Esports sponsorship is exploding. Companies that sponsor esports are being seen by millions of esports fans across the world, and there are some great activations happening in the sector. Many pro gaming personalities have become celebrities.
Unlike a Hollywood starlet or pop culture icon, however, a lot of esports players maintain a more intimate fanbase online through streaming. These gamers are more relatable to audiences, as well —striving for greatness by playing a mutually loved form of entertainment. In this way, brand endorsements are often celebrated by esports fans, who recognize what it means for the players.
Marketing in esports requires that a brand connect with passionate, invested fans.
Esports brand sponsorships create personal connections
Sponsorship gives you the privilege of connecting with people through something they care about. Esports fans remember which companies support and enhance the teams and events they love.
Marketing in esports is about far more than having your brand’s name appear on-screen, however. This is about nurturing real, lasting relationships with fans, and you’ve got the opportunity to create those meaningful, mutual connections. Esports is often compared to traditional sports audiences — and they share many similarities — but there are key differences in the way that fans notice event sponsors.
YouGov Profiles data shows that esports fans are more likely than soccer fans to notice the sponsors of events that they watch, at 74% and 58%, respectively. More importantly, over half of German esports fans are likely to agree that they love it when their favourite team has cool sponsors compared to 31% of soccerfans.
Data is incredibly important for esports marketing. Since the industry is composed of various games and genres, marketers must pay special attention to which viewers will identify with them the most.
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“For brands,identifying the opportunities to engage and connect with esports fans requires leveraging the right touch points. Esports’ rapid growth over the last decade means audiences around the world have different and unique characteristics— even an individualgame’s following can vary from country to country,” writes NicolePike, YouGov Global Sector Headof Esports & Gaming in a guest post for Esports Insider.
Esports thrives on sponsorship
Newzoo’s latest forecasts suggest that sponsorship will remain the biggest annual revenue stream for esports – $641m this year. Esports business models in 2020 have been diverse, agile, and sometimes, unexpected.
Global brands have taken notice, especially during the pandemic, which equals more competition for esports audience attention. Esports fans are not a captive data cluster for brands to bombard with marketing messages. To reach these viewers, brands must create meaningful partnerships that move the industry forward in some way.
For example, nutritional brands help keep pro players healthy, while payment providers allow esports fans to purchase tickets securely without cash. There must be some give and take.
As young generations fight for social justice, a number of brand partnerships are focused on fundraising for charity or organisations that help the environment or fight for causes.
For example, the wildlife conservation organisation World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) has announced a collaboration with Ninjas in Pyjamas for its Earth Hour 2021 campaign. A livestream event series will raise funds and drive awareness for WWF’s wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability programmes.
In December, esports data platform GRID joined forces with UK based charity Rethink Mental Illness to create ‘The Fight Before Christmas’, a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive esports event to raise funds and awareness for mental health.
Companies that sponsor esports events, as well as organisations that partner with them, show audiences that they are in tune with what audiences care about.
Esports fans want to hear from you
Esports sponsorship is more than flashing a logo on the screen or offering a coupon to viewers. It’s about connecting in a way that “surprises and delights,” as the marketing adage goes.
Luckily for those who are new to the space, esports marketing is quite friendly to non-endemic brands, i.e. those you wouldn’t normally associate with video games.
FaZe Clan is notorious for making esports sponsorship deals into a matter of lifestyle. The organisation recently partnered with CASIO to release a customised G-SHOCK watch.
Meanwhile, Oakley has signed professional Call of Duty player Seth ‘Scump’ Abner as its first esports athlete. Even grocery store chain ALDI has become a sponsor of the League of Legends Prime League.
Regardless of your industry, esports fans are open to learning about what you have to offer. In fact, immersion during sponsorship ads is higher with esports viewers, compared to those watching traditional sports, according to a recent biometric study by Activision Blizzard Media, Alter Agents and software-as-a-service neuroscience company Immersion.
Newzoo predicts that individual esports enthusiasts — those who watched esports video content at least once in the prior 30 days — will generate approximately $4.63 each on average in 2021. This represents a 2.8 per cent increase from $4.40 in 2020.
With an estimated audience of 728.8 million viewers in 2021, that’s something for marketers to think about.