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Esports: Your Brand’s Gateway to the Lucrative Games Market

The number of global Esports Enthusiasts is enormous, already totaling 198 million

We previously explored the unmissable opportunities of gaming. Now, we’re turning our eye to esports – one of the most efficient ways for brands to leverage gaming and strengthen their marketing muscle in games.

Esports and game streaming: what’s the difference?

Streaming and esports are different things, but many people unfamiliar with gaming use the terms interchangeably. Streamers like Ninja stream themselves playing games to an audience via platforms like YouTube or Twitch.

Esports is competitive gaming in an organized format such as a tournament or league with a specific goal like winning a champion title or prize money. Organizers typically broadcast esports events via streaming platforms like Twitch, hence the confusion.

Esports growth is massive

From the outside looking in, esports may seem like a scrappy market, but this is simply untrue. The number of global esports enthusiasts (fans who watch esports at least once per month) is enormous, already totaling 198 million. When we add 'occasional viewers' to the mix, that growing number becomes even bigger.

By 2023, there will be 295 million esports enthusiasts, meaning more fans will be tuning in and engaging with esports.

Major live events often exceed average concurrent viewership numbers in the millions, and the biggest finals events spike above 10 million viewers — and that’s without video-on-demand (VOD).

Even smaller events can pull in hundreds and thousands of live viewers, and viewership numbers are increasing every year.

Before lockdown started, the most prominent esports events resembled major traditional sports matches. You’d see 10k-40k esports fans in a stadium cheering, reacting to the action, and supporting their favorite teams and players.

Why do people watch esports?

According to Newzoo’s Consumer Insights in 32 countries, people watch esports for many reasons, including:

  • Immersing themselves in the fandom of players/teams (48%)

  • Improving their skills through observation (44%)

  • Watching the highest level of play (28%)

  • As an alternative to playing (14%)

Like sports, a share of the esports audience watches tournaments or leagues for a specific game but don’t play themselves. Many people also watch for social reasons—just like traditional sports, esports can be a social affair.

Many brands are already getting in on the ground floor

The number of non-gaming brands entering esports is growing, with 310 esports deals signed last year — a third more than 2018’s number. Non-gaming brands now represent 63% of all esports deals. But is there any room left for your brand?

There are still plenty of viable opportunities waiting for you, and most deals are league-wide or with individual teams. Esports marketing strongly resembles traditional-sports marketing: brands can connect with fans’ bonds with leagues and teams.

Tapping into these bonds helps marketers create awareness and positive brand association with young audiences, who are becoming harder to reach elsewhere and can become lifelong fans—if you target them correctly.

Finding your brand’s perfect fit: factors to consider before entering esports

Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Partner with a game that fits your brand/audience: Certain games are more popular in different countries, and one game’s audience could be drastically different from another’s. Tools like Newzoo Pro have already helped countless brands find their fit.

  • Build a narrative that will resonate with esports fans: Brands have better chances for success if they can tell a story that feels organic and demonstrates the brand’s value.

  • Know where to reach fans: Certain games have massive streaming audiences but have smaller esports scene. Other games are largely driven by VOD content on YouTube.

It’s also essential to understand your potential esports partner. Many brands’ first question is: ‘’how big is the audience we will reach with this partnership?’’ This is crucial, but it’s equally important to understand that audience.

Esports teams also have their own brand identities, so if your brand wants to communicate dignity and tradition, partnering with a rebellious team wouldn’t work. As with any marketing collaboration, narrative cohesion is king.

Another key ingredient is authenticity. It may seem initially challenging to connect your brand to esports, but even the unlikeliest of brands have succeeded.

Esports sponsorship done right: The DHL case study

DHL’s collaboration with ESL One Hamburg is an excellent example of how a seemingly incompatible partnership can take shape:

  • DHL asked ESL to be an in-partnership agency supporting content on ESL’s own channels.
  • The first resulting content was a one-minute video featuring an influencer as a delivery agent preparing welcome packages for competitors.
  • The follow-up was a promotional video featuring an in-game Dota 2 courier rebranded as DHL’s EffiBOT delivery robot.

By keeping the theme of the sponsorship in line with what is happening in the game and engaging key members of the community, many see DHL’s activation as an example of esports partnership done right.

Is your brand looking to enter esports? Grab your free two-week trial for Newzoo Pro to scope out the space!

About Newzoo
Newzoo is the leading provider of games and esports analytics. We're proud to work with some of world's most successful agencies and businesses in entertainment, technology, and media, including Jung Van Matt, EA, PepsiCo, Vodafone and Bloomberg. We help them target their audiences, increase brand awareness, spot opportunities, and make strategic and financial decisions with the help of data.
About the Author
Remer Rietkerk is our Head of Esports. When he's not advising the world's biggest companies on esports, Remer leads the charge on Newzoo's esports expertise, analytics, and modelling. Before joining Newzoo, Remer led the franchising and rebranding process for the LEC, one of the world's biggest esports leagues.

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