22nd September 2016

eSports Is A Content Juggernaut

If you’re aged between 8-74, and live in the UK, there is a 65% chance you are a gamer. That’s 14 hours you’ve probably sat in front the screen by Sunday, and you didn’t even realise!

The UK games industry was worth nearly £4.2bn in consumer spend in 2015. The industry’s biggest consumer market revenue streams in 2015 were Digital Console and PC (£1,224m, +13.2%), Boxed Software (£904m, -3%), Consoles hardware (£689m, -28%) and Mobile gaming (£664m, +21.2%).

It isn’t just the speed of growth that is mind blowing; it’s the explosive evolution of its subset eSports that has the potential for brands to reach a unique audience. Analysts believe the total worldwide market for eSports will surpass £530 million in 2016, while viewership – at 214 million today – will cross 303 million by 2019.

eSports is competitive online gaming, where players contest in titles like Dota 2 and Call of Duty on grand scales for huge prize funds with fans either live streaming or watching in arenas and stadiums. Last year in the COD series alone there were prize pots of up to £2.3 million.

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How consumers “consume” content has changed. People not only enjoy watching each other instead of professionally created content, but they have the increasing desire to create, share and ultimately be part of the experience. Platforms such as YouTube, Twitch and Twitter are reporting big growth in gaming video consumption. Consumers now have access to high quality content streamed live during play by some of the world’s best gamers across social platforms or stream channels. Creators spend hours a day streaming game content and engaging with their own audiences during live gameplay.

As content consumption fragments, the challenge for brands is reaching targeted audiences at scale. Gaming has the potential to become the largest passion point to ever exist, given more than half the population already play. As with traditional sports, eSports can drive awareness, affinity and acquisition. However, as with any new territory, non-obvious brand fits have yet to innovate and experiment with the space.

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eSports stars should be considered the same as traditional athletes and YouTubers. Superstar gamers can be sponsored and endorsed. The big names in eSports carry significant reach and have large digital followership.

If we consider the world of eSports: the stars, fans, commentators, publishers, hardware manufacturers, events, leagues, tournaments, streaming, viewership and sell out arenas. There is a pool of opportunities in a un-brand saturated world to integrate. Brands should consider experiences that offer value to both players and themselves. Done correctly, this can drive engagement, affinity and advocacy. What’s clear is this is not a space for interruptive advertising, and with a hyper-social audience it could backfire tremendously if the association or content is perceived as a fail.

The audience itself however are open to brands. MEC Consumer Pulse looked at the psychographics of eSports viewers and found 58% are looking to try new brands and 57% support companies that support their causes. The trick is finding the right in and making it relevant to take control of this opportunity.

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