Understanding the Esports Industry
Late last year, some of our team attended an exclusive three-day Esports Business Summit hosted by Event Marketer. As a recap to the summit, we took away some key insights and what they could mean for the future of the industry and brands looking to get into the space.
Still a young industry, Esports has quickly grown to be a major disruptor across the sports marketing landscape. Expected to reach roughly $3 billion in revenue by 2022, the industry is continuing to break records and grow at an exponential rate. Traditionally a popular pastime among the hard-to-reach Millennial, non-endemic brands to the industry have had trouble penetrating the market due to their lack of connection with the core consumer. With the integration of professional sports leagues like the NBA and FIFA, the Esports fan has changed in recent years and has become more attainable as the traditional sports industry further meshes with its Esports counterpart.
Key Learning #1: Being Authentic
One of the most popular themes was the need for brands to be “authentic.” While other marketing environments may be more cluttered, the Esports landscape is still fresh and new so brands don’t need to overthink their marketing plan. This theme of “authenticity” seemed to be most prevalent in sessions involving non-endemic brands. These brands were able to see success in partnerships merely by associating with Esports teams and providing fans an insight into the team’s culture.
Key Learning #2: Content is King
Speaking of providing insight into team culture, Esports is unique in that fans not only watch their favorite players compete, but they also have the opportunity to play with them as well. To put this in perspective, in traditional sports, the equivalent would be LeBron James tweeting that he’ll be at the local rec center at 6:00 PM and anyone can come play with him. Who wouldn’t do that?
The access to celebrity athletes is a key component to Esports’ popularity and is what fans crave. They want to see how their favorite players live and act outside the gaming world and brands have seen a lot of success in taking this behind-the-scenes content to the next level.
Key Learning #3: Esports Fans are LOYAL
It’s difficult for a brand to make an investment in Esports solely based on the idea of fan loyalty, but everyone currently in the space swears by it. The Esports industry is still an unknown for many. Because of this, a lot of people – sports traditionalists specifically – don’t take the idea of Esports seriously as a sustainable business opportunity. When a brand decides to invest in the Esports space, it is seen as validation for all of the industry’s fans and fans are automatically more willing to support the company.
Keeping the idea of being authentic in-mind, just joining the space for the sake of reaching the Millennial target market isn’t enough. Fans of Esports may be loyal, but they are also good at identifying when a brand is just making a move for the sake of making a move. If brands invest in the space and show they care about the fan (i.e. creating content), the fan will repay them with loyalty.
Better Understanding the Space #1: Categories to Watch
The biggest question brands seem to be asking themselves is, “how do we relate our product to Esports fans?” Aside from authenticity and attaching a brand to content, opportunities exist in Esports spaces such as the lifestyle, apparel, health, wellness, and performance categories – all of which are growing in popularity and are quickly becoming endemic categories as the industry continues to grow. Esports gamers play an average of 10-18 hours a day, so it’s important to make sure they are not only using the best equipment, but also taking care of their bodies. A lot of teams provide their players with a house to live in and personal chefs to make sure they’re able to perform at a high-level during competition.
Lifestyle and apparel brands are also finding a place in the Esports space because, much like professional athletes, Esports athletes care about how they look. K-Swiss is a good example of a brand who found a way to break into the Esports space by teaming up with Team Immortals on a custom sneaker that provides both fashion and high performance.
Better Understanding the Space #2: The Esports Team Structure
Esports teams tend to span across multiple games and genres. Sometimes an Esports team will even have multiple groups competing in the same tournament. It’s simplest to think about the Esports team structure similar to that of European athletic clubs, where there’s an overarching organizational brand/management group with individual teams in different sports (i.e. FC Barcelona has a football, basketball, handball, volleyball, and rugby club).
The advantage to this is that brands are able to partner with a team and have a lot of flexibility in sponsorship opportunities. Each Esports title has its own fan base, and partnering with an Esports team like Team Liquid providing brands access to a variety of people in each of the different platforms.
While still a young industry, the world of Esports is quickly growing and developing into a viable marketing platform from brands across the world. If you want to learn more about Esports or get involved with the industry as an early adopter, reach out to your local TSMGI team member and we’ll make sure to help you out!