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Esports provide marketers with a vast and engaged audience, the ability to target specific demographics, interactive engagement opportunities, extensive brand exposure through sponsorships and content, influencer collaborations for direct fanbase access, valuable data insights, a platform for innovation showcase, and a global reach unbound by geography. By fostering partnerships, embracing evolving trends, and respecting the community’s values, marketers can effectively leverage the esports landscape to enhance brand visibility, engagement, and long-term success.

Short for electronic sports, esports are a subset of gaming video content and are defined by EMARKETER as organized gaming competitions among professional players and teams.

Like traditional sports, many esports tend to feature the same structure, such as having leagues, teams, and players. ​​Esports has hit this stratosphere in large part because of the social component of livestreaming and gaming. Its inclusivity of gaming, media, pop culture, and ecommerce shines a light on opportunities beyond gaming events alone.

Just like traditional professional sports, esports teams have owners, franchises, endorsement deals, cash prizes from tournament winnings, and more—all contributing to their annual revenues and total valuation. 

When looking at esports from a marketing perspective, it’s often pictured as amateur video game players who also stream on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. Some marketers approach these different facets of the gaming industry in tandem, as there is a good deal of overlap between the players and platforms. 

This means that marketers who offer esports advertising can benefit from advertising and sponsorship revenues from organized esports competitions hosted on digital platforms.

Esports don’t come with the same tech hurdles for brands that advertising in the metaverse does, and it can still be the right channel for specific advertisers.

  • Advertising: Rewarded, banner, and in-game ads are a few examples of how advertising is used during esports gaming.
  • Sponsorship: Brands like Honda, Totino’s, and Puma have sponsored esports teams, while the gaming hardware company HyperX holds the naming rights to an esports arena in Las Vegas.
  • Gamer influencer collaborations: Marketers often collaborate with popular gaming influencers to establish their brand presence. For instance, Chipotle initially provided influential streamers with “celebrity cards,” unlimited gift cards for brand promotion. In2018, Chipotle sponsored Team SoloMid, a leading esports organization.
  • In-stream video ads: Most esports tournaments are streamed live on digital platforms. The biggest players in this space are Twitch and YouTube. Marketers approaching the gaming space will often advertise on professional esports as well as amateur gaming streams. These platforms have licensing deals with leagues and players, often vying for exclusive rights over the most popular content. 
  • Partnerships: For brands that want to dive deeper into esports, publishers and streaming platforms offer different ways to reach multiple touchpoints that tie to more standard esports sponsorships. Outside of selling advertising during an esports broadcast, video game developer Riot Games also works with brands to create custom content that’s branded with the intellectual property of the relevant game. 

Marketers should understand that the esports industry is rapidly expanding, with a passionate and tech-savvy audience that offers immense engagement potential. Building authentic relationships with the esports community through branded content, partnerships with influencers and teams, and in-game integrations can foster meaningful connections. 

How large is the esports market?

In 2023, 31.6 million esports viewers will be accounted for, according to EMARKETER’s forecast. Esports ad revenues are expected to grow 10.0% to $264.3 million in 2023. However, esports are less of a priority for advertisers who are hesitant about spending in a niche area.

  • Although esports are creating more opportunities for sponsorships and advertising, most esports marketers believe that digital video advertising and influencer collaborations are the most alluring aspects.
  • The esports industry is also closely tied to the creator economy, according to EMARKETER senior analyst Blake Droesch. “Most advertisers assumed that because streamers were getting massive views, it would eventually trickle into organized esports,” Droesch said. “That, in turn, would help build fandom around esports leagues.”
  • Many marketers have been focused on creating branded content within popular esports titles, including in-game skins, items, and other virtual assets that players could use to customize their in-game experience. Brands have also recognized the value of integrating their products or logos within the gaming environment, creating a seamless connection between the brand and the game.

Esports viewership and streaming platforms

Esports viewers are internet users of any age who watch organized gaming competitions among professional players and teams hosted on digital video platforms at least once per month. Livestreaming is where video and gaming overlap: In 2023, 31.6 million people in the US will watch esports at least once per month, per EMARKETER’s forecast. Twitch, used to watch non-esports gaming content as well as non-gaming content, will boast 35.3 million users in 2023. And 62.2 million people will watch some kind of gaming video content, which includes non-live video as well.

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