Jun 29, 2018 at 12:00 AM
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The Esports Sponsorship Cheat Sheet

Josh Cella, Head of Global Partnerships at Activision Blizzard advised Hashtag Sports conference attendees that, "Esports is very uncluttered – there’s still so much white space for us to work with brands."

That being said, there are different forms of sponsorship that interested brands can occupy with this rapidly evolving space. As esports matures, many of the sponsorship benefits such as jersey sponsorship mirror that of professional sports, though there are esports intricacies that first time sponsors should be aware of before dipping their toe in the esports waters. Some brands may choose to associate with esports teams or individual players and influencers while others are more interested in aligning with events, tournaments, broadcast platforms, or gaming venues. The esports industry has yielded tremendous growth in both the quantity and quality within each type of the sponsorable properties.

In the midst of such rapid development, non-endemic brands are now flocking to the genre and naturally creating a more commercial-friendly industry that appeals to a much broader audience. Meanwhile, endemic brands will continue driving growth and brand affinity by authentically enhancing the user experience. Aside from the long hours in which these users consume esports games and content, this unique “niche” audience is extremely loyal and willing to spend long hours on-site at live gaming events – leaving no shortage of time for a brand to engage in-person beyond the massive digital reach of a gamer’s participation as a whole.

The Numbers

  • ESPN estimates that by 2019, 427 million people worldwide will be watching eSports
  • According to Forbes, the esports industry raked in nearly 500 million dollars in 2017.
  • As it continues to grow more than 40% year over year, the industry is destined to become a $1.7 billion market by 2021.
  • According to Statistica, more than 80% of esports global revenue was attributed to sponsorships and advertising in 2016.
  • The top 10 influencers ranked by Forbes had a combined reach of 228 million over instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube subscribers
  • $24,787,916 in prize pool money was offered at The International in 2017 which broke the record for an esports event
  • Nielsen reports that on average, an esports fan spends 8.2 hours playing video games each week
  • 600+ Esports sponsorship agreements since the start of 2016 (source: Nielsen Market Intelligence)
  • Intel Extreme Masters is regarded as the biggest live event in esports history having hosted 173,000 fans in 2017 (source: VentureBeat)

    The Audience

  • Limelight Networks’ survey states esports as the most watched sport by millennial men aged 18-25 – explaining that US millennial males watch more hours of esports a week than they do traditional sports.
  • Esports are second only to movies in the 18 to 25 male demographic Twitch.tv reports 15 million daily active users who watch 23 billion minutes of video per month
  • SuperData research shows that in 2017, “Gaming video content” had more unique viewers than HBO, Netflix, ESPN and Hulu combined in 2017
  • Statistica reports an audience of 300 million people - meaning Twitch.tv surpassed CNN and MSNBC in viewership
  • Increasing celebrity involvement from investors such as Steve Aoki, Ashton Kutcher, Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez, and more.

    The Assets

  • Naming rights
  • Player sponsorship/influencers
  • Branded content
  • Experiential activation at mega events
  • Tech integration
  • Jersey branding
  • Co-branded merchandise
  • Livestream & on-demand video ads
  • Adverts between matches
  • Presenting game replays or analyst segment
  • Product placement on stage at mega events
  • Direct selling via livestream
  • In-game advertising
  • Branded skins and equipment within the game
  • giveaways - physical or digital goods
  • Pioneering mobile esports

    The Properties (just to name a few):

  • Streaming & Broadcasts: Twitch.tv, ESPN, YouTube, Panda.tv, MLG.tv, DirecTV, Turner, Disney XD, etc.
  • Leagues: Overwatch, ESL - Electronic Sports League
  • Championship Series/Tournaments: World Cyber Games, Rocket League, League of Legends, Dota 2, Call of Duty, Madden NFL, NHL Gaming, eMLS StarCraft 2 , Counter-Strike, MineCraft, Hearthstone, Quake Live, Halo, Evolution, Extreme Masters, The International, Heroes of the Storm, FIFA, Street Fighter, etc.
  • Teams: Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Team Liquid, Fnatic, Optic Gaming, Evil Geniuses, Wizards Gaming, etc
  • Individuals:Tyler Blevins, DanTDM, Jacksepticeye, PewDiePie, SSSniperWolf, Tyler1, etc.
  • Venues: Blizzard Arena, Esports Stadium Arlington, Allied’s Esports Arena Las Vegas, etc
  • Developers & Organizations:Major League Gaming Corp, Blizzard, Riot Games, etc.

    The Pros

  • Rapid and recent growth (For example: Dot Esports reported that The League of Legends World Championship reached 60 million unique viewers online, compared to 43 million in 2016)
  • More downtime at live events for experiential marketing and engagement
  • Publishers and rights-holders are open to breaking new ground, which provides brands with an opportunity to develop a creative campaign
  • Esports has a global nature with local capabilities
  • Access to esports players and talent is very easy and real – which creates a fan dynamic and opportunity for content that doesn’t exist in traditional sports

    The Cons

  • Complexity of the industry and the realm of opportunities / lack of education
  • The exceptionally tech and marketing savvy audience may resist non-endemic sponsors unless their activations are authentic
  • Sport is not completely mainstream/commercial-friendly yet
  • Measuring ROI may be a challenge with predominantly digital and social consumption

    Some Active Non-Endemic Esports Sponsors (just to name a few):

  • Toyota
  • Mondelez
  • T-Mobile
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Intel
  • Coca-Cola
  • Red Bull
  • Mountain Dew
  • Mobil 1
  • Audi
  • Airbus
  • Geico
  • Nissan
  • Axe
  • Twitch
  • Logitech
  • HTC
  • SAP
  • Bud Light