While the professional sporting leagues shut down, then played to empty stadiums in 2020, esports took center stage.
However, this wasn’t an overnight phenomenon.
Esports had already been showing its potential, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed.
Pre 2020, esports events were already filling dedicated sports arenas, held in major cities worldwide.
Drawing in tens of thousands of fans and with millions more online, but with recent events, numbers have skyrocketed, and organizations are now investing heavily in teams across numerous esports.
What’s more, in 2020 alone, the estimated viewing numbers of esports fans was over 490 million.
With those numbers expected to grow to 646 million by 2023, and with esports only in its infancy compared to traditional sports, the advertising possibilities are incredibly enticing.
For instance, the combination of a global audience, flourishing technology, and regular online users presents businesses with a wealth of opportunities to engage and grow their communities.
It’s no wonder the major brands are now getting involved.
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Let’s take a closer look at what the esports world is all about:
What is Esports?
If you want the full picture, it’s always best to start at the beginning.
How it all began:
The date: October 19, 1972.
Location: The Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence – Stanford University.
Tournament: Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics.
Prize: An annual subscription to Rolling Stones magazine.
Fast forward to 2019, and the prize money for the DOTA 2 (Defence of the Ancients) esports event held in Shanghai tops 34 million U.S. dollars! So, what’s it all about?
Esports (electronic sports) is competition via video games. And what began as a two-player, one console event in a friend’s bedroom has now, (due to rapid developments in home-gaming technology, online platforms, and gaming software), become a global phenomenon, turning gamers into professional competitors and teams into household names.
You might know some popular esports games with competing leagues, like Call of Duty, League of Legends, Defence of the Ancients, Counter-Strike, and Overwatch. All attracting millions of viewers from every corner of the globe.
And you might be surprised to find out that the following brands are already involved in esports:
Who’s Involved in Esports?
Everyone, from endemic brands to non-endemic global household brands including Nike – Coca Cola – Red Bull – Adidas – Mountain Dew – BMW – Nissan – Kia motors, and an array of sporting stars, including F1 drivers Lando Norris and Romain Grosjean, who started their own F1 esports teams in 2020.
Esports is an extremely lucrative platform for brands, with the global market value hitting 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. But it’s not only the producers and brands sharing the pot; professional players like +Nova and N0tail also earn seven figures from winnings, league salaries, endorsements, and sponsorship deals.
Then there are the event organizers, with the 2019 International Dota 2 championships tickets, held at 18.000 seated capacity Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, selling out in 53 seconds and costing approximately $304 each for the four-day event.
And the following numbers are even more impressive:
Why Should Non-Endemic Brands Be Interested In Esports?
The sheer volume is reason enough.
With the 2020 League of Legends World Championship achieving a peak viewership of 3.8 million, racking up over 139 million hours of viewership, and the overall 2020 viewers coming in at over 495 million, the numbers speak for themselves.
Then there are the passionate esports fans who are fiercely loyal to their teams and brands; add that they’re `always online` to the mix, and you have the perfect branding recipe, but there’s even-more-good news for brands.
As it’s a digital marketing platform, brands can apply integrated advertising strategies and connect them to their global marketing campaigns while also using esports to increase their target demographic by affiliating with specific teams and personalities.
Resulting in expanding their reach and market potential.
For those non-endemic brands wanting to get involved, there are numerous investment opportunities:
From team equipment and jerseys to league and event sponsorship. Many investment firms see Esports as an emerging industry with longevity (it’s such a young audience), and with a deep pool of industry leaders driving it forward, the financial predictions are positive.
And with many experts predicting global revenue to continue rising steadily and forecasted to reach 2.2 billion by 2022, it’s an opportunity too good to miss.
Building Relatable Brands Is Essential
But of course, as with all branding strategies and platforms, standing out from the crowd, connecting with your target audience, and remaining relevant is vital. And as the esports market rapidly develops, brands must get their look right and stay up-to-date with the most recent design trends.
Traditionally esports mascots, logos, and fonts were gaudy. However, with the influence of large organizations and known brands moving into the market, there’s a notable impact on both the esports products and overall design quality.
Now simple and highly recognizable logos are replacing old branding styles, and you can easily find gaming logo ideas by looking at those brands and teams leading the revolution taking place within the esports gaming world.
Brands are now using a fluorescent frame and glow styled logos, and popular streetwear brands like Supreme bring an inspiring modern approach to the merchandise, which often sells out within hours of being released.
Another advantage to brands entering the esports market is user demographic information is freely available, enabling them to orientate their branding strategies towards the younger generation and ensuring they resonate, connect, and stay relevant.
Let me explain why:
The Potential For Future Brand Loyalty Is Huge
Esports fans come in many shapes and sizes, but two specific demographics should be of great interest to brands.
Those being age and income.
Statistics show that many esports fans are of an age where they’re about to start employment with an above-average salary for their location; these are the people who’ll have checking accounts and available funds for purchasing branded goods in the future.
Begs the question:
Why aren’t banks involved in sponsorship?
But it’s not only sponsorship and advertising where brands can benefit because statistics also show that the average fan is well educated and tech-savvy, so it’s also an excellent platform for brands to promote themselves as a future employer.
However, the esports audience isn’t homogenous across games; so, brands should assess each segment before committing to sponsorship. A recent survey by Mckinsey & Company revealed four main fan clusters, describing their lifestyle and interest:
- Those who follow newer esports games are more interested in their outward appearance.
- Those who follow mature esports games are interested in business, e-commerce, fast cars and gravitate towards self-help services and products!
- Sports-simulation esports fans care about their health and have a broad interest in a variety of sports.
- Niche esports fans are interested in travel, literature, and using a smart device.
As esports’ reach continues to grow, so will the market because a new gaming fan is born every day.
So, it’s no surprise that consumer brands are now recognizing the importance of getting in early and establishing themselves to build a loyal following based on brand association for the years to come.
And if 2020 told us anything, it’s that socially distant sports like esports are almost bulletproof to whatever man or mother nature unintendedly throw at it.