Online gaming is taking the world by storm with 2.7 bn gamers worldwide, its now a $143bn industry. eSports, which is the competitive side of gaming, is now estimated to be worth $1bn to $3bn and its just getting started. With the metaverse on our doorstep and gaming experiencing widespread adoption, brands are grappling with how to leverage the opportunity that gaming and esports affords.
A closer look at eSports
Whilst gaming isn’t new and conceptually we understand what gamers do, the eSports space is one that isn’t familiar to everyone.
Electronic sports, or eSports are video games that are played in a highly organised competitive environment. These games can range from popular, team-oriented multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs), to single player first person shooters, survival battles, and virtual versions of physical sports.
Some of the biggest titles in this space include League of Legends (180 million monthly players), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (24 million monthly players) and Fortnite (80 million monthly players).
The profile of those that game and eSport fans
Gamers are a diverse and captive audience, and surprisingly are pretty evenly split when it comes to gender. On average gamers are spending 6.5 hours gaming per week and it isn’t only children either, with the average age of a gamer being 31.
Globally, Asia is the largest market for video gaming worldwide with 1.48 billion gamers, and Europe comes in second with a gaming audience of 715 million. Locally, 17 million Australians are gamers – and 92% of households have a gaming device like a Nintendo Switch or a PlayStation.
When it comes to eSports, there are an estimated 234 million eSports enthusiasts worldwide, with China and the United States alone accounting for over half of global eSports revenue. There is also a major difference between gamers and eSports audiences, with female fans only making up about 22% of total global eSports viewers.
We also can’t forget about how involved children are in gaming, with games like Roblox boasting 190 million average monthly players who spend an average of 2.6 hours playing per day. Around 74% of parents think that video games can be educational for kids, and 74% of parents also play games with their children on a weekly basis (up from 55% in 2020), making gaming a key part of family entertainment.
So how can brands effectively leverage gaming to connect and engage relevant audiences?
According to Matt Schmidt, CEO of Alpha eSports, the greatest gaming opportunity for advertisers lies in eSports – with gaming now the new social media, and eSports the new AFL. In fact, 74% of U.S. youth consider eSports to be a real sport. So, this trend is certainly not going away, therefore what are the options afforded to brands in eSports and gaming more broadly;
At a basic level there are three main ways for brands to enter the gaming arena:
Sponsorships: Brands can sponsor eSports events, teams, or individual players through online eSport events. In addition increasingly brands will have the option to sponsor eSports in physical locations as the US rolls out new eSports arenas to allow consumers to get closer to the action.
Blended in-game advertisements: Gamers have shown a distaste for ads that interrupt their experience, so games are introducing contextual placements that drive engagement and exposure without interrupting the gaming experience. This can include billboards, player jerseys, signage and other real estate and assets that reside within the player environment.
Partnership with video games: Brands seeking deeper integration and engagement with gaming audiences are also partnering with gaming titles to create and offer their own in-game content, merchandise and worlds.
How brands are actively playing in the space
Brands are still relatively new to activating the gaming and eSports space effectively but there are a number of brands that have moved quickly to take advantage of the potential opportunities that gaming and eSports affords.
Point Island: Coca-Cola custom-built Point Island, its own island within Fortnite to launch their limited-edition flavour Zero Sugar Byte, a “beverage born in the metaverse”, as a way to tap into Fortnite’s 80 million monthly active users. The island includes four "sensory-inspired" multiplayer mini games and all of it has been designed to help sell the new coke flavour. A number of other major brands including Marvel, Balenciaga and the NFL been engaged with Fortnite since 2018, and Coke’s involvement could convince even more to explore advertising within the game.
Dress to impress: Louis Vuitton has brought its brand into gaming in multiple ways incluidng through unique partnerships. The company designed the League of Legends World Championship trophy and introduced skins in gaming, which could be purchased by players for their in-game avatars. They also created a real-world clothing line to compliment the skins that sold out within an hour of launching. This is a great example of not only leveraging the gaming environment but extending the idea to the physical world to drive revenue and sales of real-world items.
Esports billboards: To raise awareness for their newest phone, Samsung placed ads across several video games that were seen on billboards throughout online racetracks and soccer fields, which mimicked the real-world billboards seen at sporting events. Vodafone have also activated ads inside popular racing game Trackmania, highlighting their latest offers on billboards as players passed markers on the racetrack.
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