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5 Reasons to Pay Attention to Esports

6 MINUTE READ | August 3, 2018

5 Reasons to Pay Attention to Esports

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

From LAN parties in the 1990s to arenas packed with thousands of eager fans in early 2018, with a bit of luck and the creation of ‘game-changing’ technological advancements, gaming has gone from a casual hobby to a revolutionary multi-million dollar modern entertainment industry in just a few decades’ time. According to the Pew Research Center, 49% of American adults play video games either on a computer, console, TV or a mobile device, so naturally, esports served as a way to transform gaming (something people were already spending their time doing) into a spectator sport.

An unrecognized benefit of esports global popularity for brands is the accessibility and relatability of its professionals. Whereas in traditional sports, the competitors are fine-tuned athletes with, oftentimes, unfathomable and glamorous lifestyles, esports athletes come from all backgrounds and in all shapes and sizes. Furthermore, and thanks to the digital, fast-paced nature of gaming platforms, players and their fans are online all the time.

Whether they’re streaming their gameplay to an online audience via Twitch or showing off highlight reels via social platforms, gamers are digital natives, highly relatable, and cognizant of their online influence and how to wield it for the benefit of the gaming and larger online community. These are passionate people who love gaming, tech and supporting others who share their same interests. The democratization of the players and the games they play contributes to esports’ allure and the loyalty of its 300+ million fans around the globe.

We’ve got more to say in our white paper on the advertising opportunities within the esports industry but at a high-level, here’s why we think the esports industry is worth getting into.

From ESPN launching a new vertical for specific esports coverage to Overwatch being the first franchised gaming league, the sports industry is rapidly changing right before our eyes. The esports industry is projected to reach at least 557 million viewers by 2020 and easily generate over $1.4 billion in revenue. As esports investors and game creators break new ground, keep an eye out for more ways fans can experience their favorite esports games as pop-ups, sports bars, esports arenas and casual esports watch parties become more common.

Unlike traditional major league sports where athletes play a single type of game, esports athletes are scattered across a variety of game types that each comes with its own nuances and audience types. It’s important to know that the term ‘esports’ encapsulates every professionally played games from mobile games that typically attract a younger audience to first-person shooter games that draw in a more male adult-skewed audience.

While the epicenter of esports started in South Korea and across Asia, in the past 15+ years, it has quickly spread across the world. Industry experts predict global esports revenues to hit $905 million in 2018, an incredible 36% increase from 2017’s $655 million. With a compound annual growth rate of 8.2 percent from 2016 to 2020, the esports industry is gaining ground across the globe with Asia, North America, and Western Europe charging ahead by capturing 85% of the global esports audience.


In like manner, the estimated 13.5% YOY audience growth is attributed to the improvement of IT infrastructure in Latin America and the Middle East, game franchises, and an influx of young viewers around the world who view esports as a valid entertainment medium. As Asia maintains its stronghold with the biggest gaming audience, franchising and live events have placed North America as the top revenue-generating market, set to reach an impressive $345 million in 2018.

The allure of esports is its ability to connect the audience to the esports players, streamers and other fans in the community in real-time, all the time. With the likes of Twitch and other platforms to better support players and develop their fan communities, audiences are actively engaged for long periods of time (averaging 100 minutes per spectating session).

To capitalize on gaming’s rise to mainstream entertainment, organizations are building arenas across the US for esports-specific competitions, events, and tournaments. And with these spaces comes new advertising opportunities for brands through live-event sponsorships, product placements, and prize money contributions. With the promise of firsthand experiential opportunities and high-energy live entertainment, 60% of esports fans reported explicit interest in attending a live event this year.

As can be seen, esports is revolutionizing the traditional sports ecosystem by creating a digitally-native environment for fans filled with all the merchandising, live events, and creative sponsorship opportunities brands can dream of. With the esports scene set to attract over 380 million fans this year, esports is reaching new heights; making this year the perfect time for brands to get in the game.

The benefit to advertising in esports is twofold. First, the audience is young, highly engaged, and loyal meaning that brands who strategically advertise and truly immerse their brand narrative to ‘get into the game’ flourish in the ecosystem. A great example of brand immersion can be seen with Arby’s and its creative videos of Arby’s sandwiches being blown up which directly referenced Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and its bomb defusing missions. These spots were shown during ELeague broadcasts on Twitch and TBS on TV and were a huge success.

Secondly, when compared to traditional sports, media buys and partnerships are relatively cheap. As a young, digital-first experience, esports’ positioning in the entertainment industry allows for creative partnerships of all forms to be tried and tested, some falling flat and others impacting the gaming culture and revolutionizing advertising practices in the industry. With an industry and audience that’s so young, brands that aren’t afraid to get creative are rewarded.

Missed our whitepaper? Get it here.

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