eSports: A Big Brand Opportunity

Regardless of whether you’re interested in video games or not, you’ll have likely heard something about eSports. Starting back in 1972 with Stanford University’s Spacewar Olympics, competitive gaming has grown in popularity and transformed into a business estimated to be worth approximately $1.5billion by 2020. With prizes reaching millions of dollars and a global fan base, big brands are turning their attention to eSports.

A brief history of eSports

While eSports are considered a fairly modern activity, some concept of gaming en masse has existed for nearly 50 years. The Spacewar Olympics kicked off as a 5-man tournament. Less than 10 years later, Atari established competitive gaming as a mainstream hobby with the Space Invaders Championship involving more than 10,000 participants.

Over the next two decades, prominent video gamers rose to fame in publications such as Life and Time with televised eSports events airing as early as the 80s. The 90s saw a dramatic increase in internet connectivity, increasing the popularity of cross-platform open-source PC games. Consoles also got in on the action with the 1990 Nintendo Championships which toured across the United States not once but twice.

Once you reach the 00s, the popularity of competitive eSports explodes. Why? Broadband. Everything became possible, professional leagues were created and we’re now at the point where a dedicated eSports arena will open this year on the Las Vegas Strip.

Watching people play video games– is it really that fun?

In all honesty, yes, it is. No matter what the game, the entertainment value from watching highly skilled players battling it out for a big cheque (and fame in gaming circles) has people hooked. It’s good fun. It’s even becoming more popular than the NFL, baseball and football for entertainment purposes. They also have a far more entertaining, almost legendary champagne celebration tradition.

Last year 588 eSports events took place around the world, generating an estimated $59 million in ticket sales. That’s an increase in $32 million when compared to 2016 and it’s set to rise to $906 million in 2018. The rising popularity of eSports as a mainstream entertainment source is undeniable. And like any major sporting event, the best way to get your brand name out there is to advertise and sponsor.

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Ready player brand

With all those people buying tickets and sitting on the edge of their seats watching their favourite games, big brands have a captive audience for promotion. Just like at any large event, brands are desperate to get their name and products featured as many times and in as many places as physically possible. Mercedes-Benz struck a sponsorship deal with the Electronic Sports League across several countries, relaunching their ‘Grow Up’ campaign in the process. The MVP in these tournaments wins a brand-new Mercedes, providing additional product placement opportunities. Gillette jumped on board by sponsoring an ESL tournament as a way to target the (typically) young, male audience. Their experiential eSports campaign offered grooming for the gamers and personalised razor handles for fans. They also sponsored an individual player as their Brand Ambassador.

Advertising opportunities are becoming available on livestreams and eSports TV Channels. In-game advertising is growing, specifically targeting the millennials and younger who have grown up in an interactive online world. It’s the perfect opportunity for brands looking to reach this engaged, digital-savvy audience.

Nailed the target audience? Time to reap the rewards.

Big brands like Mercedes and Gillette have found the perfect way to speak to their target audience and are now benefiting from maximum exposure. Finding the right audience and magnifying your contact with them is something that any brand can do on any scale and it’s something we pride ourselves on at Elastic. If you’re looking for creative ways to reach your target audience, get in touch and see how we could help.


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