In 2017, brands looking for new opportunities to reach young, digitally-connected audiences should capitalize on the emerging opportunities in eSports marketing.
Are you ready to play eSports, the biggest opportunity for brand growth and reach to digitally-connected millennials in 2017? While current estimates of market value are modest, they have made huge leaps in terms of year-over-year growth. Revenues for eSports, or competitive gaming, in 2015 were $325 million, while revenues for 2016 were expected to generate $493 million — almost a 52% jump. Some even predict that in 2017, the business value of eSports will surpass $1 billion.
Industry insiders already tout that eSports broadcasting reaches more unique viewers than the NHL, MLB and NBA combined. The most recent event, Intel Extreme Masters in Oakland, had 490,000 viewers worldwide watching 6.4 million hours of content in 14 different languages.
Audiences for eSports also represent some of the hardest-to-reach demographics such as millennial males. Marketers stand to benefit the most when they enter this market while it still has few non-endemic players, but they must also be cautious to measure audiences and target them with authentic-sounding messaging to have the best impact for their brands.
Pro Sports is Banking on eSports Marketing
Many brands have not heeded the call to eSports marketing, mostly because of unfamiliarity with the market or its opportunities. In fact, one major food chain sponsor of televised eSports did not even relay its participation to its franchise restaurant owners, who were confused when eSports fans arrived and asked to change the TV channel to a video game tournament.
Incidents like this one show that much of the general public is not aware of how popular eSports is internationally, but some of the people who do understand are professional sports teams. Soccer club teams in England have signed on gamers to compete while wearing team jerseys, helping to promote the club league while also enabling sponsorship and endorsement opportunities with affiliated game studios.
Esports Breaks New Digital Ground
With the rise in ad blocking and cord cutting, reaching males ages 18-34 has been a challenge for brands that have long relied on their loyalty. Yet, 73% of the eSports audience is male and 64% is between 18-34.
This viewership means that there are huge exposure and share-of-voice opportunities for brands that plug into eSports’ potential. In the UK alone, eSports boasts an audience of 2.5 million strong, with global estimates of 124.5 million across 10 key markets, including China, India, Brazil and North America.
Another huge advantage comes from eSports’ non-traditional status as the “first digital native sport,” according to Mike Sepso of Activision Blizzard Media Networks. “It fits into the way marketing is moving from traditional above the line, and that journey into digital channels,” he said.
With few competing brands in the mix, participating sponsors and advertisers also have the chance to scale quickly and fill roles that are present in most other professional sports leagues.
As 2017 takes off full-speed, brands looking to expand to new opportunities and reach young, digitally-connected audiences should capitalize on the emerging opportunities that eSports marketing presents.