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esports marketing

Playing video games used to be a niche hobby. In 2021, that is no longer the case. In fact, the statistics revolving around gaming are actually quite surprising. Sixty-five percent of American adults play video games daily, according to ESA. And 72 percent of gamers are 18 or older, says Statista. In steps eSports marketing.

As a brand, it makes sense to be in the know regarding all popular trends, and gaming is certainly included in that category. With the advent of mobile gaming, the plummeting costs of PC gaming rigs, and the improved capabilities of consoles, gaming is more common than ever. And its adoption continues to trend steadily upwards.

A subcategory of gaming is eSports, which allows for many opportunities for savvy marketing — even for non-gaming brands. This page will explore the various facets of eSports marketing and help you make the decision regarding whether or not it’s a smart marketing opportunity for your brand in particular.

What’s eSports?

The definition varies according to who you ask, but in a nutshell, you can think of eSports as competitive video gameplay. This can be competition amongst individuals or as a team.

One example of a popular eSports game is Dota 2. It’s a multiplayer battle arena game played online, and annual Dota 2 tournaments are a big deal across the world. For the uninitiated, you might think that an eSport tournament would pay out a modest prize to the winner.

Not quite. The winner of the Dota 2 main event takes home a cool $40,000,000. Although Dota 2 runs the largest tournaments of any current eSport, many other eSports also run tournaments that payout in the millions, such as League of Legends, Fortnite and Overwatch, to name just a few. With big-name sponsors like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, DHL and many others, eSports is a big deal.

As you can imagine, these eSports are only able to pay out such vast sums due to the rabid fan base behind the teams participating. Comparisons between traditional sports do exist. For example, a tennis player is likely to watch Wimbledon — because it’s fun to see the best of the best compete in a hobby that you have knowledge of. eSports are the same way — casual gamers like seeing the best of the best duke it out in their games of choice.

Overall, it’s a huge market to get involved in — and like gaming in general, eSports viewership is trending upwards overall. Insider Intelligence estimates that total esports viewership is expected to grow at a nine percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2019 and 2023, up from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023.

With increased viewership comes increased investment. According to Deloitte, eSports investment grew to $4.5 billion in 2018 — from just $490 million the year before. Clearly, eSports shows no signs of slowing down, which means that if eSports marketing is right for your brand, now is the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon.

eSports Fans Explained

Marketers often make the mistake of conflating gaming with eSports, which isn’t entirely accurate. They differ greatly in demographics.

For example, the stereotype of women not enjoying video games is completely outdated. According to Statista, in 2020, it was calculated that women accounted for nearly 41 percent of all gamers in the United States.

However, when it comes to eSports, the stereotype does mostly ring true. eSports viewers skew significantly towards the male demographic. For example:

  • According to a survey done by Dot eSports, nearly 90 percent of League of Legends players were male.
  • According to a report conducted by IDC and eSports Charts, 72 percent of US eSports viewers are male.
  • According to a 2016 Nielson survey, 81 percent of eSports viewers are male.

Overall, women do watch eSports to some degree — but there’s no denying that the majority of eSports viewers are male. In general, eSports marketing will work best if your products and services appeal to a male-centric demographic.

As for age, according to Nielson, 70 percent of eSports fans are between the ages of 18 to 34 years of age, with the average being 26 years of age. This is significantly younger than the average gamer, who is in their mid-30s.

Overall, if your brand is looking to target males in the Gen Z and millennial demographic groups, then eSports marketing should be in your sights.

Various Types of eSports Marketing to Explore

Within the world of eSports, there are multiple ways to advertise your brand. We’ll touch on each one here.

Traditional PPC Ads

When it comes to eSports, Twitch is the juggernaut. For reference, Twitch receives 15 million daily active users (DAUs) and is the go-to platform for livestream gaming. If you want to run effective eSports marketing campaigns, Twitch should be your first point of focus.

Like most other social platforms, Twitch offers a variety of ad options that are generally billed on a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) basis. They are as follows:

  • Cross screen video: Traditional in-stream ads that display within videos on all devices
  • Mobile video: Traditional in-stream ads that display within videos on mobile devices only
  • Desktop video: Traditional in-stream ads that display within videos on desktop computers only
  • SureStream: Ads that display over a stream, where the stream is not interrupted to show the ad
  • Homepage carousel: Limited availability slots for streams that show directly on the homepage
  • Homepage headliner: Similar to homepage carousel, except the headliner is the first stream shown when the homepage loads
  • Super leaderboard: Banner ads that get stickied at the top of the page so that they are constantly displayed while the viewer scrolls for streams to watch

So much to choose from. But to start, most brands will want to focus on traditional in-stream ads. These ads bill on a CPM basis, which makes it easy to control costs during testing.

For in-stream ads, Twitch offers a variety of targeting options, including:

  • Number of concurrent viewers
  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Type of content (category)
  • Seasonality

Costs vary depending on which targeting parameters are selected. eSports categories generally do not bill at a significantly higher or lower rather than non-eSports categories do.

Influencer Marketing

For a more personalized experience, your brand may want to consider partnering up with an eSports streamer directly in order to promote your brand. These partnerships are managed outside of the Twitch pay-per-click platform, which means due diligence is very important. Take a look at our resource on how to find Twitch streamers for your brand for more information.

eSports Teams Sponsorships

Should you establish a relationship with an individual eSports streamer, you may want to consider scaling up and sponsoring an entire eSports team instead of a single streamer.

The definition of an eSports “team” varies. For example, the streamers are not necessarily always competing together. Certain teams are simply organizations that sign various streamers to command more lucrative marketing deals.

Team sponsorships are a smart way to attain a wide reach of eSports marketing influence, without the hassle of dealing with many different streamers individually.

eSports Events Sponsorships

If your target demographic matches up perfectly with the demographic of a particular eSports title, you may consider sponsoring a paid tournament to further expand your reach.

Tournament sponsorships can become very effective when coupled with individual influencer sponsorships or team sponsorships. Your brand’s name will be in front of your target audience during both the day-to-day gaming and when everyone is tuned in for the big event.

Overall, eSports marketing is a fantastic potential source of marketing — but only if it makes sense for your brand. If you want to appeal to Gen Z and Millennials, start with CPM in-stream ads, gauge results, and expand into the world of eSports from there.

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