Marketers are always exploring new ways to reach potential customers. eSports is apparently one of them. eSports is the word that’s started to buzz around. However, it’s not something new. “It’s a full blown shift in entertainment and culture taht is capturing a huge and growing amount of young people’s time and attention.”
What is eSports
According to Wikipedia, “eSports (also known as electronic sports, esports, e-sports, competitive (video) gaming, professional (video) gaming, or pro gaming) is a form of competition that is facilitated by electronic systems, particularly video games; the input of players and teams as well as the output of the eSports system are mediated by human-computer interfaces.”
Competitive gaming and Player versus Player (PvP) gaming is actually an evolution of PC gaming where in the past, gamers were playing alone (or with friends) against the PC whereas now they play versus other players and on top of that they compete against each other.
Four of the most popular eSports Games in terms of number of players are League Of Legends, DOTA 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Hearthstone.
League of Legends: over 100M monthly active players
Hearthstone: over 50M monthly active players
DOTA2: over 14M monthly active players
Counter Strike: GO: over 10M monthly active players
eSports go even further. They are attracting an immense amount of followers and viewers. There are actual people that like watching live streams of eSports games. It’s a new form of entertainment that is kinda closing down on popular conventional sports like hockey and baseball — at least in the US. Live streaming includes both individuals as well as broadcasting tournaments and Leagues with big prizes that reach the inconceivable amount of 2 million dollars.
Audience size matters
Just to give you an idea how big eSports are becoming let us take as an example one of the biggest streaming sites:
Twitch.tv is the leading eSports streaming site and was acquired by Amazon beating Google and boasts 100M monthly viewers. The average amount of time spent by users on Twitch daily is 1hr 46mins, higher than those that watch YouTube. 35% of Twitch viewership is on mobile.
However the most valuable data is audience demographics (2016):
– 37% of Twitch’s users are between the ages of 16–24
– 34% of Twitch’s users are between the ages of 25–34
– Twitch reaches more than 50% of millennial males in the US
– 75% of Twitch users are male
How big is the eSports Market
From the above data one can infer that eSports demographics are so focused with a great marketing potential. Thus, according to a recent research, revenues flowing into the eSports ecosystem is quite high and is expanding. Revenues come from sources like publisher fees, advertising sponsorships, media rights and merchandise.
As you can see in the chart below the global amount of revenues for 2016 reached $493M.
According to the same review, eSports revenue for 2017 will reach $696M (+41.3% year on year). The majority of the revenue streams will come from sponsorship deals and advertising — $266M and $155M respectively.
The eSports business has rapidly become a very competitive space from business perspective. “Esports teams, leagues, publishers, organizers, content platforms, broadcasters, social networks, as well as traditional sports clubs and agencies are all seeking to capitalize on the willingness of brands to invest into esports.”
What is important for marketers is that eSports and livestreaming are “co-creation experiences”. Users and broadcaster interact with each other and this interaction creates loyalty. Influencers have the power to form experiences and at the same time build relationships and with relationships comes promotion/advertising which reaches the right audience the right time. “It’s hard to overstate how differentiating that ability to influence decisions from other forms of entertainment. If social allowed entertainment to move from passive to active consumption (because at least you got to talk about it), livestreaming allows entertainment to move out of “consumption” all together into co-creation.”
So far many big brands have realized that the eSports ecosystem is growing and has great marketing potentials. Have a look at some of them:
– Samsung is sponsoring one of the best teams in Korea.
– Coca Cola has been a major sponsor of League of Legends and had built its reputation in eSports. @Cokeesports is the brand’s second biggest Twitter account (after @cocacola).
– Intel sponsors an entire tournament series, Intel Extreme Masters, that features titles like CS:GO, LoL and Starcraft offering big prizes.
– Red Bull entered the eSports sphere sponsoring various teams and events around the globe.
– ESPN has a section on its website dedicated to eSports. This shows that the broadcaster is taking it seriously enough to not want to be flanked by a new publication who simply got there first.
(Λεζάντα: League of Legends Final 2016 SKT T1 vs SSG had 43 million unique viewers while the concurrent peak viewership was 14.7 million)
Moreover, in the past year there has been quite a stir in eSports seeing traditional sports clubs creating or acquiring their own eSports divisions. For example:
– Panathinaikos (Greece) has officially created its own eSports team in League of Legends and Hearthstone
– PSG teamed up with French media company Webedia get involved in competitive gaming in League of Legends.
– Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester City and Sporting Lisbon have eSports players competing in FIFA games.
– FC Schalke (Germany) and Besiktas (Turkey) have their own very strong teams in League of Legends
– Valencia revealed its players for Blizzard’s Hearthstone.
– Philadelphia 76ers dipped into competitive gaming with the huge purchase of Team Dignitas.
The future of eSports has to be bright. And by that I mean that the potentials are endless. eSports have already entered our living rooms creating another form of entertainment that is highly interactive. The time has come where we order pizza and drinks in front of the screen not to watch the Champions League Final but to watch the next DOTA2 International Finals. Sports cafes feature not only traditional sports but important eSports events as well. The time has come that stadiums are filled with fans cheering for their favorite eSports team.
(Photo lolesports.com — Worlds 2016, Staples Center, Los Angeles)
Consequently, marketers should start counting eSports into the marketing mix whenever possible. Advertising costs might be high but targeting, conversions and engagement numbers are significantly higher.
As eSports moves from emergent to mainstream, addressing the full scope of business and marketing opportunities become absolutely critical.