Esports and Brand Engagement Tenets

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The esports industry has burgeoned over the last four years and is poised to become a $1.4 billion annual global business that reaches 600 million people by 2020. With investors like Michael Jordan and Mark Cuban, new stadiums cropping up around the globe being built specifically for esports and its community, and even universities offering esports scholarships, there’s no denying that it should be on all marketers’ radars. But why have so few people heard of esports when it is already one of the biggest spectator sports on the planet?

This means the potential is huge for brands and marketers. The opportunity to engage with this community, provide value and help take the esports experience to the next level is right in front of us.

At Colle McVoy, we believe the best way to understand an emerging topic, trend or experience is through participatory learning and we regularly host Hacky Hours to get our hands dirty on trends like VR, blockchain, IOT and other emerging tech. We recently did a deep dive into the fascinating and massive world of esports. We have a passionate esports fan base and avid gaming enthusiasts who have been gaming all their lives. It was the perfect opportunity to immerse our clients and staff in the energy and emotions that esports affords its fans. And there was no better way to share this insight than by producing our own esports event on Twitch, which was held in November.

With the learnings from this event and from our knowledge of the industry, we offer tenets about the culture of esports and how brands can bring value to this community.

Esports should be viewed as a real industry.

There will always be a heated debate with a wide range of opinions about whether esports can compare to traditional athletic sports. But it really doesn’t make any difference one way or the other. No matter what side of the fence you are on, competitive gaming is serious business with many of the same characteristics as traditional sports. They both require a tremendous amount of practice, skill and teamwork required to play at the professional level. Obvious sports brands such as Nike, Red Bull, and even the NFL and NBA, are already treating esports for what it is—highly competitive, entertaining, with lots of eyeballs.

Gamers are influencers.

When partnering with esports athletes, casters (a.k.a. broadcasters), and other personalities, treat them as the influencers they are. Many of them are a bigger deal in esports than traditional athletes are in their sports! Follow tried-and-true influencer marketing guidelines, such as being authentic and having the influencer help produce creative. They want strong brand partnerships, but also want to provide engaging content, just like you. Everything you do has to be genuine.

Enthusiasts can be tough.

Authenticity is huge with this community and the bulls*** meter on this audience is extremely high. They can be very vocal when brands screw up. Do your homework, understand how your brand fits in and find partners who are genuinely part of the population to help you. Because when you win, you win hard with this community.

Esports is not a monolithic entity.

There’s no central authority in esports and it incorporates many subgroups and entities. There are different owners, partners, event organizers, tournaments, and companies, which make it very different from traditional sports. Team organizations like Cloud9 or Liquid often have several teams, each for a different game. And each team has different followings, personas and messages. Instead of looking at esports as a whole, work with an expert partner to research and identify the game, team, or event that aligns with your brand and meets your objectives. To be engaging, you need to be selective because traditional mass messaging won’t feel authentic.

Esports is providing a platform for competitive gamers and entertainers to play games, connect with people, and reach audiences in new and exciting ways. Brands have a perfect opportunity to build upon this phenomenon with authenticity and advocacy. As esports fans ourselves, we are eager to “ready up” and help grow the industry. Contact us to learn more about how we might work together