The global esports audience is over 454 million in 2020. That means roughly one-sixteenth of the worldwide population is watching esports. That's a lot even more so when you consider that most esports watchers are between the ages of 16 and 35, which are only a subset of our global population.
This demographic is also largely makes up the modern consumer, which means brands are starting to shift focus to the esports industry. Total esports viewership is expected to grow 9 percent each year conservatively.
Why gaming and esports are important for brands
Roughly 68 percent of Americans are gaming, according to Grace Dolan, VP of Home Entertainment Integrated Marketing, Samsung Electronics America. That means that companies that don't focus on esports – and soon – for brand messaging, sponsorships, or as a core of their business, they'll miss out on a massive consumer base.
Gaming and esports are capturing the free-time of the world's largest growing demographic of young people more so than traditional television and entertainment platforms.
Esports offers brands the opportunity to get in on a growing entertainment platform with one of the most engaged audiences around. Luckily, while a highly developed industry already, it's still the ground phase of the industry right now, providing companies massive growth and reach potential.
Seeing the potential
The biggest hurdle is getting brands to see the potential for esports as investment space. Esports isn't your traditional marketing space. It differs widely from traditional sports and entertainment, mainly because of how fans engage with it.
Nearly all of the watchers of esports have engaged with the sport actively within a recent timeframe. The same isn't true for someone watching football. Chances are the last time many of us played traditional sports we're fans of was years ago or never. What that means is that esports fans are in tune with the games they're playing in tournaments. Furthermore, esports fans connect with the games being played on a personal level.
All this boils down to a marketing opportunity that is inherently different from traditional media. Andrew English, COO of Esports Performance Academy, a company which focuses on the development of the next generation of professional esports talent says,
"Esports is quickly becoming one of the most effective ways to get in front of this newer generation. Brands, however, need to be aware that this market doesn't latch on to the standard media buy and shove, but it requires authentic value adds to effectively tap these communities."
That's the key difference in esports marketing. The core demographic is deeply connected to the game their watching, and esports is inherently authentic. That means advertising in the space needs to be authentic too.
Being authentic in brand representation was a hot topic in a discussion between experts on the topic at CES 2020.
"If you're looking to invest or get into the space, focus on that gamer and what they want," says Bryan de Zayas, Global Director of Marketing, Dell.
Samsung's realization that gaming sells new TVs
Grace Dolan, VP of Home Entertainment Integrated Marketing at Samsung Electronics America, was one of the experts at the roundtable at CES 2020 titled "How Are Brands Engaging with Esports and Gaming?". She noted that several years ago, Samsung realized that gaming sells TVs.
The newest televisions hardly make a difference in how we enjoy traditional media like television, but they make a huge difference in how we engage with video games. Gamers care about frame rate, lag time, pixel density – new technology. Samsung realized that their advancing television tech needed to focus in on what gamers want and need to maximize their playing experience.
Samsung also started developing audio AI technology that analyzes games visually to determine where sounds might be coming from. From this data, they can create a 3D audio map to feed into audio systems to make games far more immersive.
As the gaming and esports industry significantly grows, technology leaders and brand leaders are realizing – faster than ever – that they don't want to be left behind in this market.