Sponsorship and advertising have been the lifeblood of esports since it started commercialising. But how does the industry take the next step to match its counterparts in mainstream sport?
Top European broadcasters are set to make more than US$10 billion revenue for live football matches from the top five European leagues across the 2021/22 season according to an article from Digital TV Research earlier this year. The amount of money spent on traditional sports rights is astonishing, and in most cases goes far beyond that of sponsorship. In traditional sports, broadcast trumps brand.
However, for esports it is a completely different ball game, with over 60 percent of revenue coming from sponsorship and advertising. Whilst some of the more astute brands recognised the access they could have to a young and growing audience early, when it comes to properly commercialising these rights, the industry still has some catching up to do.
Yes, professionalism in sports such as football and basketball has existed for and, yes, esports only truly began to commercialise at scale just over five years ago. But whilst we have seen an acceleration in terms of the development of esport revenue streams over the last few years, the diversification has only just begun. We must not forget that it’s not only about building new sources of revenue, but developing existing ones.
The time to leverage esports technologies is now
The success of commercialisation in traditional sports is the mould from which esports has grown. Brands, rights holders and developers have taken what they see as a successful model and copied or adapted it. And that has worked up until now.
The early days of esports commercialisation was mainly driven through game publishers such as Riot Games and Activision Blizzard, who started their franchise leagues and opened more revenue opportunities for teams and players.
However, there have been few examples of brands, rightsholders or developers leveraging the aspects of esports that make it stand out from other sports. Only once these advantages are properly utilised will we see a true acceleration in the growth of the industry.
Esports’ biggest advantage is its vast knowledge of digital platforms, technology and automation. For all the talk of mainstream sports welcoming more innovation, esports technologies can truly be leveraged in a way few other entertainment sources can. It is also one of the only sports where the audience predominantly grew up on the internet and expect tailor-made content at their fingertips. The link between meeting fan expectations and delivering a connection between brands and fans is the utilisation of technology.
Scaling content production through automation
The content esports stakeholders are producing and the places they publish it are becoming more diverse. Add best practices, diverse audiences and numerous languages into the equation– and it becomes more and more difficult to produce the correct content, at scale, and in a timely manner. Often the demand is greater than the output and content producers struggle to keep up.
Content automation has now become a necessity for creators, especially when to deal with fragmented audiences and communities in different game titles. With the right technology, content teams are empowered to create volumes of highly engaging, personalised, and monetizable content without adding additional resources, saving valuable time.
Ask any stakeholder who relies on content creation to remain relevant what their biggest roadblock is and the majority will say either resources or time. Like most sports, esports has many stories to tell and many unique moments to share that matter to both large and niche audiences. Tournament organisers, teams, players, influencers, agencies and – most notably – brands are facing a huge challenge to create meaningful content at scale to numerous social media channels and partners, sometimes in multiple languages.
The likes of the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) are already using automation to rapidly boost the exposure of its matches. Using Content X – the organisation managed to increase impressions by 40 percent and doubled its engagement rate.
If we consider that the demographic for the SPFL is slightly older than that of esports, and that fresh esports content from games and matches can be produced outside of just a 90-minute match, the opportunities for esports stakeholders are endless.
Capturing the lost audience
Exposure is great, and if esports technologies help developers and teams show brands that their fans are engaged in content they are sponsoring, it is mutually beneficial.
However, with the number of datapoints continually increasing, the necessity to show tangible return on investment is vital. According to Videocites, one of Infront’s key partners, up to 80 percent of viewed sports video content can go untraced. How? Fans and non-affiliates recycle and reuse videos created by teams, leagues and organisations by re-uploading videos themselves or creating their own highlights or mash-ups to share on social media.
Many organisations see this as a necessary evil, reasoning that this is a method of brand building. But when analytics such as this can be skewed so much, the question has to be asked about how much revenue is left on the table.
This wasn’t the case when Infront worked with the International Ice Hockey Federation and Videocites In May 2020 when it came to tracking content created during the first-ever IIHF Esport Fan Championship. Videocites’ analytics offered IIHF insight into various elements of their social strategy, including content delivery, in-game brand visibility, live stream reach and geo communities, allowing them to re-evaluate and implement new strategies, which could lead to doubling or even tripling views and engagement for future events.
Such media tracking can be incredibly valuable for all entities across the esports landscape, capturing lost viewers and, as result, lost revenue.
The case for using esports technologies has been easy to argue. However, there has never been a more opportune moment to properly lean into the industry’s collective knowledge and show true value to brands.
To learn more about Infront X technology solutions for esports join us at the Esports BAR Cannes main stage on October 14 with André Fläckel, Head of Gaming & Esports at Infront.