What brands need to know about esports

Brands looking to make a successful push into esports need to come to grips with contextual advertising and the strong player community in virtual sports gaming

Esports is competitive, organised video game competitions and it’s the fastest growing sports segment in the world, with some 400 millions of players worldwide. Esports is calculated to be worth in excess of US$1 billion this year, according to research by Newzoo. 

In 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic keeping people at home and away from other forms of entertainment, esports is proving an appealing new form of entertainment for many people. The esports competitions are made up of a mixture of models and a mixture of revenue streams and it’s grown out of a grassroots interest in sports video games to attract players from a wide range of demographics through a plethora of different types of games.

Understanding the esports ecosystem

The esports ecosystem consists of publishers, like Valve, Riot Games, Activision and others, which create the games played virtually in leagues or tournaments with a range of teams. The tournaments are played on platforms like Twitch and YouTube with games on a regular basis.  

MediaCom Australia head of digital, Minsun Collier, said for brands, esports is a combination of a general audience extension, a contextual environment and also the mindset and connection with audiences. “We’re looking more at audiences individually at the moment, but the branded content environment and partner content with esports stars we’re not doing so much yet,” Collier explained.

From high-end fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Gucci to global sports outfits like Nike and even fast food chain, McDonalds, brands are realising the unique opportunities to be a part of esports. Founder, SG Esports and Gravitas, Sean Callanan, at a recent IAB Australia webinar on esports said esports is an appealing destination for brands from branded content to in-gaming advertising. 

“There are opportunities with event spaces, like the Melbourne Esports Open or PAX, to connect with esports fans. Media opportunities are the ability to have brand advertisements in the virtual games and the ability for leagues and teams and particular players to connect brands with teams,” Callanan said.

Fans are integrated into the esports tournaments, watching the games and chatting in real-time, creating a community of like-minded people invested in a particular virtual game, Twitch head of sales A/NZ, Ricky Chanana, said during the IAB panel.

“The opportunities in the esports ecosystem for brand and advertisers are to come in and collaborate and be part of the environment, which is seen by hyper-engaged viewers,” Chanana said. “The biggest engagement for this audience is working with brands to feature the professional players, custom commercials and sponsored players and livestreams outside of the professional games,” he continued.

Chanana said one of other other key opportunities for brands is in creating unique, related content to the games or the tournaments for fans to enjoy. “It’s essential to create complimentary content as the esports arenas are filled with audiences who are tweeting, engaging, communicating, texting each other and that will bring the brand into the arena and connect with fans at that level.”

Tourism NZ brand example

Tourism NZ, while not being able to talk to people about travelling right now, saw an opportunity with esports to still connect with people through storytelling. 

"If you look at travel and tourism, it's got a lot in common with esports around exploration, adventure, going beyond yourself, inspiration and sharing experiences with others,” Tourism New Zealand GM Australia, Andrew Waddel, said. 

Wanting to keep the destination alive in the hearts and minds of people during these travel-restricted times, Tourism NZ saw an opportunity to move into esports. “There is an online and offline link. People spend a lot of time online planning a holiday and then traveling in real life and there’s a lot of time gaming online and then you go to live events,” he continued.

“We positioned it under ‘100% Pure New Zealand presents’. 100% Pure New Zealand is actually the oldest destination brand and we operated like a ‘Riot Games presents’ or ‘Warner Brothers presents’ with the idea just to highlight the game. We haven't produced a game, but we've tapped into the huge number of angles and factors within gaming and that really helps us bring it to life. So we're in gaming and we're celebrating gaming but we haven't created a game ourselves.”

Waddel explained brands going into esports need to be respectful of the unique environment and the community of fans.

“You need to appreciate the sense of guardianship and that fans are protective of the community,” he said.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia. 

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