Name Brands, Meet Game Brands: Esports Insights from Industry Players

“I think the world still thinks that it's niche and it's really not,” said Grace Dolan, VP of Home Entertainment Integrated Marketing at Samsung Electronics America. For Dolan, gaming isn’t the future — it’s the present.

She was speaking to me about gaming in the CES 2020 C Space Studio, where I interviewed more than 50 marketing, media and brand leaders about what’s next.

“There's almost 70% of Americans that would self-describe as a gamer,” she continued. “That means more Americans are playing video games than not playing video games, which means this is now just mainstream entertainment. For a brand not to get involved with gaming or gamers in some way is a miss, and you're not making the same cultural impact that you could be.”

Brands seeking influence in gaming might do well to start with esports.

“The number of titles that are participating is up,” said Walker Jacobs, chief revenue officer of the streaming platform Twitch and another C Space Studio guest. “The number of tournaments is in the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. Several of the largest game publishers in the world have organized their own leagues.” 

And arena events, Jacobs said, are selling out. 

It’s all enough to make any marketer’s mouth water. So how can brands best think about opportunities to engage? Drawn from my CES conversations with Dolan, Jacobs and others, here are four esports insights for brands looking to win.

 

Like Traditional Sports, Esports Has Many Flavors

“There's a broad spectrum of genres in gaming,” Dolan said, “so you really have to understand the leagues, understand the games, understand the fans. Someone who is a fan of NBA2K is going to be completely different from a fan of Overwatch [a first-person shooter game].”

“When you're making a decision to support one or the other league,” she went on, “that kind of demographic and psychographic and behavioral profile of that fan is going to be wildly different. So you have to really understand the games and then understand your brand and your target audience, and where is the match the best in those two audience profiles.”

 

Esports Engagement Can Be Physical as Well as Digital

“Real estate and buildings are being retrofitted and built specifically for esports events,” Jacobs said. 

Brands can literally play in the arena. Twitch’s partners, Jacobs said, are “able to have physical activations. And the players and the fans are able to interact both virtually on Twitch as well as physically at the events. They're able to do product sampling and activations and so forth.”

“But really what they're getting from those esports sponsorships,” he explained, “is access to IP, access to talent, entitlements [and] category exclusivity.”

 

Get Creative: Esports Tournaments Aren’t the Only Way to Play

The Bleacher Report video show Battle Stations highlights professional athletes in traditional sports who are also gamers.

“It's almost like an MTV Cribs-like experience where we go into their homes and they're showing our audience their gaming setup and their stations,” Bleacher Report CEO Howard Mittman said. “And they're pretty pimped out.”

Mittman prefers this approach as an esports alternative. 

“Bringing those two worlds together is something that is more interesting to me right now than, say, hosting our own esports tournament,” Mittman said.

 

The Future of Esports Is Worth Betting On

Does esports have more room to run? Jason Robins, CEO of the sports betting and fantasy company DraftKings, certainly thinks so.

“Esports is going to be huge in the coming years, and it's still at the infancy stages when it comes to fantasy and betting,” he said. “But it’s such a massive audience that follows esports, you have to think that that's going to be a big growth factor for many years. That's a place we don't have a very broad offering yet, but I hope that we build it out.”

So, will I host more esports conversations in the C Space Studio at CES 2021? In Las Vegas, that’s one safe bet.


Watch the full interview with Samsung Electronics America’s VP of Home Entertainment, Integrated Marketing Grace Dolan.

Watch the full interview with Twitch Chief Revenue Officer Walker Jacobs.

Watch the full interview with Bleacher Report CEO Howard Mittman.

Watch the full interview with DraftKings CEO Jason Robins.

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