Will brands click play on creating an e-athlete megastar in 2016?
23rd February, 2016
E-Sports are fast becoming more popular as both a competitor and spectator sport in the West, with Wembley Arena playing host to large events such as League of Legends and a dedicated e-gaming space currently being developed in Fulham.
Despite numerous stalwarts’ draconian views and attempts to undermine the credibility of the platform, veteran e-sports journalist Rod Breslau commented in a VICE interview that it continues to surpass expectations in revenue and attention. A once tight knit community now draws in hundreds of thousands of attendees to events (surpassing many traditional sporting contests), eager to see their team take home cash prizes to $18million (The International 2015).
Already USA and Korea have ‘appointed’ superstar players (Faker, NadeShot), with the success of KSI (he would be the first to point out he is not a ‘gamer’) in the UK when will mainstream brands see the e-sports as a credible, substantial marketing platform? Red Bull were the first major brand to act signing Dave ‘Walshy’ Walsh in 2006 however relatively few brands have followed. Venturing outside traditional endorsements to capitalise on the expanse of the platform, Red Bull developed training labs focusing on nurturing and developing the e-sports athletes of the future, cementing their position and long term commitment in the sport.
E-sports is growing in size year on year with significant growth expected in 2016. The platform is already producing talent, major events and games which are capable of building and capturing a loyal fan base of elusive millennials. These can be reached through numerous, non-traditional channels including online streams and development YouTube channels, to note Matt ‘NadeShot’ Haag has over one million YouTube subscribers who follow his daily gaming sessions.
Yet Europe has yet to find their e-sports star on the same pedestal as their Asian counterparts such as Sang-Hyeok Lee, who is constantly in discussions with native Chinese companies interested in partnering.
There are a number of parallels with the growth of sports marketing in the 1970’s and the e-gaming platform of today with brands viewing the platform with trepidation as opposed to optimism. Brands should look towards e-sports as an exciting platform to engage with their market using all of the crucial buzz words of content and media coverage of the industry today (in 2014 over 70 million hours of content was captured from League of Legends online, with the BBC streaming the 2015 contest live on their IPlayer and Sport platforms).
2016 is set to be a monumental year for the growth of the e-sports industry, with tournament prize pools reaching up to $20 million and huge strides pending in the Western market. With new launches of multiplayer sensations (such as Overwatch, Battleborn) sponsors will have the ability to engage in real-time with the audience something which is rarely achieved through traditional sporting means.
For those brands who position themselves as ground-breakers E-sports offers the perfect challenge. The only question is, who will click play?