How to fund your esports tournament prize pool

Hosting a tournament is always a difficult initiative. You’ve planned your tournament, gotten approvals from the publisher in esports, and figured out a theoretical esports tournament organizer business model. So now it’s time to pay the bills and get some revenues in for your tournament.

Here’s 5 ways to to bring in revenue as an esports tournament organizer.

Charge Money / Have buy-ins

This method is quite unpopular but i’ll lead with it for a specific reason. Outside of a few games this method is not really liked by a ton of players. Unlike poker, this has not caught on in esports that much. For example, in Dota 2 this is a huge no no and will get very little traction. Another reason is that some publishers do not allow this model at all. For example, you host a tournament with a license and it will clearly state “do not charge players money for entry”. This throws out your business model right there.

You could also operate under the radar but that may lead to some legal troubles and you needing to contact a lawyer in esports. The best thing to do is to be clear on what the publisher allows and see what the norm is for players. If you’re offering paid tournaments there’s a MUCH higher expectation so you better be ready to offer some stellar customer service to teams and players.

Get sponsors

The most popular revenue method in esports. Sponsorship / advertising. I believe the estimate is around 60% of all esports revenue is tied to this at the moment so you’re going to be joining everyone else fighting for these dollars. It’s a hard one to pull of so make sure you have an esports sponsorship deck ready and be prepared to face a ton of ghosting + rejection!

Power is in the hands of the sponsors at the moment with SO MANY people asking for the same thing. There’s also a larger shift to influencers for sponsorship dollars due to current trends and results.

You’re more than likely to get one of the following things if it’s your first time with the sponsor and you’re just starting out as tournament organizer.

  • Hardware / products
  • Hardware / products + a small amount of cash
  • Retweets / some exposure

That’s not to say cash straight up is out of the question but it depends on who you are, your audience size, what you’re offering and what they can offer too.

As you build the relationship you’ll hopefully grow and show your worth to the sponsor. Just make sure you’re both clear that it’s a beneficial relationship and get a contract if possible!


This is for the more established players and potentially newer companies. There’s two ways to crowdfund (I’m sure there’s more).

Partner with the publisher

This is for the big ballers or more established players. Go flex your muscles and get that in game cosmetic in the game (this was ours in Dota 2). See if the publisher is willing to work with you and support 3rd party organizers.

Some publishers also do have an amateur program that is fairly hashed out that you can apply to.

Questions they’ll ask are:

  • Org name (have a name and website please)
  • Additional info
  • Dates
  • Teams
  • Ask (usually it’s a dropdown at an amateur level or they give you the support upfront)
  • Format
  • + a few more

Crowdfund a prizepool with people

If you’re starting out. This is an absolutely terrible idea. So don’t do this one. If you’re a bit more established this could work for niche games. Ie, games that don’t get a ton of developer love or who have a lot of old fans who want to feel nostalgia once more.

Pay for it yourself

Yes, if you’re just starting out you more than likely will not be able to find a sponsor. You’re going to have to pay for the tournament yourself. Don’t go broke, only budget what you can afford. If you have a business partner it’s better for sure.

My first few tournaments that I hosted were out of pocket. It wasn’t until several tournaments later that we had sponsors pay us. What a journey that was. Our first sponsor paying us was special and I still remember it!

Get someone else to pay for it

Esports is pretty hot right now. Why not get someone else to pay for it? Put yourself out there and you never know who may be willing to put on a tournament with you. It could be a brand, someone who is involved with another organization that lacks expertise.

Another way is to make an esports pitch deck and get crushed by VC’s who will tell you you’re no good and that your business model sucks :). Just kidding you’re gonna rock it and get that money (after 50 rejections).

So there you have it. Five quick ways to get some revenue for your tournament and get a prize pool paid for. As always, contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions!

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