Professional sport has become a multi-billion-dollar industry with brands becoming an inseparable part of this market. A number of brands such as Red Bull and Nike have succeeded largely because they have aligned themselves with the right athletes, teams, leagues and sports. The marriage between the world of sports and brands has produced billionaire athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan among others. For your brands to play ball in this market, you will have to contend with a few bargains. All in all, there are plenty of opportunities in the emerging eSports world.
What is eSports?
ESports, which stands for electronic sports, is basically professional video gaming. It generally takes the form of multiple-player video game competitions where players can come together to play for glory and money, usually large sums of it. In popular tournaments, you will see thousands converging on site. Such events are often streamed online where some of them draw millions of viewers.
The eSports Market
The eSports market is expanding rapidly. For instance, eSports generated a $747.5 million revenue in 2015. Most of this revenue ($578.6 million) came from sponsorships and advertising while $55.8 million came from fantasy sites and betting, and another $53.8 million from prize pools. Only $15.9 million and $17 million came from ticket sales and merchandise respectively. With these figures, you can tell that eSports is a small but growing market.
However, brands should never be discouraged by the comparatively small numbers. ESports has just started in Europe and North America; the two regions account for less than 50 percent of eSports’ revenue. According to reliable estimates, maturation in these two markets will help in propelling eSports to a $2 billion market by the year 2018. There is evidence of eSports’ steady growth in North America. For instance, Turner Broadcasting has partnered with Hollywood’s WME-IMG agency to bring electronic sports to cable television. Similarly, PAC-12 and ESPN have ramped up their eSports coverage. That means more sports fans are getting exposed to eSports each day.
How Brands Can Get Involved
There are a number of ways that brands can break into eSports; these ways are familiar with brands already active in the professional sport. There are plenty of opportunities around team sponsorships, player endorsements, and event sponsorships, as well as traditional advertising against broadcast and digital media properties. Agencies like WME-IMG and media companies such as Turner have entered the world of eSports. Many brands will realize that they can utilize these existing relationships to explore eSports and the opportunities that come with it. Brands such as Coca-Cola are not strangers to professional sport and have racked up their years of experience in this market.
Challenges Faced by Brands Involved with eSports
Brands seeking to involve themselves with eSports face a number of challenges. One of them is that the market is still niche and highly fragmented, although it is growing rapidly. Brands have found it quite difficult to navigate the waters and attain what they are used to in professional sports. Another challenge is the fact that too many people, eSports is still a fringe phenomenon, which has made it difficult for some brands to embrace it fully.
How to Connect with the eSports Enthusiasts
There has been a surge of eSports into the western popular culture, a trend that is taking many major brands by surprise. ESports has attracted a huge audience, and many brands are now trying to get into this unfamiliar gaming culture. While this sport has achieved a huge success in other countries such as Korea, it is only starting to hit in the USA.
In North America, corporate eSports sponsorships are currently estimated at $111 million. Advertisers and brand owners are having to adapt to this emerging form of entertainment, and there are prospects of further growth in sponsorship deals across the globe. Many brands wonder how they can take a chunk of the eSports pie. To begin with, impressions matter a lot in the minds and hearts of eSports fans and competitors.
It is important that you get off with a good impression with your community, and maintain it. Be strategic in your campaigns and make sure they bring value to both the player and fan experience, as well as the sport itself. Even after this, you will find it a big challenge seeking the right opportunities and be connecting with eSports fans and players in an authentic way. Below are common initiatives that you can take to enable you to communicate to eSports enthusiasts the value of your product.
1. Stepping up Your Game
Seventy-five percent of users go to a brand’s site only after they view its video. One of the most effective ways you can use to get the attention of the eSports community is creating compelling videos around the eSports that interest them. In such a video, you should let your brand retreat from the limelight and let the content do the exposure.
ESports players and fans regard highly brands that bring them useful content that suits their interests. In the videos, you can simply have, “brought to you by Your Brand” or “Powered by Your Company.” This can be a powerful enough tactic to get your brand the right recognition without appearing pushy or salesy. This can be a content marketing opportunity where you can blur all the lines between advertising, entertainment, and education. They can also help you build brand recognition within the eSports community.
People do not like you selling products to them. Having sales pitches thrown at you when you are trying to consume content can be quite off-putting for many consumers. As a content marketer, you have the challenge of ensuring that the entertainment value of your content is valuable and engaging. This will help reduce any friction between the audience and the branding message. At Linqzil Digital Media, we shall work with you to ensure you deliver relevant content to your target audience without appearing to promote your brand directly.
