Esports has quickly become one of the most popular spectator sports around the globe.
With huge audiences tuning in to watch their favourite teams and players, brands have naturally been looking to capitalise on the action. But these games come with a complex set of rules and some brands have found that their eSports sponsorships and promotions have not paid off.
Not understanding the fragmentation of this diverse spectrum of sports is where many brands are going wrong. In this article we will dive into the different areas of eSports to help you understand where your brand will best fit in.
According to MRISimmons, there are 21 million esports fans in the US. Of these, 83% are male and 84% are under 35.
Esports has become the third-most-popular spectator sport for men with 38% US men under 25 identifying as eSports fans.
This explosion in popularity means that eSports have the potential to be an even more powerful branding medium than traditional sports. Streaming makes it more accessible to wider audiences and younger fans particularly, are tuning in for hours a week.
Ad frequency on streaming platforms such as Twitch is low. Normally, there are only a couple of ads shown per hour.
Ads are not the only marketing tool that brands have. Streamers are willing to wear and endorse sponsors’ products while they play, similar to the deals that many sportswear brands have with traditional athletes.
But this is looking at the big picture. Just as in traditional sports, a basketball fan is not necessarily a football fan, esports also has its siloed demographics.
Brands often underestimate the fragmentation of esports. Fans are divided among countless games, leagues, teams, and players.
The universal view that brands have results in spending valuable marketing dollars unwisely. To avoid such a fate, brands need to take the time to understand the intricacies of eSports audiences.
Esports only really started to be recognised in the past five years. And it has only boomed since 2020. Currently, esports leagues and competitions are divided over more than 30 different game titles.
Some of those titles are new. For example, Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds are two of the top five games in number of hours watched on Twitch. However neither of them existed before March 2017.
Apex Legends launched in early 2019 and gained 50 million players and reached a high of 7.6 million concurrent viewers within four weeks of launch.
Unlike with traditional sports, the best players are not necessarily the most popular. Pro competitions make up only 11% of esports viewing.
Based on 2018 Twitch data, the top ten channels on the platform for that year were all esports, and seven of them were personal channels (non-professional).
Esports fans tune in as much for the personality and charisma of the players as they do for their skill at the game. There is a huge entertainment factor that comes from players' reactions and commentary as they play.
Esports fans are loyal. They often like the games or players that they like, and not much else. Only 37% of avid US esports fans recognized three or more leading esports teams in a survey conducted by McKinsey.
Almost 45% of avid fans said they have a favourite player or streamer. Fans often have loyalty to the player rather than the team. This is in contrast to traditional sports, where players are often traded between teams, but fans stay loyal to one team.
There are a huge range of games played and streamed. But there is a clear favourite. Esports are dominated by shooting games. These are divided into first-person shooters, such as Counter-Strike: battle royale, such as Fortnite; and multiplayer online battle arenas, such as League of Legends.
Esports has the potential to generate massive revenues for brands through sponsorships and advertising. But it's an arena in which audiences are often lumped together. Esports fans are not all the same. They are fragmented and without understanding of where particular audiences spend their time you can end up flushing away valuable marketing revenue targeting an audience that will not resonate with your brand.
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