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Esports is everywhere you look these days. Football clubs are signing esports players, Audi recently announced an esports sponsorship deal and YouTube has landed exclusive deals with select leagues. It’s no surprise traditional media brands are trying to jump in and grab themselves a piece of this growing marketplace.
Recent reports show esports has an estimated online audience of 225 million and growing. Brands, media and publishers are chomping at the bit to establish their own esports presence, especially as traditional sports viewership numbers continue to decline on TV. But these players need to understand that esports is significantly different from their traditional sports audiences on TV and on digital. And more importantly, reaching these esports fans will take a new approach that may be inherently outside of their comfort zone and core competency.
Because the core audience of esports is comprised of millennial men, connecting with this audience is quite different than the typical broadcast model of football or baseball viewers. Esports offers a dynamic, interactive experience and fans expect a certain level of dialogue with their favorite players and teams. That’s why digital publishers that already cater to this millennial audience have a leg up against more traditional publishers. In addition, because the industry is so new and ever-changing, the companies that can be nimble and can evolve their esports strategy as the industry adapts will be able to keep up with the fluid and growing industry. For instance, some may argue that pulling in editorial audience from Reddit may be more vital than social publishing and/or digital traffic recirculation strategies, which have become standard in some cases.
And as with any new venture, the brands that can make an authentic connection with esports will get the best results, especially those that are committed to grass roots sponsorship and on-site activations. However, brands need to find ways to be native to the esports experience as most esports audiences have ad blockers enabled so as not to interrupt their viewing. The brands that can become part of the community or even help create more communities will cultivate a much longer lasting position in the field.
The bottom line is that esports is already becoming more mainstream and the barriers to enter the space are only going to get more difficult. The brands that can make the leap now, stretch outside their comfort zones and develop this new core competency authentically, will be the only brands that are set up to succeed.