eSports is a market with enormous growth potential. It also offers new sales opportunities for advertisers, but only if they take the values and laws of this industry into account. Franck Cremond, Media Development Director, Epsilon-Conversant offers tips on getting the most out of eSports marketing.
eSports – or electronic sports – is a real social phenomenon worldwide. Figures from 2019 show that global revenues have exceeded $1 billion and it boasts audiences of more than 454 million, with this figure expected to rise to 645 million this year.
Brits certainly haven’t been left behind. There are an estimated 36.6 million gamers in the UK, with 3.1 million being self-proclaimed eSports enthusiasts and another 3.4 million who watch occasionally. In total, this means there are 6.5 million Brits who watch eSports occasionally or regularly – about 10% of the whole population. In addition to the enthusiasm of players and fans, this sport also represents a booming UK market. The value of the UK video game market is estimated at £5.7 billion, making it the sixth largest video game market in the world and accounting for half of the whole UK entertainment market.
At the same time, eSports is no longer the exclusive domain of gaming and IT brands like Samsung, Razer and Intel. Other, less traditional players from the food, retail and automotive industries are also using eSports as a means to reach new target audiences. For example, Coca-Cola has become one of the official sponsors of Overwatch competitions. Sponsors for the ESL Premiership, the competition for the best eSports players in the UK and Ireland, now include the likes of Mercedes Benz alongside classic IT brands. These sponsorships are the largest source of revenue and account for up to 38 percent of the current global eSports turnover, closely followed by advertising (22%).
These examples show that eSports clearly has a lot to offer. But what can brands really expect when they focus more on this growing market? What audiences can they reach? How can they use offline and online communication channels? And finally: What role can data play for a better understanding of eSports audiences?
Know your audience
In the UK, eSports is (at this time) mainly pursued by millennials, predominantly male, with 21-35-year olds making up 63% of the market. Women represent 31% and are also most likely to be 21-35 years old. The general trend in media use towards non-linear formats is much stronger in this age group and Video on Demand and short form offerings are much more widely used. In addition, the majority of eSports competitions are broadcast on channels such as Twitch, YouTube Gaming or Mixer. Not to mention new platforms, such as Google Stadia. These platforms and non-linear offers can be a great potential opportunity for advertisers to reach this target group, who tend to receive advertising more positively than older age groups. However, brands must rethink their traditional strategies and address this target group in a highly differentiated, relevant and 1:1 manner.
It is clear that eSports fans, similar to fans of other sports, identify strongly with teams and players. This gives advertisers the opportunity to use this high emotional commitment to promote their own product or brand effectively. For example, by using individual teams or players at events to draw in large crowds to stands.
Brand sponsorship is also becoming increasingly creative. For example, Louis Vuitton worked with Riot Games to create a unique look for the heroine, Qiyana, for the League of Legends game. According to Louis Vuitton, the real-life matching collection was sold out within hours of the announcement.
Customer experience is the key to success
With eSports, brands can increase their awareness as well as rejuvenate and improve their image. To advertise effectively in this industry, however, they must take into account the values and laws of eSports and their supporters. Advertisers must ensure that they respect them and offer authentic, strong communication and partnerships that appeal to this audience. Creativity and clarity are essential.
As the eSports market continues to evolve and structure itself, it also offers brands more and more opportunities to better understand their target audience. Analytical tools such as Newzoo, which focuses on the gaming market, are designed to help advertisers do exactly this. User-centred advertising based on profile data also offers the opportunity to reach eSports fans in a targeted manner and address them with relevant messages.
All this information and the growing number of tools available should be used by companies to better understand their target audience, to create more relevant and immersive communication with them and to make it more effective.
Opportunities to win new and willing customers
eSports is more than a fad, it’s a thriving industry – and one that is only going to get bigger. The opportunities are there to take advantage of and reach new audiences – to make the most of it, advertisers must get to grips with the gaming community and platforms, be agile, and be flexible about the tools they use and the marketing partnerships they form, to ensure a relevant and non-intrusive customer experience. By doing so, there is much to gain from this often-overlooked market.
By Franck Cremond
Media Development Director