Game on: Brands and the rising popularity of esports

We explore the rise of the esports sector and how marketers can tap into this growing audience and community to build brand through the funnel


The rise of non-endemic advertisers

Companies such as Intel and ASUS have a direct interest in esports competitors and fans as a sales opportunity. But according to Essence’s Mills, one of the key trends of 2020 was the rise in prominence of so-called non-endemic brands amongst sponsors and advertisers. It’s something he says follows the evolution of traditional sports sponsorship behaviour.

“You don’t have to be an endemic sports brand to show up in sports,” Mills says. “And it [esports] is such an essential part of the fabric of Australia, that gaming in the next coming years will be a place you build reach.”

One non-endemic brand to find success in esports in Australia has been Dare Iced Coffee. Publicis Sports & Entertainment senior content manager, Muamer Hot, says working with Dare on a sponsorship of the ESL League helped the brand reach a younger and harder to reach audience.

“Over the last three-and-a-half years, Dare Iced Coffee has been able to continuingly log on to a new audience, culture, and language through esports, helping it achieve brand objectives like growing sales, and establishing the need for mental energy for gamers – an elusive 18-34 demographic audience that had shifted their attentions from TV to Twitch,” Hot says.

He noted research over the past few years found more than half of the Australian esports broadcast viewers either purchased a Dare Iced Coffee, or said that they would, as a direct result of the brand’s presence in esports.

“And when unprompted, almost all Aussie gamers can recall the Dare brand, giving it one of the strongest brand cut-throughs amongst other brands that play in the space – endemic or non-endemic,” Hot says. “Dare’s brand proposition has also been taking the gaming community by storm, with sentiment being very positive towards Dare playing in the space and helping gamers ‘drink it through’ and ‘get your head in the game’ - as identified during a brand effectiveness study.”

As with other brands, Hot echoes the sentiment of needing to engage with esports enthusiasts in an authentic way.

“One of the biggest learnings a brand can make is to quickly understand that esports is a community of its own - one powered by its own code of behaviour, language and meme culture,” Hot says. “As a brand, you have every right to be wary about any esports venture.

“However, you cannot exist in the space just for the sake of it. With Dare, we understood quickly there was an important need to stand for something, to drive credibility. As a result, we have been developing a role for Dare, which is looking to grow and legitimise esports in Australia by working with players, clubs, managers, organisers and leagues.”

While the effort required to understand and tailor campaigns to the needs of the esports sector can be significant, Hot say so too are the rewards.

“The gaming space is rapidly evolving, more and more people are playing games more often here in Australia - getting deeper into the experiences,” Hot says. “This growing easy access to gaming will only make gaming a more permanent fixture in the Australian cultural landscape. We want to be there, along for the ride - as gaming starts to outgrow other types and forms of media.

“For Dare, it won’t just be about computerised competition, we’ll be looking at how we can further grow our role in the immersive virtual culture – where sport, film, music and social will soon come to live. From now until then, we’ll be keeping an eye out on the myriad ways that Dare can play in the space, having already done the hard yards in embedding itself as a legitimate gaming/esports player over the last few years.”

 

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