2. Capturing all the Influencer Reviews
It is always important to communicate with the eSports community’s language that they can understand and at the same time keep your audience busy. There is no better way to this than letting gaming celebrities do some of the talking and building a relationship for you. Each of these celebrities is an influencer with many loyal followers who consider them a source of useful information about their favourite eSport. Branding messages can become more effective if they leverage the rapport between content consumers and content creators. We will help you craft messages that will endear your brand to the eSports community.
3. Sponsoring a Team
There are two main varieties of eSport teams namely eSports works and eSports agency. The former are teams financed by product companies. One example is the Samsung Pro-Game Team, who are the world’s champions of the League of Legends. This model is quite common, and you may have seen it if you are a fan of soccer (football), motorsports, or rugby. Companies such as Airbus, Toyota, IBM, and Volkswagen either have works teams or have had them before.
ESports works teams run by large product-focused corporations have made sponsoring one a big challenge for brands seeking to enter eSports. Many others work with brand sponsors that promote their product to team players. If you are interested in a greater brand building potential than this, you can consider starting or operating your own works team. We are ready to help you achieve this end. This will save you a great deal in marketing costs.
ESports agency teams are the most common model adopted by eSports teams. They are particularly attractive to brands interested in building awareness through eSports. They work just like mini marketing agencies and use their teams to market, and treat all sponsors like clients.
Brands sponsoring agency teams will have their logos printed on the teams’ jerseys to enhance broadcast visibility for the teams. They also get team website presence, social media presence, and additional visibility through highlighting their good performance in publications. These teams provide extra services like brand content creation.
The main disadvantage with this type of sponsorship is that most team members are not necessarily marketers. This means that while the teams’ sponsoring brands derive great benefits from the visibility created by the teams, the traditional marketing offered around can be quite unimaginative and narrow. You can easily mitigate this drawback by hiring a full service, experienced marketing agency to help in leveraging their creativity into a greater and more comprehensive campaign. We at Linqzil Digital Media are equal to the task and ready to travel down this road with you.
4. Sponsoring Events
Event sponsorship comes out as an effective and visible ways to get into eSports. At the moment, brands fund most of eSports revenue through sponsorship. The world’s most innovative and forward-thinking brands are already benefiting from eSports event sponsorship. Top companies such as LG, Intel, IBM, and Coca-Cola are bringing their blockbuster events to the fans of eSports.
On their part, these fans are thanking the top companies by becoming their brands’ loyal advocates. Compared to traditional sports’ event sponsorship, eSport event sponsorship is a low-cost alternative. You can sponsor a large eSports event with a small budget. You would need to add several zeroes to this budget to match what you would spend on traditional sports sponsorship. Crowd funding has become a creative way to cut down on the cost of sponsoring or putting on large eSports events.
5. White Label Events
These are usually small, invitation-only events and tournaments whose format and structure has already been established. The only piece missing in such events is the client keen on gaining exposure and building their brands through eSports. These events have a high success rate for client brands. However, the agency deploying such an initiative must be good at coming up with a brand message that is relevant to the consumer. Red Bull has come out as an expert in putting on white label sporting events. Linqzil Digital Media can help you tailor your brand’s message to its potential consumer.
6. The Power of the Exponential
Just like conferences, marketing fixtures catering to eSports enthusiasts’ interests are a successful method to market your product or brand in eSports. The worlds of digital marketing and physical marketing are totally fused now. The eSports community has found itself at the epicentre of this new virtual-physical playground. This will not only put the emotion in eSports but also stimulate the mind much faster than any standard rational thought.
7. Digital Landing Pages
Although digital landing pages are the most important aspect of any digital campaign, it is surprising to note that such pages are comparatively rare in eSports campaigns. If you are thinking of using eSports for marketing your brand, it would be a smart move to build out a landing page for such a campaign. Landing pages, by their very design, are meant to drive conversions. It is important that you keep all your eSports-oriented pages to the point and or target. You can have professionals at Linqzil Digital Media design incredible landing pages that are not only relevant to your brand, but also in sync with the needs of your target consumers.
8. Thinking Outside the Box
To truly stand out and bring your brand to everyone’s mind, you must always think outside the box. This will enable you to create a successful campaign.
Elements of an Effective eSports Strategy
ESports is huge industry that is experiencing rapid growth and is not showing any signs of stopping. In spite of the current debate as to whether it is comparable to real sports, eSports is set to become the world’s truly global sport. ESports has earned a global viewership and participation and is not limited by physical logistics or geographical location. Tournaments can be streamed online at absolutely no cost, making it easy to connect fans and players across the globe into an internationally shared experience.
