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Why brands should bust the Esports myths.

Lore Oxford, Global Head of Cultural Insights and Influencer marketing specialist Sofia Sarcina from We are Social, unpick the opportunity for brands to embrace the creative opportunities of Esports.

Lore Oxford and Sofia Sarcina

Lore Oxford, Global Head of Cultural Insights and Influencer marketing specialist Sofia Sarcina from We are Social

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Esports remain an untapped marketing opportunity amongst many brands.  Research from We Are Social’s 2021 Digital Report shows that 85% of internet users are also gamers. High Snobiety encapsulates the current situation in a recent whitepaper, pointing out that, “Calling someone a gamer today would be like calling a boomer a TV watcher.” It’s clear that gaming has entered global culture and now offers enormous opportunities for brands to take part.

According to Newzoo research, Esports attracted 496 million global viewers, generating $947 million in 2020. In 2019, the League of Legends World Championship finals drew 100M unique viewers - that’s 2M more than the Super Bowl that year.

Calling someone a gamer today would be like calling a boomer a TV watcher

High Snobiety

A mobile opportunity 

The fastest-growing esports category is mobile. The mobile-based battle royal game Garena Free Fire Continental Series 2020 tournament drew 1.5 million live viewers. This sector truly cannot be ignored. As Nick Contino, Business Development Lead at Ryu Games points out, “Any game you play on your phone - including casual games like solitaire - can be made into a mobile esport. In the next few years, we’ll also see more non-gaming influencers begin to stream and promote them. Since the mobile demographic is largely female, influencers in that market have an unrealised opportunity to partner with up and coming brands.”

MAC cosmetics has been ahead of this game already, releasing products inspired by the five female lead characters in Honor of Kings. These products sold out in less than 24 hours.

Aligning with Esports Fandoms

There are a number of ways in which brands can align with the reasons fans are attracted to esports teams. Lifestyle brands can position themselves in a way that transcends the games alone and enters pop culture, diversifying income streams in the process. Performance brands can study how a team approaches a game and either take passive or aggressive approaches and strategies to direct involvement with winnings and experiences.

Fortnite is an official high school and college sport in the U.S. with a competitive national league. Levi’s successfully entered the culture when it partnered with UK university esports league NUEL to fund youth tournaments and incubate the next generation of talent. 

There are also some great examples of this where brands can get involved and it’s not all about competition and play. The Overwatch League hosts an annual cosplay event featuring popular cosplayers and fans from around the world. Toyota is running a 10-day virtual event that features a roster of esports stars taking part in a live-streamed entertainment gala with challenges across multiple games.

The reasons why fans support a team are multiple, including geography, cultural appeal, individual player fandom and brands can join the action even when tournaments are not streaming. 80% of FaZe Clan’s $40 million revenue in 2020 came from its content arm.  Adidas spotted this early and in its multiyear sponsorship of G2, entertainment and influencer marketing was locked in as well as regular sports marketing.

Fan connections with players

Fans connect with players for lots of reasons, sometimes to learn and observe their expertise, to engage in shared fandom, to be entertained or to connect with like-minded others. However, despite connecting a rich network of communities, diverse esports stars lack visibility. There are opportunities here for brands to support diverse players and teams as well as sending a bigger message of support to people outside of gaming culture.

COExist is an esports organisation looking to foster talent and provide equal opportunities. Absolut tapped into this field with its #digitalIRL campaign by partnering with Evil Geniuses gamer Ricki Ortiz to tell her story of transition in a volatile online environment.

Breaking down the stereotype of gaming is also an area of creative development. FaZe Clan was the first esports team to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated and Ralph Lauren Polo has included shoots with esports stars, shaking off the stereotype of the geeky gamer.

Guest Author

Lore Oxford and Sofia Sarcina

Lore Oxford, Global Head of Cultural Insights and Influencer marketing specialist Sofia Sarcina from We are Social

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