Esports are a huge market – and growing. The global esports market, which hit $696 million in 2016, is expected to exceed $1 billion by 2019. The biggest markets for esports are China and North America, which account for more than half of the global esports revenues.
Esports are so big on college campuses that some are offering esports scholarships. In fact, the University of California Irvine has expanded to include an Overwatch scholarship to its already existing League of Legends program.
Need more proof? Due to extensive press coverage, “editors around the country” asked the Associated Press (AP) to weigh in on the proper spelling of esports. They decided on one word, no hyphen, no crazy mid-word capitalization. The reason?
“We looked at Google Trends results and saw that people were searching for ‘esports’ without the hyphen at a rate of like 30 to 1 over ‘e-sports’ with a hyphen,” said Oskar Garcia, assistant sports editor at the AP.
And recent changes are ensuring that esports are maturing, too.
The League of Legends North American League Championship Series unveiled a new franchise model that includes creating a permanent lineup of teams starting in 2018.
This changes the old rules where underperforming teams could be dropped and replaced with newcomers. In the old arrangement, the 9th and 10th place teams had to enter a special tournament against minor league teams to win their way back in.
“It’s harder to make long-term investments as a brand if you don’t know if the team is going to exist,” said Jarred Kennedy, who co-heads Riot Esports. The changes “are going to make it much more palatable and approachable for brands to come in and invest.”
Essentially, the League of Legends North American League Championship is aligning itself with how most people see a sports league with established teams. This also provides an opportunity for sponsors who know that they’re making long-term investments.
A similar evolution is occurring with The Overwatch League, with the goal of making the everyday player an esports star. The league will launch in 2018 with franchises in major cities across the globe. League players will sign contracts with their teams and matches will be broadcast on TV and internet-based channels.
An esports sponsorship goes beyond slapping your name on a banner. It’s about providing value and integrating your brand with the event.
The typical esports fan is part of an attractive demographic. On average, they’re 31 years old and extremely tech savvy. They are difficult to reach through traditional advertising and marketing, thanks to ad blocking technology. They are also a skeptical bunch, wary of anything that appears inauthentic.
“You think about millennials who are very cause-driven, and esports is kind of a cause now, it’s a niche market trying to go mainstream and so brands that pick up the charge and provide an altruistic relationship in sponsorship are the ones that are the most successful,” said Nathan Lindberg, Director of Esports at Twitch, a gaming streaming platform. “So it’s not just about how many times did I slap my logo on something. It’s did I make the space better, did I do something that authenticated esports into mainstream culture, did I help a team become more competitive, did I help a streamer go from part time to full time?”
An example includes Comcast Xfinity, which sponsors Evil Geniuses, a top team in the world that plays, practices, and competes in two large Comcast markets. As part of this partnership, Comcast provides the team with Gigabit Pro Internet service and Xfinity X1 video while Comcast Xfinity’s branding is featured on team jerseys and training facilities in Bloomington, IL and Alameda, CA.
“What we like about that is the natural integration. So when esports players are speaking about your product and brand, if they’re actually living it and experiencing it, it’s more authentic, and that’s really been the key lesson for us,” said says Matt Lederer, Senior Vice President of Marketing Communications and Strategy at Comcast.
Wondering how you can bring value to an esports team or event? Give The Trade Group a call at 800-343-2005. Our esports specialists will help you provide value while earning ROI at your next esports event.