E-sports is catching the attention of brands and marketers for their dazzling near-term potential.
As a market, e-sports is growing by leaps and bounds, in step with gaming advances that make the experience more immersive. Though estimates vary, research generally agrees that the market value and global audience are colossal. A report also reveals that 32 percent of internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 say they watch e-sports.
Unsurprisingly, the events industry and brands are on the lookout for opportunities arising from this exploding market.
Evolving into bigger events for wider audiences
Historically, the e-sports audience was a hard core of deeply committed players and fans. For the market to grow, the audience must expand. Hence the movement to ‘festivalise’ e-sports events by packaging the experience with such things as music, art and fashion – something for everyone. As a result, what began as relatively small and specialised events are increasingly turning into major festivals – a trend that looks to intensify in the foreseeable future.
The annual ChinaJoy is a notable example, having successfully expanded into a festival of digital entertainment and high tech lifestyle with experiences relating to gaming, animation, cosplay, dancing, online literature and smart entertainment software and hardware. At the same time, ChinaJoy engages e-sports fans with exciting live battles and new product showcases. This year, ChinaJoy attracted more than 360,000 visitors during its four-day run – a new record for the event.
Another example is the e-Sports and Music Festival Hong Kong, which fuses e-sports tournaments with an electronic dance music (EDM) party. The 2019 edition attracted 80,000 e-sports and music fans from around the world.
In a slightly different twist, this year’s Abu Dhabi’s Mother of the Nation Festival attempted to attract a wider audience by adding an E-sports Arena to its already diverse roster of attractions. Festival-goers could play casually, participate in daily tournaments to win prizes, and even test their gaming skills against those of e-sports stars and influencers. Mother of the Nation Festival organiser expressed the hope that their experience would establish a new standard for e-sports in the region.
Big names move in – and in creative ways
Much of the e-sports audience comprises millennial and Generation Z consumers who are difficult to reach using traditional advertising. That’s a decisive factor in why big brands are taking a keen interest in the industry.
Sportswear brands are particularly eager to explore the e-sports market’s potential. For example, K-Swiss has already launched the first limited-edition sneaker designed specifically for e-sports players. Champion and Nike have both signed sponsorship deals with e-sports teams.
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Meanwhile, some less obvious names are finding success by zeroing in on more specific audiences within e-sports via collaboration. Among them is Philips, which has tied up with e-sports furniture company Zenox to promote its ‘Philips Hue’ smart lighting system. The system can fine-tune lighting ambience to changing game or video scenes via Google Assistant, Siri and other smart assistants. In combination with Zenox’s specialised furniture, it allows committed gamers to achieve the perfect scene and an immersive experience at home.
Building tech-laden dedicated e-sports venues
The phenomenon of hosting e-sports tournaments in actual physical venues is where the e-sports and the live in-stadium experience truly overlap. As the popularity of such events increases, so does demand for the unique resources needed to support livestreaming and AV facilities at the venues. This has led to speculation on the development of dedicated e-sports venues pre-equipped with these facilities.
One such venue, the Konami Creative Center in Tokyo, is actually scheduled for completion in November this year. As an ‘e-sports arena’, its high-tech sound and lighting and state-of-the-art video systems are integrated into the design from the start. Notably, it also features areas for shopping and e-sports lessons.
Such e-sports and gaming complexes could help venue management companies expand their revenue streams. For event companies, the task of finding the right venue for hosting e-sports activities would be considerably simplified. For brands, these venues would allow them to reach consumer groups with the greatest potential to purchase their products and services.
It is early days yet for e-sports, but thanks to their ballooning growth and the demographics of their fans, big names are taking notice. From brands to marketers to event planners, the question is how to play to win.
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