eSports: The Fastest Growing Sports Platform

February 28, 2017 | Events

Event marketers know the value of traditional sports sponsorships, but as the burgeoning world of esports continues to gain momentum, savvy brands are increasingly inserting themselves into the conversation. Defined as “competitive tournaments of video games, especially among professional gamers,” esports has become the world’s fastest-growing sports platform. Today’s tournaments attract hordes of on-site and virtual fans, draw an increasing number of big name brands (non-endemic included) and make some serious bank. Following are tips on what you need to know about this robust platform.

First of all, let’s take a look at the numbers. The global esports market is poised to generate $1.1 billion in 2019. It’s enough to make any marketer salivate. But the buy-in is just as steep for brands looking to forge partnerships. Arby’s, Credit Karma and Buffalo Wild Wings were the first three brands to sponsor Turner and WME-IMG’s ELEAGUE in 2016, with each sponsorship costing around $2 million annually. That means brands need to make every second of fan engagement count if they want to see ROI.

Luckily, event marketers have a leg up. When it comes to reaching esports players and fans, leveraging traditional marketing channels won’t do the trick. The average player, a 31-year-old male, tunes out conventional ads, making events the only viable way to snag his attention. That’s good news for event marketers, especially considering the scale of most esports tournaments.

Take Intel Extreme Masters, or IEM—the longest running esports tournament in the world—which attracts over 100,000 attendees to the Katowice, Poland iteration of its competition. Even the brand’s Oakland, CA-based tournament attracts 10,000 fans. For event marketers, that translates to abundant opportunities to engage with the fervent fan base.

Brands who play in the esports space should also understand fans’ desire to watch gaming action live. Followers tune in to games and tournaments from all around the world, and in droves, to get a taste of the live event. It presents a valuable opportunity for event marketers to create branded viewing events, especially considering that tickets to major esports tournaments sell like hotcakes.

Coca-Cola took this approach during the 2016 League of Legends World Championships, when the event’s 15,000 seats were sold out in a matter of minutes. The brand teamed up with various cinema partners to host over 200 viewing parties across the U.S., Europe and Canada. The events featured high-definition satellite stream of the finals, along with live pre- and post-tournament coverage.

Audi is another leading brand making its way into the esports sponsorship space. The non-endemic brand is, for now, bypassing league and tournament partnerships in favor of sponsoring Astralis, a professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive esports team, which recently faced off at the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta. The partnership marks Audi’s first foray into esports—and likely not its last.

The future of esports looks bright. We’re likely to see brands continuing to jump on sponsorships, professional sports teams and celebrities continuing to invest in esports leagues and teams, and the blossoming of the mobile-first gamer. It’s a complex space, but as esports comes into its own, the platform will become more streamlined, making it easier for brands to get in on the action. Get ready to bring your A-game.

Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker

Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. Chief Marketing Officer, Doodle owner and lover of all things chocolate.