Crunchyroll Merges Anime and Collegiate Esports

This article was contributed by Matthew Carrico, Editorial Intern.

The world of esports continues to expand with growing interest from a variety of parties who specialize in different forms of business. Fast food companies, advertising agencies, and personal investors are just a few of the groups who have taken a shine to the growing industry, and esports revenue continues to grow. It looks like a new face is taking a step into the ring of esports. Anime streaming service, Crunchyroll, is now entering the world of collegiate esports.

Crunchyroll was founded in 2006 in San Francisco, California. The streaming service has over 120 million active users and 5 million subscribers as of 2021. The company provides its users with many programs anchored in Japanese media including anime, manga, and Japanese television dramas (playfully called Doramas by some). The platform offers over 1000 shows and is available in over 200 countries. The company is always looking to deepen fan engagement via events hosted by the company including Crunchyroll Expo, Anime Awards, and KAZE Anime Nights. Anime is a fundamental part of pop culture and Crunchyroll is always proud to bring more to the table.

In terms of collegiate esports, it was announced on August 23, 2021, that Crunchyroll has successfully secured a partnership with the St. Clair Saints. St. Clair College’s Saint is well-regarded as the first varsity esports program in Canada. From its inception, the Saints have since grown to support various teams focusing on different games. They have esports teams for Call of Duty, League of Legends, Fortnite, Overwatch, Valorant, Rocket League, and Rainbow Six Siege. Crunchyroll is the latest to sponsor the program with other companies including Subway and Tim Horton’s.

This partnership marks the first time that Crunchyroll has partnered with a varsity collegiate esports team. It should be noted that Crunchyroll has dabbled with esports in the past including partnering up with Team Liquid in 2016 and the Cloud9 League of Legends team the same year. The circumstances of this new partnership are what sets this apart. 

Upon securing the partnership, the Crunchyroll logo will be prominently displayed on the Saints’ 2021-2022 season jerseys but it does not stop there. Crunchyroll is helping St. Clair esports grow its events even further starting in September. With this new partnership and the new 15,000 square-foot esports facility looking to open in 2022, St. Clair College esports looks to be expanding in drastic ways.

While gathering information surrounding this story, we attempted to reach out to officials at St. Clair for statements but were unable to get in contact. However, there are statements on the official announcement page on both the Crunchyroll website and the St. Clair esports website about the new partnership.

According to St. Clair’s Director of Esports, Shaun Byrne, “The most exciting element about this partnership is the events we have planned for the future. While many schools have anime clubs, this partnership will bring that idea to the next level not only for esports players but also for the student body at large.” Byrne brings forth the anime perspective surrounding this partnership. It is not often that anime and esports are heard in the same conversation but this partnership looks to bring the two together and build up from it. Anime and gaming, including esports, are some of the most vital parts of pop culture. There are also many games that take inspiration from anime as with the case of many JRPGs, and even cases where video games can spin off into their own anime series. Take Pokemon as the prime example of this.

From Crunchyroll’s perspective, the Country Manager of Canada, Jean-Marc Douville said “We look forward to partnering with the St. Clair Saints esports program to help ensure anime fans and gamers have access to the education and the entertainment they love, in a community they can thrive in.” Douville specifically brings up the educational aspect of the partnership and makes it clear that this is one of the foundations going forward with it. Crunchyroll is often associated with anime streaming and is rare to see this aspect of companies of this magnitude.

This partnership signifies the potential for Crunchyroll to invest in other collegiate esports programs as well. Esports is continually growing in other countries out of North America, and Crunchyroll has offices based in other countries including Germany, Japan, France, and Switzerland as a few examples. It can be hard to say where Crunchyroll will go next in terms of esports. And since Crunchyroll was recently acquired by Sony, it is not too out of the park to think that Crunchyroll may invest in the gaming industry with Sony’s Playstation series.

Pop culture is a fundamental part of many people’s lives and Crunchyroll is one of the major providers to the medium. The relationship between anime fans and gamers is more intertwined than people realize. With continued support in not just the esports industry but gaming in general, there will be a great balance between the lovers of gaming and anime.

Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

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