“Wait, you’re telling me tens of thousands of people show up to a stadium to watch people playing video games for nearly an entire day? And millions tune in to live streams of players practicing?”
If you’re shaking your head thinking this must be some “niche” group of super geek gamer fans, then you’re about to be on the wrong side of the tsunami that is eSports. the name given to organized multiplayer video tournaments that are often played in front of live audiences in large arenas.
The BRaVe and TVREV teams recently joined the discussions at the inaugural eSports Industry Brand Summit at the Paley center in New York, and unlike the repetitive conversations at the seemingly endless number of Future of Programmatic/Branded Content/OTT summits, there was a palpable feeling of excitement and awe that eSports is a truly game-changing movement. (Pun intended.) To better understand why, we focused on three fundamental reasons why every media and marketing exec needs to better understand eSports.
IF YOU THINK eSPORTS IS A NICHE PLAY, YOU’RE GRAVELY MISTAKEN.. IT’S THE NEXT GLOBAL SPORT
As Jason Lake, CEO of Complexity Gaming, very matter of factly stated, we are on the verge of seeing eSports become the next global sport. This is not some click bait statement, it’s fact: As of 2014, there were 89 million global eSports enthusiasts. By 2017, that number will reach 145 million, according to Craig Levine, EVP at ESL Gaming.
When you compare this to sports like volleyball (which the same report says had 186 million enthusiasts in 2014) and football (151 million), you begin to realize how big and how fast eSports is growing.
Andy Swanson of Twitch drew an interesting parallel between the rise of poker and eSports as spectator sports: both have huge built-in audiences that technology has suddenly given behind-the-scenes access to (pocket cams for poker, spectator modes for eSports). Our infographic outlines some very interesting stats on how eSports is distributed and watched.
IT’S ABSOLUTELY STILL THE ‘WILD WEST’ AND THAT MEANS OPPORTUNITY IS THERE FOR THOSE THAT DARE TO BE BRaVe
Now is the time during which those involved will be defining the value chain, the profit pools, the deal stakes, and ultimately, and most importantly, learning what it takes to be successful in this arena.
Approximately $110 million in corporate sponsorships went into eSports in 2014, and large brands such as Red Bull, Coke, Intel, and T-Mobile have begun making initial forays into the space, but there’s still a huge first mover advantage up for grabs.
Several eSports executives at the summit stressed that there are plenty of white space opportunities available in eSports. Tobias Sherman, head of WME/IMG’s eSports division, added that “we are in a unique situation where we can invent what brands need.” Both games and players are ready to cooperate: but authenticity is critical so don’t come knocking with interruptive advertising pitches.
MAJOR MEDIA COMPANIES ARE ALREADY JUMPING IN
Naturally the BRaVe and TVREV team smiled when we heard Turner Sports’ EVP, Head of Content, Craig Barry, reflect that this is more of a revolution than an evolution, when it comes to sports. And you’re either driving it or following it—Turner is already choosing to drive it, having recently announced the creation of a new eSports league with WME/IMG, which will air on TBS in 2016.
Just last week, massive video game maker Activision Blizzard also announced that they were hiring Steve Bornstein to head up their new eSports unit. Who is Steve Bornstein? No big deal, just the former CEO of ESPN and the NFL Network who helped shape the NFL into the media behemoth it is today. At ESPN, Bornstein helped create NFL PrimeTime and SportsCenter. When major “traditional” media players start jumping to eSports it reminds us of the talent poaching that marked the early days of Facebook and Twitter. Hey traditional media/marketing execs, you know that rockstar on your team that’s been talking about eSports for the past year. Say bye bye!
Still trying to wrap your head around it? We’ve taken a crack at pulling some of the most salient points and insights from the day into this infographic for you to share.
And finally, congrats to Sparks & Honey and GMR for launching this summit. BRaVe minds think alike.