range of sports at an all-time high, and with inherent gaps in the way local sports are developed, conducted, and consumed in The Philippines, there are many opportunities to further grow the local sports scene.” said Singson.
If you need more in-depth insights to capitalize on the growth of The Philippines’ sports and esports market, talk to us.