Guest Interview: eSports and FMCG marketing dollars, the perfect marriage?
Picture the scene: the arena is packed with a swarm of excited buzzing fans in their thousands, commentators hurriedly reporting the action in every known language broadcast live on Twitch; teams are analysed, game strategy is scrutinised, past performances are debated, predictions are made. Then, the teams enter the arena, fans go wild screaming and chanting for their favourites. You would expect this to be a big league football or baseball stadium, but no, there are no bats or balls in play here, it’s the finals of the Overwatch League — one of the largest and most popular eSports games out there today.
Online competitive computer gaming, or eSports as it’s now known, has turned professional. Teams of gamers battle it out in large arenas watched by a live audience on huge screens, just as you would a concert. However, as well as the thousands of fans it attracts to the physical locations, millions of fans worldwide watch online.
According to Newzoo, the total global revenue for the eSports industry is expected to reach 1.1 billion US dollars in 2019, showing a year-on-year growth of +26.7%. Newzoo predicts, “Around 82% of the total market ($897.2 million), will come from endemic and non-endemic brand investments (media rights, advertising, and sponsorship). The highest-grossing individual esports revenue stream worldwide is sponsorship, generating $456.7 million in 2019. The fastest-growing esports revenue stream by far is media rights.”
eSports have been around for quite some time, especially if we look towards Asia. Yet, it is only in recent years that the Western world has started to become aware and take an interest in this new cultural phenomenon. As Deniz Anic explains in his article ‘How might brands use eSports as a marketing tool to engage with eSports consumers?‘ (April 2018), “ESports isn’t a new trend or technology. It is a full-blown shift in entertainment and culture that is taking a huge and growing amount of young people’s time and attention (Cunningham, 2016). So, this shift needs to be understood by brands and companies if they want to connect and engage with the young target group. Why is there a need for that? Because marketers have a problem reaching the so called “millennials”. From a historical point of view, this generation seem to be more digitally advanced regarding the interaction with digital media and interventions as they grew up with these technologies.”
Although still in its infancy, Anic continues, “Due to the different facets of eSports and the rising impact on society, it’s becoming part of a modern subculture on a global level and is therefore an interesting industry to look at from a marketing and advertising point of view. A lot of companies from a wide range of industries, which are looking for investment opportunities, are now trying to find their entry into the dynamically growing and continuously forming eSports market (Bozorgzadeh, 2017).”
The world of eSports is beginning to rival real-life sports in terms of viewership, audience interest and, not to mention, a $1.1 billion industry ripe for sponsorship and advertising. Brand owners are starting to sit up and take notice, keen to get a head start on the competition to snatch the prime spots in this emerging form of entertainment.
This week’s article is a special one as we have had the pleasure of interviewing an old friend, Zeno Adami, Brand Manager for Gillette. Zeno has spent the best part of the last few years working in Boston (USA) and engaging with eSports to position Gillette as one of the leading FMCG brands in the space.
Zeno, why are eSports so important for FMCG brands?
“eSports are literally exploding month after month. Both the number of players and, most of all, the viewing of videos is skyrocketing; platforms like Twitch are rapidly becoming new media powerhouses. To put this phenomenon into some perspective, in 5 years’ time the viewership data will be in line with ‘real-life’ sports.
Traditionally a difficult group to target, eSports biggest consumer is the 15–30 year old — this is the place to be for every FMCG brand whose products fit the bill. Reserving your seat at the table of eSports is an essential way to directly target this elusive segment of population, these consumers don’t watch traditional TV but view copious videos online, which raises difficulties for brand managers coping with the intervention of ad blockers. eSport platforms like Twitch push videos, material and communications that are embedded into the streams and cannot be blocked by traditional ad blockers.
Furthermore, the eSports community is genuinely open to big brands entering the playing field for two main reasons. Firstly, providing support to the community: finances from big brands can help fund further projects and development of the eSports community, sustaining its key players and influencers.
