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Can Corsair Gaming Be the Nike of Esports?

By Brett Schafer - Jun 18, 2021 at 7:30AM

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The company provides high-performance gear to video game players and esports professionals.

Video games are one of the largest industries worldwide. With an estimated $157 billion in global spending last year that is projected to reach almost $300 billion by 2027, there are tons of investment opportunities lurking within the gaming space.

One of these opportunities may be Corsair Gaming (CRSR -4.69%), a company that just went public last fall and aims to become one of the premier gaming equipment and gear brands, similar to what Nike (NKE -0.86%) has done within the traditional sports market. Does Corsair Gaming have the chops to be the Nike of video games? Let's take a look.

What is Corsair Gaming?

Founded in 1994, Corsair started out selling high-end gaming PCs and hardware. This operating segment, which it calls gaming components and systems, is still the majority of the company's revenue, generating $353.5 million of its $529.4 million in sales last quarter. Corsair sells high-performance PCs to hardcore gamers, most of which sell for more than $2,000 apiece. 

A person holding a controller playing a video game with a headset on.

Image source: Getty Images.

While its legacy business is components and systems, Corsair is investing heavily into what it calls gaming and creator peripherals. This is mainly gaming and live streaming accessories like microphones, headsets, keyboards, and chairs. This segment generated $175.9 million in sales last quarter, up from $75.9 million a year ago. That is 132% year-over-year revenue growth for this segment. 

Corsair is also making multiple acquisitions to bolster its fastest-growing operating segment. One company it just acquired, Elgato, is a top brand for live stream equipment and software. Seeing as live streaming is huge among the gaming community, Elgato should fit perfectly among Corsair's product portfolio.

Late last year, Corsair acquired Gamer Sensei, the world's biggest esports coaching service. Like Elgato, Gamer Sensei is an easy upsell for Corsair customers, as many are likely already aspiring esports professionals.

How Corsair can follow the Nike playbook

The problem with Corsair is that, when you get down to it, a lot of what it and its competitors sell are commodity products. This means that Corsair needs to differentiate itself in other ways in order to attract customers, like with design or a quality brand. A great comparison, and possible inspiration for Corsair's advertising strategy, would be Nike's playbook that helped it dominate the athletic shoe and apparel market. 

For decades, Nike has paid billions of dollars to famous athletes and sports teams to make sure they exclusively wear Nike products when performing in front of millions of fans. For example, it is rumored the company's lifetime contract with NBA star Lebron James is worth more than $1 billion. At first glance, this may seem like wasteful spending, but Nike gets a great return on these athlete contracts because it convinces millions of other people to spend $100 or more on a pair of Nike shoes. 

Corsair can differentiate itself from other gaming equipment brands by using a similar strategy of paying famous gamers and esports athletes to exclusively use and wear Corsair products. It is already moving in this direction, with a few esports teams under its umbrella and a streamer program where people can apply to get free gear and discounts. However, the company has a lot more levers it could pull on this front. For example, it could sign top Twitch streamers to multi-year sponsorship deals, fitting them exclusively with Corsair gear. It could also go a step further by partnering with these top streamers to build custom gear, similar to what Nike does with NBA players and shoes. I'm no expert on the game streaming market, but if someone like Ninja (one of the most popular Twitch streamers) came out with a customer Corsair product it would likely do very well.

The stock trades at a reasonable valuation

As of this writing, Corsair has a market cap of $3 billion. With $1.92 billion in trailing 12-month revenue, that gives the stock a price-to-sales ratio (P/S) of 1.56. And with $185.5 million in free cash flow over the past 12 months, its price-to-free-cash-flow (P/FCF) is around 16.2.

Both these metrics are cheap relative to the overall market, indicating that investors are not that confident in Corsair's prospects going forward. Management is only guiding for $1.9 billion to $2.1 billion in revenue in 2021, which may be spooking investors a bit as that would be a big slowdown in growth. But if you have a long-term time horizon and think Corsair can be a dominant brand in one of the world's fastest-growing industries, a market cap of only $3 billion may look like a steal five or 10 years from now.

Brett Schafer has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Nike. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Corsair Gaming, Inc. Stock Quote
Corsair Gaming, Inc.
CRSR
$16.87 (-4.69%) $0.83
NIKE, Inc. Stock Quote
NIKE, Inc.
NKE
$117.04 (-0.86%) $-1.02

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