If you don’t know about eSports, you’re not alone. eSports is the official name given to competitive video gaming that is broadcast to a live audience. While live events and tournaments have long been a part of video game culture, livestreaming has widened the audience. The number of titles being played range from League of Legends, Starcraft and newcomer Overwatch. Physical arenas dedicated to these tournaments are popping up in every major city as the competitive market matures and fans flock to watch their favorite players compete in person. With the growing popularity, influencer-marketing savvy communications pros are eager to tap in to this audience.
eSports: By The Numbers
In the beginning of eSports sponsorships, brands primarily came from the computer industry and its suppliers, like Razer and Dell Computers. Recently, more and more global brands are getting involved beyond logos on player’s jerseys. From content creation opportunities, elevation of products and services on their influencers’ feeds and direct partnership on the global stage, brands including BMW, Mercedes, Red Bull, Coca-Cola and Visa are working to maximize their impact on these influencers’ fans. Just recently Dr. Pepper announced a partnership with North American eSports organization Team SoloMid, joining other non-endemic brands Gillette and Geico, to produce social media posts celebrating the team in addition to other marketing collateral.
Others have been attracted by the size of that audience, which is staggering. Think professional video-gaming attracts a smaller audience than your favorite football rivalry? Think again.
According to Statista, eSports generated $696 million revenue in 2017 and enjoyed a global audience of 385 million. Twitch.tv, the leading eSports streaming site, saw influencer streamer accounts drive more Internet traffic than anyone except Google, Netflix and Apple in 2017. Users of the site watch an average of 421.6 minutes per month, about 44 percent more than those who watch YouTube. Championships for the most popular titles like League of Legends command larger audiences than most sports championships, with the Super Bowl being the one exception.
It’s hard to talk about eSports and the draw for marketers without pointing to the incredible passion of its fans. There is a massive sense of community around eSports, and keep in mind that it’s not just about watching professional gamers go head to head, but also gathering to learn and debate the latest strategies, players and tournaments. Mindshare NA‘s research also shows that the eSports audience is more complex than you might think—while over half of fans are millennials, 60 percent of eSports fans are between the ages of 25 and 39; many are parents; and 38 percent are women.
The growth in popularity of eSports over recent years combined with access to a unique target group has led to a projected billion dollar marketing industry and has created a new breed of eSports influencers who hold the attention of millions of fans.
eSports and Influencer Marketing
Remember that the key to successful influencer marketing for brands is collaborating with authentic influencers who understand their followers. This means that if a brand wants to engage with an eSports influencer, they need to find influencers who are digitally-savvy and relevant to today’s gamers.
Those who make a name for themselves in these places can be highly effective influencers – eSports fans would trust their views over anything they saw published in a more traditional location. This loyalty follows through to the brands that influencers promote. Their followers are likely to take a genuine interest in what their influencers support. In some ways, they are like traditional sports fans. They have favorite players and teams they support. They take notice of brands who support and sponsor their online heroes.
Some of the best-known players are gaining a more comprehensive profile. One of the top Starcraft players goes by the name of Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn and has been featured in The New Yorker,The Rolling Stones and other publications. A former competitive player-turned-livestreamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins made headlines after his livestream with rapper Drake generated 635,429 concurrent viewers, a record for Twitch. To date he’s racked up nearly 3.5 million followers and around 140,000 subscribers on Twitch, in addition to his other social media channels.
Brands are learning that there are many opportunities to provide Twitch, YouTube and social media sponsorships. eSports is now a high-stakes competitive competition, and the participants are just as determined to win their games as any professional sports star.
But for marketers, the most important and differentiated aspect of this new category might be something altogether different: eSports, and livestreaming in general are co-creation experiences. If social allowed entertainment to move from passive to active consumption, livestreaming allows entertainment to move out of “consumption” all together into co-creation.
The short of eSports is that it’s big… and it’s only getting bigger. This is one of those rare moments for marketers where they can see the future and actually have a chance to be a part of shaping it rather than racing to catch up.