Welcome to esports.
Esports experts see these vital, and growing, audiences as one of the biggest benefits to brands entering the esports arena. For companies willing to enter an untested industry, the millennial world is your oyster.
“It’s the audience that I’ve seen repeatedly defined as the unattainable — often referred to as cord-cutters and cord-nevers,” said Mark Coughlin, a former executive vice president at sports and entertainment agency Octagon, who is now head of marketing and revenue for esports organization Team Envy.
“You’ve got large amounts of people who are also fans (who) are using ad blockers, they don’t buy television by satellite or cable, they are mostly doing over the top or watching online. These people are very hard to reach by traditional methods. I think there’s a tremendous upside for brands.”
Ken Ungar, founder and president of sports marketing agency CHARGE, says that these so-called unattainables are only going to grow in number as well.
“Video game playership privately increases year over year,” says Ungar. ”Now that esports has become a cultural part of that lifestyle, you’ll see more and more participation on the esports side as traditional video game playing continues to increase.”
In addition to growth with current generations, says Ungar, younger generations of digital natives are re-writing the rules of popular culture.
As far back as 2014, surveys have shown that teens are more influenced by online figures than they are by even the most popular movie stars. In 2014, 13-18-year-olds ranked YouTubers as their top 5 most influential voices, before the likes of Jennifer Lawrence (#7) and Leonardo DiCaprio, who ranked at a paltry #20. In the following year, internet personalities tagged the top six spots.
That growing demographic adds a strong future to an already lucrative present.
“As new entrants — kids in their tweens and teens — start to become part of the video game lifestyle, those who are part of it now are getting older and are likely going to continue as they progress into their 30s and 40s,” says Ungar.
Though past generations have seen video games as brain-rotting, video games are increasingly viewed as just another sport, says Jason Moore, a player agent and CEO at the Agency for Professional Esports (APE).
“(Esports are) an entirely new sports industry that introduces the same positive fundamentals for kids around the world that other youth sports leagues, collegiate scholarships and professional aspirations (offer).”
“The last time a new ‘sport’ was introduced to popular culture and ended up creating an industry would probably have to be basketball,” says Moore. “Now look at where basketball is as an industry, market and lifestyle. I do not foresee another industry and market opening up like this to ever happen again.”
That industry opening up is still a huge opportunity for brands who are willing to jump into a new industry, according to Coughlin.
“There’s not a lot of (brands who aren’t directly tied to esports) in the space, so I think there’s an opportunity to affect this fan base and for brands to be known as esports brands,” says Coughlin. “In most sports, when a brand shows they are also a fan and they act like a fan, they usually get embraced and rewarded by those fans.”
To learn more about the opportunities and challenges of the esports industry, read Lucas Wiseman’s "The future of esports marketing" at Venture Beat.