More Than a Game: Esports at CES® 2020

Overview Esports and gaming have quickly become more than a passing trend for younger sports fans. At CES 2020, the gaming and esports conference track touched on emerging trends in this growing industry.

The rise of esports offers unprecedented access to the sports world for younger audiences, redefining the consumption of traditional sports and opening new doors for companies to engage with a new generation of fans.

At CES 2020, industry experts shared top trends and lessons they are seeing as the gaming and esports genre expands.

The esports community is similar to traditional sports, but marketers need to customize their approach to succeed.

In the Sports and Esports: The Future of Fan Engagement panel, Kristin Connelly of Overwatch explained that esports fans share many traits with traditional sports fan bases, including, “rituals and traditions, and the community, and watching together, and talking about the sport together.”

The similarities continue when it comes to the fan base structure. Simon Temperley, chief marketing officer of Allied Esports International, explained that, as we see in traditional sports, there are various fan demographics in esports.

Despite these similarities, the panel acknowledged that marketers must adapt their traditional methods to succeed in the esports communities. The ideas of authenticity and partnership building are key aspects that marketers must keep in mind when trying to break into the broad esports ecosystem.  


Brands should fully embrace the opportunities that arise from esports and make the investment.

The How Are Brands Engaging with Esports and Gaming? panel discussed how, though brands currently have different levels of comfort with investing in esports, there are a variety of entry points. Companies can also reference traditional marketing learnings to understand the world of opportunity available currently in esports.

“No one is certain,” said Grace Dolan, VP of Home Entertainment, Integrated Marketing, Samsung Electronics. “But if we use traditional learnings about how to invest marketing dollars within any interest or passion, there is a world of opportunity.”

Sarah Looss, head of sales, Americas for Twitch, explained the benefit of esports when it comes to interacting with fans: “It’s that proximity. It’s the way [gamers] feel that there is zero distance between [them] and the athlete.”


Esports is a legitimate and professional career choice, and the industry is only growing.

“We are partnering with schools and offering scholarships for esports and building out teams,” said Marcus Kennedy, general manager of the gaming division, client computing group at Intel, on the Esports and Technology: An innovation game-changer panel.

Ann Hand, CEO and chairman of Super League Gaming, pointed out that there are already more than 10,000 professional esports players, and esports tournaments are filling up large stadiums, no different than traditional sports.

“The viewing audience for esports at the pro level is even bigger than Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League’s fanbase,” she said.


Esports influencers and brands are and should be reaching out, learning together about how to partner to bring excitement to the industry.

As professional esports influencers become more prevalent and brands begin to back esports and gaming, there is a learning curve as each starts to discover how to connect and find partnerships that do not jeopardize their own values.

“It should be about the relationship [between the brand and you as an influencer]. Develop those relationships, and grind and grow,” said Dabier Snell, actor, rapper, streamer, YouTuber and skater, who represented Dell and Alienware at CES 2020. “It’s better to have longevity with a brand than a paycheck.”


The industry can harness the power of data and analytics to move the needle for teams, fans and brands.

During the What’s Next with Data in Esports panel, panelists described how data is set to help standardize viewership metrics and lay foundations for the industry that can make analytics stable for the future.

Beyond attracting new audiences to this relatively young sport, data can help retain existing fans and players, who are already a core audience and the biggest supporters of the industry.

“We’re continually looking at all these trends and differences in audiences as well as the global changes that happen and the cultural impacts made to help formulate what is the best thing for our sport,” said Doug Watson, head of esports insights at Riot Games.


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