To some, gaming may be considered a fun past time, but the reality is that esport is fast becoming one of the most lucrative markets in the world. For those unfamiliar, esports is competitive video gaming at a professional level. It grew from what was once considered a niche community to now a global spectator sport which has overtaken film and music as one of the top-grossing sectors in entertainment. Many brands have recognised the value of esports and entered into sponsorship deals, and others have included experiential marketing into their esport strategy.
Esports is not a new phenomenon, but it has certainly gained traction in the past few years due to a greater awareness within pop culture. Esports reaches the younger generation and research shows this demographic are turning away from traditional channels in favour of gaming, in fact, the reach of BBC TV among 16-24 year olds dropped below 50% last year (NewZoo, E-sport Market Report).
This is one of many factors which has propelled the industry to the forefront of investors’ minds as they recognise the value esports plays in entertaining the hard to reach audience. As the esports industry continues to grow, companies that invest in strategic partnerships can gain access to many benefits which can help fuel growth and drive market positioning.
Esports is particularly profitable for the advertisers that are featured in conjunction with the games and many brands are recognising the potential in this. There has been a surge in esport sponsorships over the past few years with many Fortune 500 companies getting in on the action including Mercedes-Benz, Coca-Cola, and T-Mobile.
There are several esports sponsorship routes that are not too dissimilar to that of traditional sport and that is sponsoring tournaments, teams, gamers, and arenas. These opportunities open many doors for brands looking to reach a global audience, drive excitement around the brand, and expand its market into the realm of entertainment.
It was announced recently that BMW have signed global partnerships with five top esport organisations, the details of the partnership involve BMW providing branded vehicles for teams to travel to and from the events.
It’s a unique partnership that sees BMW leverage the rivalries between gamers who often compete against one another, driven by social media amplification; we imagine this may be the catalyst for more brands to follow suit in this strategy.
Experiential marketing in esports gives brands vast territory in the entertainment industry to bring enjoyable experiences to a diverse audience both digitally through the video games and physically through events. The outcome, if executed properly, can drive brand engagement, brand loyalty and reach new consumers. On the digital front, Fortnite successfully hosted a virtual concert by Travis Scott last week which was viewed by 12.3 million players, a new record for the game.
For brands looking to explore experiential marketing in esports they must consider how to engage with the audience in a credible way which elevates their experience but does not detract from their reason for being there. The task here is to first identify the consumer’s needs and then look at how experiential marketing can fulfill these whilst also achieving the brand’s objectives.
There has been growing activity of endemic brands incorporating experiential into their esports marketing strategy (endemic brands being those in which their products and services are not necessarily linked to the market). This is a clever tactic for brands who are looking to reach a new and to some degree untapped audience.
Beer and esports may not necessarily be two things you’d associate together but Anheuser-Busch is using experiential to bring Bud Light to esport occasions becoming ‘the official beer of esports’.
Their value proposition is presenting fans with experiences that exceed what they are used to, and which supports Anheuser-Busch’s claim to be the leader in offering premium experiences. At the Overwatch league AB InBev offer the Bud Light Watchtower, a premium seat within all the venues where guests can hang out with influencers, streamers and professional gamers.
There is free Bud Light on offer as well as the best seats and experiences in the house. The strategy successfully finds the passion points of the consumer and delivers on its promise to deliver memorable experiences through Bud Light.
There is a lot of opportunities for brands to own the space in esports through experiential marketing and sponsorships, but no one size fits all. Brands need to ensure their strategy considers the audience’s needs first and recognise the added value they are able to bring to the gamer’s and spectator’s experience.
The industry will continue to attract investors, media rights buyers, and brand sponsors as they witness the economic success and follow suit to those before them. You could argue for esports the best is yet to come and for the spectators, they should expect to see many more brands offering valuable experiences to them.
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