It’s time for brands to level up and get to grips with eSports, say Chester King, CEO of International eGames Group, and Raiford Cockfield, Director of APAC Partnerships at Twitch. In a Spikes Asia 2016 panel chaired by Ogilvy APAC CMO David Mayo, King and Cockfield make their case for why eSports represent the next great frontier for advertising.
Let’s start with the most obvious point; the e-sports market is estimated to be worth $1.1 billion by 2018. “And 47 per cent of players are here in Asia,” says Cockfield.
“There are fantastic opportunities for brands to integrate,” adds King. Some early adopting brands have already enjoyed success in eSports, such as Coca-Cola, who sponsored the launch of popular title Overwatch, and General Mills, who recently announced an eSports live-streaming partnership with Yahoo.
The inherent challenge to brands in this space, says Cockfield, is that the games these consumers are playing and watching immerse them in engaging narratives and worlds — meaning that any advertising content has to be wildly creative, yet still relevant and authentic to the viewer, in order to secure a place in the consumer’s imagination.
If you can achieve this, the results are worthwhile, says Cockfield. According to Twitch research, 60 per cent of players say it’s fine to have ads in live gaming shows, 70 per cent of viewers follow up for more information on products they’ve seen in ads, and 63 per cent of people who view ads during live broadcasts say they are more likely to make a purchase.
The most immediate win for brands in eSports, says King, is in the wealth of data and statistics that they offer. “The pure numbers you get from eSports, you can’t get from radio or TV.” Monetary motivations aside, entering the eSports space gives brands an opportunity to accompany millions of consumers on their journey from subculture to mainstream activity, and even play a role in shaping it.
For instance, one advantage to eSports still being a somewhat under-appreciated phenomenon is that it has yet to fall victim to the toxic culture that permeates other online arenas. “Gaming itself started as a male-dominated thing,” says King, but both he and Cockfield note that eSports are gender neutral, and that as more communities continue to grow around this space, the number of female players is going up. In fact, the Singapore-based, all-female gaming group Asterisk* stated in a recent issue that the lack of funding and support for eSports in Asia is a greater source of frustration to them than sexism.
King believes that eSports offer “intrinsic value” in regards to the cognitive and cooperative skills developed while playing, compared to the passive experience of watching TV. He is hopeful that in time, the leadership and teamwork competencies required in eSports will be recognised, as they are in traditional sports, and that once people understand the benefits, eSports will gain more of a widespread acceptance.