For years, football, baseball, soccer and NASCAR have been battle grounds for brands. Companies pay enormous amounts of money to get their logo in front of thousands if not millions of people. Sporting events will always be solid marketing tools, but a new force is rising with a fury and that force is e-sports.
Countries like Korea and China have had a strong e-sports base for over 10 years. But in recent years, North American and European countries have taken to e-sports and now have a growing audience. This international attention culminated in the League of Legends 2014 Championship match, watched by over 27 million people. More people watched two teams play a video game then watched the 5 games of the 2014 NBA Finals or the 7 games of the World Series. The audience is strongest in the male 13 to 34 age group; though many people in older age groups have trouble imagining people watching professional gamers play a game, whether it’s the lack of history behind e-sports or lack of understanding. However, people spend hundreds of hours watching professional players play a game just like a fan would watch football or baseball. The difference is that the e-sports world still has room for brands and to grow its market even larger. There are many ways to reach e-sports fans and on such a global scale that can hardly be matched by any other sport. This is only on the internet as well. ESPN recently started to show e-sports matches and TBS is going to have its very own e-sports league in 2016. If successful, e-sports could become a permanent staple in television.
E-sports have a global reach with the players and teams, each having their own loyal fan base. Here is a short list of the few, yet powerful, ways that a brand can show its value to the e-sports audience:
- Content video featuring a team or player – Having a “Top 10 plays” for a specific game, a gaming house tour featuring the product or content regarding the team or player in general. This allows a fan to feel like they are actually connecting with these people and that is a very powerful thing. The video does not even need to have the product present as long as a company puts a “Powered by” or “Brought to you by” it will have an effect on the user. Most users (about 75%) visit a product’s website after viewing one of these content videos.
- “How to…” videos with a professional player – “How to…” videos are huge on the internet right now and with gamers it is a large venue that is wide open for marketing strategies. Tips and tutorials on how to improve at your favorite game by a pro player is something that not only engages the user, but also has the potential to be viewed multiple times. Once again slap a logo or “Powered by” on the video and watch the users roll into the website.
- Sponsor Events or Watch Parties – This requires a bit more budget, but hosting events such as gaming competitions is a great way to become something bigger and more pronounced within the e-sports world. Bring in pros and semi-pro players to participate and make it an official event with game creators. If big events are not your cup of tea, sponsor a watch party by partnering with a movie theatre.
- Sponsor a Team – There are a few types of team sponsorships: Own a team or work with them. Owning a team is a bigger deal and is really only viable if your brand or product is directly related with gaming or technology. The other type is to have a team represent the brand like NASCAR by having the brand logo or name printed on the clothing of the players. Another way that this type of ‘working with the team’ sponsorship is to have the team or player use the brands product exclusively or on streams.
Just like people who dream of playing in the NFL or MLB, people now dream about becoming a professional gamer. Take something they love and enjoy and becoming paid to do it. Also almost anyone can play a video game. It’s a common connection that many people have. Though the world of e-sports is growing, now it’s more of a marketing strategy than a huge revenue driver. Only the future can tell if the world of e-sports will become the next NFL or MLB.