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New game, new rules: how brands can reach audiences through esports under lockdown

With sporting events still grounded around the world, esports has been left as the only competitive sport on the field. This unusual state of affairs has seen sport-oriented brands look to the sector as a potential new home for ad spend.

On an esports panel during The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, panellists noted that brands are used to seeing their brands, marketing activities, and logos flashing on the LED screens in stadiums. Now, they are trying to understand whether esports, a space which they are unfamiliar with, is a space they can actually make use of to reach a hard-to-reach audience.

“We are seeing a lot of new brands saying in presentatations: ’We want to reach out to the consumers inside esports.’“, says Jasper Mah, the director of esports for Asia Pacific at Sportfive.

“However, they are going into a space they are very unfamiliar with. During the lockdown phase, we have to explain to them that there will not be an immediate transition from showing a logo on the football field to showing it during an esports match.“

He adds: “The larger conversation is actually around getting familiar with a space, understanding what games are available and what games are people playing nowadays.”

Lawrence Chan, the managing director at MyRepublic Singapore, says at the end of the day, brands need to understand that it communication is about engagement. The telco has brands and businesses perform well – and badly – during this period.

He explains that the lockdown has not changed the fact that there is a desire among gamers to be engaged, pointing to record e-commerce sales among people selling monitors and gaming peripherals during the lockdown period.

During the lockdown period in Singapore, MyRepublic created a new gaming engagement programme called Achievement Unlocked, tied to popular games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Final Fantasy 7 Remake.

“How do you tap into that opportunity? Evolve your sales models, evolve your marketing models. Focus on engagement. The days of cursory glances at a physical environment are over. Online, there are so many filters that people can use and many ways to bypass a logo or a placement.”

He continues: “It has to be an engagement. What are you doing as a company to engage the audience that you really want to talk to? If you’re talking about a gaming community – which is a surging community during the Covid-19 period and I suggest it’s going to be for the long term – focus on what you need to do to reach that audience. It’s a big market. And it’s a big base of consumers who are very interested in consuming your products if associated with the things they care about.”

Mah and Chan spoke with The Drum’s Shawn Lim as part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full here.

Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full can do schedule here.

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