6 esports opportunities for Australian marketers.
Esports (a.k.a competitive video gaming) has exploded in Australia this year and shows no signs of slowing down. Five by Five’s Managing Director, Matt Lawton looks at the reasons why you can’t afford to ignore the phenomenon any longer.
You could feel the shock in the room when PwC’s Megan Brownlow presented her first major insight from their Outlook study at Mumbrella 360 in Sydney earlier this month. Esports (a.ka. competitive video gaming) stood up and slapped everyone in the face. She helped the entire audience understand that their view of what constituted ‘sport’ was outmoded and irrelevant.
If you don’t know the numbers that make the esports scene an unmistakable giant, here’s the jaw-dropping data:
The most popular game, League of Legends (LoL) is played by 100 million people worldwide. Publisher, Riot Games nurtures a passionately engaged local playing audience and helps support a 3 league esports infrastructure with pro players living and training together for 8 hours a day.
5000 people recently attended IEM (Intel Extreme Masters) in Sydney. Similar sized experiences have been a feature of LoL community events for the last 2 years, packing Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena, Brisbane’s SouthBank Piazza and Sydney’s Lunar Park.
Here’s why and how brands should be all over this phenomenon:
1. New level of professionalism.
Esports clubs have moved into gaming houses so they can train more, they have traditional sport business partners and have attracted traditional sport investment groups to improve and grow their clubs, and they even have bigger management teams, including sports psychologists. Esports is a serious proposition, so sponsorship opportunities are becoming more structured and stable. Brands now know exactly what they are generating in a highly measurable digital environment.
2. Gen 'Z' audience.
A predominantly male audience of 16 – 23 is a notorious media blackspot. An involvement in esports at this stage creates tremendous goodwill for any brand that’s seen as validating the sport. Red Bull’s global focus has been on esports for the last 4 years because they know how to reach youth in meaningful ways.
3. Defend your budget.
When the Adelaide Crows recently announced their purchase of an esports team, it must have been a wake up call for all mainstream sports clubs. Not only must Australian clubs attempt to create sporting franchises and grow their brand and fan base, they must also recognise their current sponsors will soon begin to redirect budget away from mainstream sports and into esports. Overseas, the trend has already been established with soccer clubs like Manchester City and Paris St Germain creating esports teams as a brand extension.
League of Legends and Call of Duty have both crossed the divide from esports to sports, by partnering with two different traditional sport organisations: Australian University Sport and NSW Institute of Sport. Increasing accessibility to esports makes it less jarring. Brands should work with traditional partners to grow the sport and generate PR opportunities.
4. More eSports friendly venues.
The Courier Mail Piazza in Brisbane’s Southbank was the venue for the 2016 Ocean Pro League Grand Final for Riot Games. Melbourne’s in on the act with MEGEX and the guys at Showdown in Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter have done a great job of setting up an ideal venue for a media event.
Brands have the chance to hold their own events during the season as there are now more technically capable venues that have the right internet infrastructure.
5. Broadcast is levelling up.
Naturally, brands not only have the live captive audience in a venue, but the broadcast audience on twitch, youtube and other channels that drive audience numbers. ESL has a new studio, Riot has invested in their own studio at their Pyrmont offices in Sydney and PAX will again host live broadcasts to the kind of level that traditional sports would envy. Being part of the broadcast could open up awareness of your brand creating new opportunities for in stream advertising and sponsorships (e.g. sponsor analytics segments).
6. Media content partnerships.
There are numerous examples of how this kind of content is being leveraged:
Content is King and the gaming community love it. Media partners are already getting on board with this so it is much less of a struggle than before to drive interest. There are plenty more content opportunities still available in 2018 and beyond.
By Matt Lawton
Managing Director, AU