The rise of esports: what brands need to know

The rise of esports: what brands need to know

Brand interest in esports is set to reach new levels of excitement as the industry continues to thrive in the midst of a global pandemic. As of mid-2021, Statista reported that the worldwide esports audience size has reached 474 million people, affirming it as one of the major players in entertainment, ranking alongside music and film.

Elissa Young, Senior Manager, PR & Communications at ONE Esports says the online nature of esports makes it a growing opportunity for brands to reach and connect with a younger audience. “We have seen the rise of brands - both endemic and non-endemic - entering the gaming space and successfully leveraging opportunities presented by esports. Unlike traditional sports, esports was born online and built its presence in streaming. This makes it a prime opportunity for brands to reach and connect with a young, passionate, and engaged community.”

She also noted the significant shift in its audiences, with multiple subsets across different ages, demographics, and socio-economic backgrounds propelling esports closer to mainstream status. “From research done by the in-house Analytics & Insights team at ONE Esports, we know that the esports community in Southeast Asia is increasingly gender balanced, with a current breakdown of 51 per cent male fans and 49 per cent female fans. We also discovered distinct segments of fans, each with their own motivations and emotional reasons for engaging in esports: from wanting to win for social credibility, to wanting to be part of a community, to playing just to relieve stress. Esports today is also able to reach out to a whole new demographic on mobile, which is a significant change from the past where most of the community was PC and console gamers.”

Lim Wee Ling, Director, Asia PR Werkz and Advisor for the Singapore Games Association suggests several ways brands can look into engaging the esports community. “The most direct way is to sponsor an esports event or participate in an esports convention or summit. Brands can also look into creative campaigns with esports organisations, influencers (such as streamers), and communities.” 

Elicia Lee, Vice Chairperson at Singapore Games Association, and Eliphant’s Co-Founder and Managing Director advised that it is crucial for brands to understand that each esports game is distinct, highlighting the importance of taking a nuanced approach based on offering added value to audiences.

“Brands must note that esports is a marathon, not a sprint. They should look at building long-term strategies focused on KPIs that align with their brand and corporate goals, instead of expensive, short-term wins.”

Wee Ling also shared some tips for brands when developing a marketing strategy to engage the esports community. “Think long term, sponsoring an esports event is a common way to bring your brand to the forefront, but look into going deeper for creative executions that align the brand values with esports, such as family bonding through watching. Secondly, look out for trade associations and organisations that can offer relevant insights, networking opportunities, and access to the latest opportunities.”

“And lastly, look locally - there are reputable esports organisations, marketing and events management companies powered by local talent that have the expertise and track record in supporting both local and international brands to curate their esports marketing strategies. They have the benefit of understanding both the local audiences as well as the unique USPs of esports that can certainly help both endemic and non-endemic brands craft a strategy to connect the brand story with the esports DNA.”

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