This week the ‘eSports IQ by Alex Fletcher‘ features the following content: Deciphering the eSports market opportunity; Bud Light jumps on the eSports train
Deciphering the eSports market opportunity
The recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “The burgeoning evolution of eSports” provides some telling consumer insights on the competitive video game landscape.
Below is analysis to help clarify some of of the findings and implications:
From fringe to mainstream fringe
Only 15% of total respondents were aware of or had heard of the term “eSports.” This figure jumped to 34% among millennials, which is higher, but nowhere close to saturation. Rising levels of awareness will breed even larger audiences, especially among the remaining 30 and under segment. Brands should look to partner in the rising stakes of the eSports landscape, as they directly benefit from increases in potential consumer targets, reached through the channel. Strategic investments could take form of: fan development, storytelling, and promotional platforms.
Embrace wider gaming community
eSports are sport for the video game world. The core dynamics and composition are dictated by wider video game culture. In essence, competitive video games provide sports-like articles (teams, players, leagues, etc.) around video game play. While these artifacts can then be packaged to appeal to non-gamers, they remain mainly representative of the tastes of gamers. This is opportunity to leverage more than just the elements which look and feel like sports. In essence, the opportunity is larger than just the sport-like complexion. After all, competitive play has been around since the dawn of video games, long before anyone began to cast it as a sport.
Linear broadcasts are cultural outreach
The home of electronic sports has been, and will continue to be, digital. An increasing array of TV broadcasts will do more for increasing awareness and “legitimizing” competitive video games for some critics. However, it will do nothing to reverse the larger trends in content consumption for younger audiences. Digital distribution is where scale will occur.
Regional sounding board
An increasing array of well-produced, live events is creating a continuity between digital audiences and in-person attendance; similar to the dynamics seen in traditional sports. Larger arenas are beginning to sell out for matches and tournaments, which should positively affect viewership. Large in-venue crowds will amplify the fan experience, but also attract new digital audiences who hear about events through regional news channels.
The content ecosystem is vast
Content is still king in the world of eSports. And unlike traditional sports, where leagues and media conglomerates aggressively jockey for rights, competitive video game content creation is participatory. Whether written, video or livestreamed, content creation is driven by high levels of engagement and passion. Creative content should be heavily leveraged by marketing campaigns targeted at eSports communities, especially given their proven sensitivity to overt commercialism.
Bud Light jumps on the eSports train
This week featured Bud Light’s entrance into the world of professional competitive video games. The alcoholic beverage brand will enable fans to vote for Bud Light All Stars across several top game titles. While specific details are not yet available, Bud Light’s stated approach faces challenges in several key regards. On the positive side, Bud Light has a vast wealth of resources and experience in traditional sports marketing. However, the brand is challenged to inspire the eSports community to care about this program, in a meaningful way that leads to material returns.
For starters, Bud Light, a light beer brand with sagging sales in the US, faces a significant deficit in alignment with target audiences. Aside from the fact that a 21+ age restriction excludes a sizable segment of eSports viewers and fans, Bud Light’s perception as a generic/light product represents a disconnect with the dialed in, enthusiastic complexion of competitive video games. Not to mention, Bud Light is unable to include the world’s #1 eSport title, League of Legends (LoL), due to restraints by its publisher, Riot Games. While these obstacles can be navigated, Bud Light seems to be drawing false equivalence with traditional sports. From the press release:
“Bud Light is putting full control in the hands of fans as they will be called on to vote for their favorite esports athletes… The [top-five vote getters] will go on to celebrate the passionate fans of esports all summer long by delivering exclusive game streams on Twitch, upgrading on-site experiences at esports events, and providing an all new behind-the-scenes series developed by Machinima that explores everything it takes to become a top esports athlete…”
Exclusive game streams on Twitch? Providing a behind-the-scenes series? All good ideas, in concept, but electronic sports aren’t wired around tightly managed access to athletes and content, a reality which reduces the intended impact. Additionally, Bud Light plans to assemble a list of eSports athletes from across North America, that is, “carefully selected with experts in the field and are the best of the best from top games in the industry.” Placing the selection process behind a veiled process eliminates a valuable connection point with fans. A better slant is to unveil the panel of experts ahead of time, towards encouraging interaction and dialogue, leading up and throughout DreamHack Austin. After all, openness and transparency are great tools for engendering brand equity.
First impressions still count for a lot, and Bud Light’s initial eSports foray is no different. In light of the publicly stated direction, here are several strategic tweaks which should be considered:
Involve influencers early and often
Currently, the All Star program feels like generic marketing formula thrown over the wall between beer brand and eSports community. Fielding involvement by notable eSports personalities, from the start, creates a better sense of connection.
Embrace the grassroots
Consider bringing the participatory elements of eSports to life. Instead of focusing solely on the professional scene, involve deserving amateurs and semi-pros. This could take shape as mixed teams or even “Pros versus Challengers.” The impact of open/semi-open qualifiers would squash comparative levels of interest generated by open voting.
Make it meaningful
The stated end product comes across as a string of random online scrims, streams and video content, ending in an exhibition tournament. All Star games in traditional sports are also exhibition, but benefit from intractable role as part of season long festivities. A focus on building stronger context within individual competitive gaming scenes is critical, in this regard.
- The burgeoning evolution of eSports: From the fringes to front and center – pwc.com
- Bud Light to help crown eSports all-stars – usatoday.com
- AB InBev misses on earnings, Bud Light sales down – usatoday.com
- Bud Light Levels Up The Esports Fan Experience – prnewswire.com
About ‘eSports IQ’
The ‘eSports IQ’ is compiled by Alex Fletcher, the founder and president of Entiva Group, LLC, and features insights on the latest emerging trends in eSports. By curating invaluable content from a wide range of information sources you get the leading edge in the business of eSports.
Past eSports IQs:
- Week 16: ‘Can sports and eSports play nice?’ and more insights
- Week 15: Economics for eSports player unions still missing
- Week 14: ‘The reality of eSports governance’ and more insights
- Week 13: ‘Is Turner’s ELeague for fans or advertisers?’ and more insights
- Week 12: ‘Understanding celebrity investment in eSports’ and more insights
- Week 11: ‘Audiences vs. Viewership in eSports’ and more insights
- Week 10: What does eSports on TV really need?
- Week 9: ‘Cineplex takes a shot at eSports market’ and more insights
- Week 8: ‘The potential of eSports and gaming as mainstream’ and more insights
- Week 7: ‘Vodafone partners with G2 eSports’ and more insights
- Week 6: ‘MP & Silva has been named the global marketing rights partner of Garena’
- Week 5: ‘ESPN continues investment in collegiate eSports’ and more insights
- Week 4: ‘ESPN eSports must exhibit hyper focus’ and more insights
- Week 3: ‘eSports is growing but has not started scaling yet’ and more insights
- Week 2: ‘Deloitte joins the eSports numbers debate’ and more insights
- Week 1: ‘Sport property continues commitment to eSports’ and more insights
Image source: eslgaming.com, Photographer: Helena Kristiannson