eSports: The New Industry Leveraging Digital Gaming

November 13, 2018 Kathy Bryan

National sports leagues are having a tough time holding kids’ attention in 2018. With the National Basketball Association (NBA) being one of the few professional sports leagues successfully drawing in young consumers (with 28% of young adults interested), most other professional sports leagues, like the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) are seeing significant drop offs.

Is eSports to blame for the decreased interest in professional sports leagues?

What is eSports?

Digital Media Solutions chart eSports professional sports league

eSports, short for electronic sports, includes tournaments where players gather to compete against one another. But what makes eSports different than other national sports leagues is players are playing video games, not physical games. Newzoo defines eSports as “competitive gaming at a professional level and in an organized format (a tournament or league) with a specific goal (i.e., winning a champion title or prize money) and a clear distinction between players and teams that are competing against each other.”

First started in 1972 with a game of “Space War” at Stanford University, eSports requires players to form teams to battle via favorite video games in indoor arenas filled with fans and commentators. The 2017 League of Legends World Championships welcomed more than 80 million viewers in person and online, an increase of 45 million fans from the 2015 championships. Newzoo reports upwards of 380 million people worldwide will watch eSports by the end of 2018.

In a typical eSports tournament, the game is broadcast on large screens around the arena and on the internet, allowing fans to watch every one of the 300 moves a player might make each minute of the game.

eSports, recognized as an official sports association by ESPN, is considered a professional sport, as players may train for up to 14 hours a day for incredible multitasking and sharp reflexes. BBC notes eSports presents a challenge that differs from professional sports leagues: the game is always changing. Video games are constantly updating, so eSports players must be able to tackle new game features and challenges, which adds more time to their regular training.

What does the rise of eSports mean for digital marketers?

eSports has made its mark in the sporting industry. This sporting phenomenon has even made its way into conferences and higher education. Last month, Access Intelligence held their first ever Global eSports Business Summit. And available beginning January 2019, New England College (NEC) students can enroll in eSports classes in a program lead by Tyrelle Appleton, a well-known eSports competitor turned professor. NEC joins 104 other colleges in the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE), a nonprofit organization formed in 2016 with the intention to develop eSports in the varsity space.

eSports digital marketers adults gen z tournaments

Outside of education, the eSports industry offers new avenues for marketing and advertising. With a consumer base of 380 million worldwide with varying demographics, but a focus on males 21 to 35 years old, eSports global revenue is expected to surpass $1 billion by 2019. The eSports industry and audience should not be overlooked.

In this year alone, brands will invest nearly $694 million in the eSports market, including technology development and marketing. But Gamurs Group, owner of 10 major eSports brands, cautions advertisers to jump into eSports with caution. They encourage advertisers to avoid disrupting the action of the game and instead become part of the action. In addition to typical advertising units, brands targeting the eSports audience can leverage this lucrative market by implementing sponsorships and endorsements, which is where eSports players see much of their own personal income. Content that connects with the spirit of the game can also help with engagement of the eSports audience.

By the end of this year, more than a fifth of the planet’s population will know about eSports. As the industry grows, the eSports market has the potential to draw more fans from the professional sporting industry. With more fans and a larger market, eSports may offer new opportunities for marketing with every tournament.

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About the Author

Kathy Bryan

Kathy Bryan is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS and its subsidiary brands. Since its inception, DMS has evolved into a full-service performance marketing company that services firms within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, automotive, jobs and careers. DMS has achieved incredible year-over-year growth, which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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