September 8, 2017
With six billion hours of competitive eSports viewed in the past year and a global audience predominantly made up of the traditionally difficult to engage, but lucrative, millennial male demographic, eSports is a promising arena for brand promotion – increasing both exposure and recognition. With Premier League teams signing eSports players, heavy NBA investment in the US and the inclusion of eSports as a demonstration sport in next year’s Asian Games (and an official medal sport in 2022), eSports can no longer be considered a niche market.
The compelling commercial reasons for brands to become involved are, happily, paired with increasing demand for sponsorship from the eSports industry. Whilst growing rapidly, viewing figures are yet to translate into media rights revenues anywhere near the scale of its traditional counterparts and so the ever increasing number of eSports teams, leagues and organisations need diversified funding models – and are likely to be more reliant on advertising and sponsorship in the near future.
A few notes of caution
The opportunity for brands comes with a few important health warnings. Firstly, the eSports audience is very fragmented with China accounting for 57% of all viewing in 2016. This may not suit all brand strategies.
Further, there are no established protections and norms – until these materialise, brands need to ensure deals work for them on a commercial and legal level, such as getting the right level of exclusivity at events to avoid sharing the stage with competitors.
eSports are also largely consumed on digital and mobile platforms, with the associated regular technology trials and tribulations and content protection issues. Brands therefore also need appropriate digital IP protection strategies in place and must be vigilant of possible brand-safety scandals when seeking to capitalise on this expanding and exciting new market.