Investing in esports has become a popular way for brands to engage young consumers, and for good reason. The market is growing rapidly and offers a more diverse fanbase than traditional sports.
The best ways to invest in esports are with partnerships that offer extended value to the players and fans. This type of investment can be large or small, short- or long-term, and are appropriate for both endemic and non-endemic brands alike.
Is Esports Worth Investing In?
The esports industry has seen explosive growth in recent years and shows no sign of stopping, despite the pandemic. According to Newzoo, the global esports audience is expected to grow to 474 million in 2021. This represents a year-on-year growth of 8.7%. Esports live streaming viewers are predicted to reach 920.3 million by the year 2024.
A vast majority—75%—of the esports industry’s $1 billion global revenues are generated by the sale of acquisition rights and sponsorship. For businesses that are hoping to invest in esports, this number may appear intimidating. After all, how can you set yourself apart when “everyone else is doing it?”
The answer is surprisingly simple. Invest in the right place in the right way to reach the right audience.
How to Invest in Esports
There are a number of ways to invest in the esports industry. While the most visible way is to have your brand logo placed on a team’s jersey, that is far from the only sponsorship method.
Here are just a few ways that any brand or organisation can reach esports audiences and achieve the highest value for their money:
- Sponsor an esports player: when they aren’t competing in high-stakes tournaments, professional esports players hone their skills and build their individual brands by streaming online. Find a player that matches your brand values and let them pitch your brand to viewers in their own voice.Excedrin partnered with Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, 100 Thieves founder and former pro Call of Duty player, to educate gamers on mindfulness that can help prevent headaches. This activation speaks to the importance of mental health in esports and gaming.
- Sponsor an esports team: with the rise of city-specific franchise models like the Overwatch League, esports sponsorship has become highly targeted.Texas grocery store chain H-E-B partnered with the Houston Outlaws Overwatch team in 2019 to promote local food delivery. The investment included a spot on the team’s jersey, as well as branded reusable grocery bags and a number of meet-and-greet events inside H-E-B stores.
- Sponsor an event: Even if you can’t afford to become a major sponsor of the entire League of Legends European Championships like Kia Motors, you can still let esports fans know that you support them. This investment option lets you bet big or small, depending on what kind of event you want to take part in. This could be a local grassroots tournament all the way up to a major tournament in a city/cities where you want to create brand awareness.
- Partner with a tournament platform: Thousands of amateur players hone their skills and rise up the leaderboards on tournament platforms like ESPL. Warner Music Asia made its first esports investment by partnering with ESPL, integrating music onto the popular platform.“There’s a huge audience crossover straddling gaming and music, and ESPL’s community of grassroots esports players, along with their engaged fans, will help us to bring the two segments together,” said Darren Ho, Senior Vice President of Music Entertainment and Partnerships at Warner Music Asia.
- Invest in future esports players: High schools and colleges around the world are training the next generation of esports professionals from players to broadcasters and marketers. With this trend comes the opportunity to support institutions in their efforts, whether that be providing equipment, services, or even scholarships.Premier League team New Castle United recently teamed up with New Castle College to provide two new degrees that will prepare students for work in the esports industry. Peripheral giant HyperX is a long-time supporter of collegiate esports and donates equipment to various organisations.
Investing in Esports Should Be Personal
Before you pour your entire marketing budget into esports, it’s important to remember that the same marketing principles apply. First of all, you need to know your target audience … and surprise, “gamers” is not enough.
Data, combined with your existing marketing strategy, will determine how best to invest in esports. It’s well known that esports is a popular source of entertainment for Millennials, but not all game audiences are the same.
For example, if your company is building a presence in Brazil, you can reach a large audience by investing in the country’s vibrant Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene. If you sell designer clothing for women, consider sponsoring an event like Super Girl Gamer or an all-female team like Dignitas Fe.
If you take a tongue-in-cheek approach to marketing like Wendy’s, don’t partner with an angry gamer personality (unless he/she will rant about frozen beef). Likewise, if you offer services related to something serious like cancer, it’s best not to create a campaign with a streamer who pranks people for laughs.
Each esports title comes with its own investment opportunities. Ask yourself how you can create value for the organisation or individual, then build an esports investment plan accordingly. How to invest in gaming depends on what you want to achieve by way of brand reach, sales, affinity, etc. Remember that a fantasy game audience will differ from a realistic shooter audience.
The above list of investment opportunities is far from exhaustive. Another way to get involved can be to literally invest in esports companies during a funding round. You can use your marketing skills to connect brands with gaming personalities and teams. Perhaps you want to educate young people on a topic that is near and dear to your heart like suicide prevention or wildlife conservation—there’s an organisation for that or you can start your own.
Gamers Want to Hear From You
In a world where consumers are bombarded with advertising on every device, you may be surprised to learn that esports fans appreciate it when you get involved.
Recent data from YouGov compared esports fans to soccer fans and how they react to brand sponsorship. Over half of German esports fans are likely to agree that they love it when their favourite team has cool sponsors compared to 31% of soccer fans.
If you are interested in esports as a way to create brand affinity and create reach, don’t let common assumptions get in your way. There is an audience for you no matter what you sell, offer, or passionately raise funds for.