Secondly, big brands playing in the traditional sports fields, for example Premier League or Major League Football sponsors, are perceived by the eSports community as potentially old style and not aligned with the social interests of the eSport community — i.e. why invest in an already rich football team when the money could go much further developing a smaller eSport community and/or offering discounted products and services.
For FMCG brands, playing a winning hand in the eSports arena can be rewarded with a higher purchase intent in the 15–30 group, they are openly receptive and loyal to those brands who are genuinely adding value.”
In what way can FMCG brands take advantage of eSports? Which brands are doing it right?
“The best way for FMCG brands to play a successful part in the eSports environment is based on 2 fundamental pillars. 1) Provide engaging content for the target audience, it should be tailored and personalised avoiding videos created for mainstream consumption, and it should be naturally integrated within the media platforms (i.e. using market research data to align messages and formats that are relevant).
2) Provide support for the eSports community whilst building loyalty by creating marketing reward mechanisms for key players, influencers and users, both financially (e.g. Twitch Bits) and with ‘money can’t buy experiences’ (e.g. Meet and Greet with key players and influencers). Best practice examples are MasterCard’s ‘Loot Box’ and, of course, Logitech” (a long-standing client of eBI’s).
What should brands consider when looking to work within the eSports ecosystem?
“There are 5 key stakeholders that FMCG brands should have in mind when considering approaching the eSports market.
PROFESSIONAL TEAMS: These are fully funded professional organisations. Activating a partnership with them is similar to the professional teams in mainstream sports. Great reach on target market but the downside is they are big ‘for profit’ organisations.
PROFESSIONAL PLAYERS: These stakeholders play or have played for big teams (e.g. Soren Bjerg and xPeke). They have a large base of social media followers and stream for big audiences usually once a week. The downside is that they have very strict schedules dictated by their team’s calendar and, as a result, sometimes lack engagement.
INFLUENCERS: These are streamers like Ninja and Dr Disrespect. Usually they stream every day for 6–7 hours and have a huge fan base. The big positive here is that they know how to effectively engage an audience and they are very receptive about how to communicate a brand message to their audience. The only downside is that the type of message is more difficult to be controlled and can be a little wild due to the very nature of the streamers work. In my view, this is the most interesting route to market for a brand to be able to have an authentic conversation with the target audience.
LEAGUES: Professional associations like the ESL organise game based tournaments (e.g. League of Legends, FIFA, etc.). They control these live events so these stakeholders can be extremely valuable, but also expensive.
MEDIA PLATFORMS: These are the media entities controlling how the content is consumed, platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. They can also act in a consultancy capacity developing 360° plans for brands who are new to the eSports environment providing a turnkey solution, from dealing with influencers, to organising live events, they can be a great partner when entering the stage of eSports, this is something Twitch specialises in.”
Do you have any other advice for brands seeking to adapt to this emerging market?
“Yes, another big area to consider, in line with mainstream trends, is related to the social responsibility impact generated by campaigns. The target audience is extremely receptive to social activities such as sustainable charities or gaming addiction communities, therefore, linking a brand campaign to cause related programmes can be a highly beneficial way to boost the organic impact of the campaign and hence improve brand equity and, ultimately, purchase intent.”
There’s no doubt that now is the time for brands and agencies to invest and grab a share of this new cultural phenomenon that is exploding into our society. Brands willing to invest heavily can reap the rewards of top spot sponsorship and a dedicated communication channel to a captive target audience, but this lucrative marketing campaign will carry a hefty price tag.
With thanks to Zeno Adami for his valuable insights and advice.
At the eBusiness Institute, we have extensive experience of working with numerous brands on their digital transformation, from audits and analytics to campaign management and eContent strategies. We understand the importance of an optimised consumer experience to drive your brand’s sales online and offline. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you
Originally published at ebusinessinstitute.com on March 26, 2019.