For the past three years, worldwide eSports content has been growing by an average of seven percent each month. During the same period, viewership has more than doubled. If your brand’s target market are the 16 to 34 year-olds and is keen on maintaining relevance with younger consumers, an eSports marketing strategy and planning is the best approach to take. Linqzil Digital Media’s strategic approach to eSports is focussed on the lifestyle experience of the gaming community. It also focusses on cultural lifestyle areas like apparel and music, which contemporary gamers are so passionate about. We will help you come up with a successful brand strategy that will integrate custom programming, brand experiences, and promotions. It will consider the tenets highlighted below.
1. Connecting With the Community
Any long-term eSports success must start with knowing the eSports target. You should ask yourself a few questions. What is the right game? Who are its players? What is their age bracket? What is their socio-economic status? What are their interests?
2. Understanding Where Your Brand Fits In
In an effort to create an effective eSports marketing strategy, you must understand how your brand will be used and what value it will add to its users, and make it part of your messaging and positioning statement. You can only resonate with eSports consumers by talking in the language that they will easily understand.
3. Integrate Digitally
The digital world is where your target consumer lives and breathes. While most of your attention tends to focus on marquee events and tournaments, it is important that you fully integrate your strategy across events, social media, promotions, advertising, public relations, and mainstream media. This will not only help in maximizing your brand but also enable it to get viewership by millions of eSports consumers across the world.
4. Looking Beyond the Titles
It may not be an optimal approach to align yourself with game titles. Elements of participation, accessibility and competition will continue growing the eSports genre as a whole, regardless of the games that appear to trend at the moment. Brands can help add value here.
5. Engage Your Fan Base
You should make it a point to market your participation in eSports to the millions of the sport’s masses. These supporters and fans are not just passive spectators. They contribute actively and create content. Planting growth seeds in them will go a long way in helping your brand maximize participation and interest down the line.
Why eSports is a Big Marketing Opportunity for Brands
ESports has grown into a global phenomenon. According to recent reports, the industry’s value is in excess of $612 million, and its reach is expanding. This makes eSports a powerful marketing opportunity. Below are the reasons why eSports comes out as an important marketing opportunity for your brand.
1. Global Reach and Rapid Growth
You cannot underestimate eSports’ worldly draw. For instance, in Asia where it brings in huge revenues of about $374 million, sponsorship commands a great media value. This is especially in China, which is an emerging market. It is also quite attractive to the youth demographic. If you want to know eSports growth potential, just look at South Korea’s highly developed infrastructure. ESports is very popular there and is often referred to as the national pastime.
2. Powerful Stories
Among the lasting memories left by the Dota2 International are the stories and narratives created around the event. Before it was picked up by Valve, Dota was a game the eSports community created and sustained. Many of the players who competed at the global level helped in defining what it is today. Similarly, many players have made big sacrifices to reach this competition level.
3. Thriving Community
The eSports community is one of its strongest assets, and nurturing it can be very rewarding for any brand. You can put the community at the centre of your strategy. For example, Twitch, the global streaming provider tried it and achieved great success within a short period of time. You can only build communities on shared values. The strongest value in the eSports community is the culture of learning.
4. Access to Developing Markets
Although eSports is already popular, it is still a very young market. Brands that adopted it early are building a huge valuable brand equity with their devoted fan bases.
Competitive gaming is a place you should focus your marketing, as backed by data on consumer behaviour. It is true that competitive gaming has majorly been a marketing strategy as opposed to being a big revenue driver. However, it is the experience that always ends up as the key driver for products and brands. If your brand or product is considering entering this segment, it is important that you arrive early and help set this expectation. In the course of our work with companies, we have seen many benefits of using unique forms of advertising and engagement to help in reducing costs incurred while trying to acquire customers and driving up game and brand affinity. With a good marketing mix, it is possible for eSports marketing to drive solid revenue for your organization.
However, it is more about consumer-brand relationship building as well as generating engagement by adding to the community as opposed to direct revenue generation. It does this quite well for early movers, especially those that have invested into the space. The key here is to keep your efforts and message authentic. This will help establish your brand as a valuable member of the community. If you endeavour to do that, you will benefit from engagement, brand loyalty, and brand awareness.
At Linqzil Digital Media, we contend that the eSports community is big, and continues to grow across the world. This presents many opportunities in all the areas of the integrated marketing mix that include partnerships with game developers, online video streaming, event organizers, players, and teams. The easiest time to enter eSports is now as it will position your brands for a much bigger return on investments.