Are brands ready to embrace eSports?

With the launch of the eGames 2016 Showcase in Rio this week are we seeing a real interest in creating the "e-Olympic Games?"

Simply, countries could pull in the top gamers from each country to represent their own at an Olympic event. Gamers could then represent their own domestic teams as well as their countries.

eSports isn't a new trend. Earlier this year, Manchester City Football Club signed their first eSports player. Kieran Brown, 18, will represent the club at eSports events playing FIFA ‘16 and Manchester City are not the only ones trying to capitalise on eSports, 7 other sports clubs have gamers representing them at events. The ever growing popularity of eSports, it seems, is spilling over to other sports. 

This is where the argument would arise about whether eSports is a ‘sport’ or not, but we won’t go into that. The view is that this new and expanding sport/event is suddenly taking over the digital world and we all must buy into the commercial opportunities it presents. But is it really that new? And are the commercial prospects actually worthwhile? The new age of gaming to  call eSports a new player in the entertainment industry would only be partially true. eSports can be dated back to 1972 at Stanford University where the first competition is believed to have been held. In 1980, video game development company, Atari, held the first large-scale video game competition which attracted more than 10,000 participants across the US. 

What has happened since in regards to internet accessibility and the speeds of connectivity is what is considered new about this trend. Being able to stream gaming competitions and gaming material via websites such as YouTube and Twitch has opened eSports up to an incredibly wide audience. As a result, eSports is the fastest growing sector in the entertainment industry according to eSports Online. 

The value of the eSports fan

Our SportScope data across 10 markets* shows that 124.5 million people expressed an interest in eSports**.

Breaking that down, the largest eSports audiences are currently found in Asia – India and China – a nod to their high population figures. Brazil has a high engagement rate to their online population with 19.5% being fans of eSports (13.8 million). The US boasts 9 million followers but with a low percentage of the population (4.53%), this is destined to grow. 

Meanwhile, our SportScope study shows in the UK alone there are just under 2.5 million adults*** with an interest in eSports – 72.5% of them being male and most of them being younger adults (18-34 making up 63.5%).On top of these high engagement figures, gaming stands out as a medium capable of holding attention as well as driving interaction.

Its similarity to traditional sports is particularly apparent here.

Commercial opportunities

This presents an interesting commercial opportunity for brands, but one with many barriers. While a significant portion of the audience is young, impressionable and highly engaged, they are also more likely to be anti-commercial. And the young, affluent male target group is a notoriously tricky audience to reach. Our TGI survey data shows that young men (18-24) are less likely to click on online ads than over 55 year olds and that 36% of 25-34 year olds either strongly or slightly disagree that advertising in games enhances the realism of the game. Advertisers are becoming increasingly aware of such sentiments. Attention is heavily placed on ensuring content is adapted for the target audience and channel – whether digital or traditional media.

  • *Markets are: Australia, Brazil, China (PRC), France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain, UK and US
  • **Fans are those who identified themselves as extremely or very interested in eSports
  • ***18-64 year olds with an internet connection

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