ESports is an explosive industry and many top brands are paying attention. Like many other industries these days, professional gaming has taken a hit in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak; but it is certainly in a unique position to cope since it has its roots online.
In-person tournaments have been cancelled to comply with social distancing, but have already shifted entirely online to keep things moving forward. And fans haven’t skipped a beat. Here are the top companies mentioned in the eSports conversational context in the past three months, and the sentiment expressed (all overwhelmingly positive):
Gaming stream services such as Twitch and Mixer are as strong as ever and growing. With live sports cancelled for the foreseeable future, many sports fanatics have turned to these platforms to get their competitive fix. This should come as no surprise to those active in the industry though, as eSports has been steadily gaining steam.
Since at least 2015, eSports has seen astronomical growth year after year. 2020 was already forecast to be a huge year for eSports, and gaming in general, as viewership numbers have continued to rise exponentially. Even with the lack of physical tournaments taking place, which has both ticketed audience members and online viewership, the number of people watching eSports is skyrocketing. This makes sense, of course, as we’re in the midst of widespread stay-at-home measures.
Gamers, team owners and others have become stars in their own right and many smart brands have leveraged their influence in the industry to create corporate sponsorships.
The gaming community is extremely tight knit and the right brand sponsorship with the right gamer or team gets a lot of eyes. ESports and brand sponsorships have gone hand in hand from the very beginning, of course, and next generation AI-powered social analytics helps brands get in on the action as the industry continues to evolve. And now is the best time to sort this whole industry out.
Gaming teams comprised of some of the world’s best players have cropped up all over the world. And they’re backed by some big-time corporate sponsors and celebrity investors such as Drake and Super Bowl champion Richard Sherman.
Many players have become household names in the industry, just as there are superstars in the world of traditional sports. Key opinion leaders (KOLs) in the space can be seen below:
Besides winnings from tournament play, players also garner revenue from YouTube channels and Twitch streams where their followers can watch them play their favorite games.
Top gamers enjoy large followings on social media with whom they engage with pretty much daily. If a pro-player mentions a brand, it’s going to reach a lot of ears. They carry some serious clout in their niche.
How Influential are eSports Athletes?
Professional eSport athletes boast impressive numbers on their YouTube and Twitch channels and their number of views is nothing to scoff at. And net sentiment surrounding gamers and eSports as a whole is overwhelmingly positive.
Currently at the pinnacle of success, American gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins currently sits at 23.1 million subscribers on his YouTube channel alone. He was the top streamer on Amazon’s Twitch platform with nearly 15 million followers. He recently entered into an exclusivity deal (worth in the neighborhood of $20-30 million dollars) with Microsoft’s Mixer streaming service where he now plays.
And, unlike traditional sports leagues, eSports leagues have been quick to adapt and are moving in-person events back online, while the Coronavirus plays out.
The eSports industry doesn’t appear to be missing a beat during this crisis. So, it’s good time for brands to zero in on esports influencers!
Brands Banking on Influencers
We can see that elite gamers are influencers in their own right, but what does that mean for their brand partners?
Brand sponsors of eSports teams and athletes are enjoying high visibility as well. They’re benefitting from in-game mentions by pro-gamers/influencers, having teams wearing the sponsor’s logo on game-day and by doing things like Honda did … and getting your product in the game itself!
Top tier brands from Coca-Cola to Nike are already banking on influencers to drive their brand in the burgeoning eSports industry. Celebrities like Michael Jordan and Snoop Dogg are actively engaged in eSports as well. Industry leaders and cultural icons suggest that this is no longer ‘just a game.’
And BMW didn’t have a presence to speak of in eSports prior to the pandemic. It’s now the head sponsor of five of the world’s top eSports organizations.
As part of the partnership, BMW has committed to supply team cars decked out in the team logo, and BMW’s logo will be on their uniforms during gameplay, as well as heavily promoted via social media. Other markets have slowed, so BMW shifted gears and spread its brand awareness across a thriving industry. And exploring eSports trends in NetBase reveals positive traction for them. That’s creatively leveraged brand exposure, for sure:
As eSports continues to grow there is still plenty of room at the table for brands to get their name into the conversation. Find the edge for your brand using the power of world-class artificial intelligence in NetBase.