If you would have asked someone about eSports ten years ago, chances were high that they did not know what you were talking about. Now, ten years later, eSports has grown rapidly in popularity. It was estimated that eSports had 134 million viewers worldwide in 2015 with a global eSports revenue of $612 million. This rise in popularity comes with a lot of possibilities for companies to benefit from it. However, for most companies this field is still a niche market and the advantages remain unknown. This is a waste of great potential, because from a marketing point of view, the gaming industry and eSports are a gold mine as it evolves and merges with the digital progress.
While there are many investment forms within eSports, sponsorship remains the heart of the economic model. The influence of sponsorship is such that it has the power of making or breaking a team. Moreover, sponsoring eSports teams can be very valuable for a brand as well. Sponsorships in eSports are in general focused on the long term. Both parties have to recognize that sponsorship objectives should be long term, which means that they are not advertising. A long term sponsorship deal will result in a better and stronger relationship between the brand and the sponsored team. An advantage of this relationship is that this eSports sponsorship strategy tend to be effective on brand awareness and corporate image.
Another advantage is that eSports organizations are promoting sponsors a lot more directly than for example established football clubs. Especially companies, which operate in the technology industry, can get a lot of exposure by sponsoring eSports teams. This way they also reach their target audience, which is young adults from 14-32 years old. If technology companies were to sponsor football or ice hockey teams, they would likely reach the wrong audience, which is not interested in their products or services. It is already possible for companies to narrow down more towards the different types of consumers. For example, the target audience of a FPS eSports team would be different than the target audience of a MOBA team.
Consumers prefers to create and maintain relations with other consumers, not necessarily with a brand or a company behind the brand. ESports teams have communities surrounding them that can fulfill this need of the consumer. For example VISA recently announced their sponsorship of Europe’s number one eSports team SK Gaming. Suzy Brown, Director of Sponsorships and Partnerships at VISA said: “Pro gaming has added a new dimension to sport, increasing access to people the world over and creating a surge in its popularity. We see huge potential and this deal sees Visa ideally placed to be part of the fast paced growth, and by putting ourselves at the heart of the action we can build affinity with millions of millennial gaming enthusiasts and confirm our position as a global innovator.” Next to Visa, the team also has hardware sponsors like Medion, HyperX and Razer, whose products are promoted on the team’s website and social media accounts as “Hardware we recommend”.
In the next couple of years, eSports will become even more popular and more brands will be considering the possibilities of this industry. However, for a brand to be effective within the eSports industry, marketers should have great knowledge of the field and the possibilities. Sponsorships with teams are a great way for brands to build a strong relationship and to profit from the advantages that will occur on the long term, while also offering the opportunities to adapt to post modernism in advertising.