E-sports and gaming a new way to target young consumers
As traditional methods of marketing prove less of a sure-fire way of reaching increasingly fragmented audiences, e-sports are becoming an attractive option for marketers. It’s also becoming an effective way to share content and reach audiences across social media platforms, as gamers go online to compare their results, compete against each other or help each other to achieve goals.
Gaming has provided marketers with a new set of tools to realise a number of objectives, from building simple awareness to driving loyalty and even changing certain behaviours, according to digitalstrategyconsulting.com. The site argues that the demographic appeal of mobile and online gaming has increased, while the costs of game creation have dropped.
At its core, e-sports are competitive video games. They range from action to strategy and sport. In recent years e-sport has become increasingly professionalised, with teams, players, sponsors, management staff and even leagues, all set up in a way reminiscent of traditional sports leagues, explains Barry Louzada, co-founder of Mettlestate, An SA e-sports authority and content producer.
Colin Webster, general secretary at the national industry body Mind Sports SA (MSSA), explains that e-sports differ from gaming, which is not as competitive and involves individuals playing games in their homes over the internet, with no structured rules.
SA’s e-sports scene is showing significant growth, and thanks to social media, gamers are becoming more connected and engaged than ever before. The result is that brands are increasingly investing in the e-sports space.
Louzada points out that with more brands investing money in the industry, there is more opportunity to host additional tournaments, campaigns and activations and to reach more gamers than ever before. He says that what adds to the positive growth is that tournament organisers and e-sports hosts have started to entrench themselves and create their own dynamic.
But he admits that though e-sports have exploded onto the SA scene over the past two years, there is not much understanding about how brands can get involved. “The big question to ask is where e-sports are heading. Four new e-sports tournament organisers have established themselves in recent months, and prize pools have increased from around R1m to a combined pool of approximately R5m. Internationally, these numbers are even larger, and investment amounts from brands are growing exponentially,” says Louzada.
When it comes to increased prize pools, Webster points out that while higher prize money is well and good, in SA’s distressed economy it’s important to ensure these increases are sustainable in the long term. “We need to balance brands’ expectation of immediate returns with a long-term sustainable investment, one that also looks after and benefits the industry itself,” he says.
Perhaps the strongest case for growth in gaming and e-sports over the past year is that big-name brands are getting involved – including Samsung, Monster Energy, Vodacom/ Vodafone, Asus, SteelSeries, Lenovo and Intel. And that’s just locally. On an international level, Mercedes-Benz and Red Bull are also active on the platform.
Notably, a number of international football teams have started to take on Fifa gaming partners. These include Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United. Football teams around the world are getting to grips with the growing challenge of filling stadiums weekly. Like many other brands, international football clubs are following the trend of finding innovative ways to engage with younger audiences. One of the ways they are adapting to a rapidly changing market is by investigating the world of e-sports.
Webster explains that, as in the case of traditional sports sponsorships, there are a number of ways for brands to get involved – from individual sponsorships to teams, events and national or regional tournaments. Crucially, Webster says, brands should be clear about their objectives in terms of return on investment and target market to ensure that their expectations are met.
Gaming is a complex and exciting space, with a host of opportunities for brands that are new to the concept, Louzada says. But it’s important to engage with the right people and credible organisations in the industry in order to ensure success. It is vital for identifying the correct audiences and options in gaming and executing valuable content in line with this strategy.
Webster cautions, however, that brands looking to invest in e-sports should do their research. “As in any sport, it’s important to ensure that the tournament, team or player is accredited with the industry body, and that one is dealing with a credible organisation.” MSSA has 12,000 registered e-sports athletes at present.
Louzada believes e-sports are largely about collaboration, and that the best results come about through partnering with like-minded brands. Brands looking to get involved are presented with the opportunity to become a part of a new space, which has a great deal of scope to grow and expand together with their brands, he says.
He warns that it takes a slight shift in existing paradigms, an understanding that gaming does not work along the same lines as conventional marketing methods and platforms. Yet with energetic young people involved in this space, it is possible to tailor-make bespoke solutions to fit any brand looking for a different solution.
Possibly one of the most exciting elements of using gaming as a marketing platform is the lack of a predefined way of doing things. The options, says Louzada, are limitless; the only constraints come from the brand’s own corporate branding restrictions. (Financial mail)