Marketers are Scoring Big with Esports

Marketers are famously known for hopping on every hot trend. In the past few years, however, the potential value of advertising in the electronic sports market - an industry that has been around since the 80’s - has skyrocketed. For many marketers, they are actually late to the game. 

A 2016 study by ORC, in conjunction with Mirriad, reported that 76% of people skip ads on traditional TV. As we enter 2020, consumers will do just about anything to skip commercials wherever they’re encountered. People crave a personalized experience, and marketers must listen if they want to get the attention of their target audiences.

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Why should marketers care about esports? 

Esports may be the next big advertising channel for marketers - especially since 70% of Americans play video games on some sort of device. 

Although electronic sports gamers is a niche population right now, it is rapidly growing in popularity, with the population of esports gamers growing to about 380 million in the past year. According to NJ Games, esport viewer audiences will grow to 557 million by 2021. That’s almost a 50% increase in just two years.

Beyond that, marketers need to reevaluate their current marketing strategy to meet the needs of millennials and Generation Z because the purchasing power of these younger generations is increasing with every passing year.

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This is untapped potential that, until recently, big brands like The Coca-Cola Company, Wendy’s, T-Mobile, Audi, and Red Bull are taking advantage of. 

 

How can marketers get involved?

Just like most modern marketing tactics, getting involved in esports requires customer centricity.  Esports marketing is all about partnerships, sponsorships, hosting esports events, and providing an exceptional consumer experience. As long as brands are providing value while contributing to the conversation in an authentic way, fan bases will welcome them with open arms.

 

Esports Partnerships + Sponsorships - The key to success. 

The esports industry reached $1 billion in revenue partly due to sponsorships. Whether it’s with an esports brand like FaZe Clan or a livestream influencer on Twitch, partnerships promote new brand products and customize advertising to consumers who actually want to listen. 

Brands like Burger King and Wendy’s are already competing in this digital arena. 

Burger King partnered with FaZe Clan to promote their Impossible Burger and Wendy’s has streamed Fortnite on Twitch to advertise their DoorDash offers.  

Other than fast food brands, brands like Honda have joined the partnership race to become more relevant and approachable to consumers. Honda has an exclusive automotive sponsorship of the Riot Games League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) - the company responsible for over 1.1 million daily unique viewers of League of Legends in the last four years. The sponsorship includes running short 15 second ads on multiple social platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. 

Phil Hruska, the manager of Media Strategy at American Honda, emphasized that Honda’s goal through this partnership is to create “one-of-a-kind, unforgettable experiences for gamers as we launch the next phase of Honda’s endeavor in esports and gaming.”

The Setup team at Turner (Warner Media) in the ELeague studio.

The Setup team at Turner (Warner Media) in the ELeague studio.

In the case of Turner (now a part of Warner Media), the ROI is substantial, successfully reaching over 1 million viewers for a single event. Other brands partnering with Twitch and creating campaigns and collaboration efforts with professional gamers and esports teams are State Farm, Gillette, PepsiCo, Bud Light, Red Bull, and countless others.

 

Even professional sport teams are getting involved. The 76ers have acquired esport franchises; the NFL, NBA, and NHL have invested money; and famous athletes like Michael Jordan have financially backed esports.

Just like professional sporting events, marketers can leverage sponsorships for leagues, tournaments, championships, or the individual players. Millions of people show up to esports arenas to experience the game with their community and brands can be a part of that experience just like they are at a Nascar event or a baseball game. 

 

In order to win the audience over, however, brands must be customer centric.

They can do that through:

1. Authenticity 

In the typical Gen Z fashion, esport fans value altruism and authenticity. They want a brand who is committed to elevating the esports space in the long-term. Just slapping a logo onto an esport influencer’s t-shirt or in the background of a random game once won’t cut it. 

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Gamers are savvy consumers who can and will call a brand out on its BS. Brands should only partner with games and leagues consistent to their brand values and voice. 

Matt Wolf, who oversees esports for Coca-Cola said, brands need to "really understand [the audience] and, in a way, be one of them" so that marketing "is organic and natural. If it is, you get unbelievable loyalty and praise. And if it's not, you can get some pretty serious toxic backlash."

A brand should identify an authentic voice within the esports space and be able to provide meaningful interactions and connections for consumers.
— Emily Ketchen | Head of America’s Marketing at HP

2. Consistency

If a brand is going to commit to esports as part of their marketing strategy, then it should go all out.

If you do a one-off at an event, [the audience] might not see a ton of impact, but if this audience sees a brand pop up in multiple places, it becomes a long-term opportunity to create those relationships and the awareness they want.
— Shannon Simpson Jone | Co-founder of Verb

3. Interactivity

Even though esports is online, interaction is still imperative to building a relationship with a fandom. Esports gaming differentiates itself from professional sports in its accessibility and inclusivity. Esport stars further prove this by socializing with fans through social media platforms regularly. 


In short, esports marketing is expanding the definition of professional sports marketing.  Major league gaming is forming connections with an untapped, captive audience - and it’s returning a high profit. If a brand plays its cards right, then it will have a hand in the massive movement towards competitive electronic gaming worldwide. 

What role do you think marketers will play in esports in the next five years?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below and subscribe to the Setup monthly newsletter here