During this year’s CES, VentureBeat conducted a panel with several industry leaders to discuss the myriad of ways brands are looking to engage millennials through esports and gaming.
One of the key stats highlighted during the panel was the rapid growth in sponsorship and advertising revenue that the esports industry has enjoyed. According to the Consumer Technology Association, esports sponsorships went from $342 to $470 million from 2018 to 2019. That equates to a growth rate of 37.4% in a single year. By contrast, advertising revenue went from $176 to $220 million, a growth rate of 25%.
The panelists also compared the infancy of esports to the first few years of professional sports, concluding that it’s unfair to compare esports to the current iteration of the NBA, for example, because professional sports have been around for decades.
“It’s generational,” said Bryan de Zayas, global director of marketing at Dell. “Esports, if you think about it, it probably started around 2005. This is a very young market. When you think of traditional sports like football or basketball, it feels like they’ve been around since the beginning of time. We are in the digital age, it’s going to accelerate super fast. A hundred years go by, or it might just take us 10 years in digital time.”
One of the major considerations the panelists discussed was the desire that esports followers have for authenticity. Moreover and somewhat counter-intuitively, because esports fans are tech-savvy they can often be more difficult to reach. For example, many esports fans use ad blockers which prevent advertisers from reaching consumers through conventional means. As a result, advertisers must use alternative strategies. One example involved Coca-Cola’s advertising during last year’s Overwatch League playoffs. Rather than run a traditional advertisement, Coca-Cola purchased a large number of Overwatch League all-access passes to give away. Simply giving away codes engenders goodwill among the viewers.
The panelists also talked about other struggles in the esports market. Women, for example, make up just 29% of esports fans, compared to 46% of total gamers. The panelists suggested bringing on more women esports players to make the scene more inclusive and appealing. One panelist touched on the negative interactions many women experience online due to harassment, suggesting that the industry must do more to ensure the online environment is a safe one.
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