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How Traditional Sports and Brands Play a New Role in Esports

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Esports, with over 148 million fans worldwide, is one of the fastest growing areas of the sports industry and traditional sports leagues and teams realize it’s time to invest in them.

Chris Myers, director, sales and marketing at CHARGE sees three main ways brands and entities can efficiently be involved in esports: tournaments, leagues and engagement. Sports entities such as the NBA, NHL, NASCAR and the NFL all partake in esports in some capacity, whether it’s by official online leagues, such as NASCAR’s Peak Antifreeze league, or teams, like what the Philadelphia 76ers and 16 other NBA franchises did.

Myers puts it simply when describing the varying leagues, especially the NBA’s 2K league: “Everyone’s eyes are on the NBA’s league; they’re playing their own game.”

To put it lightly, NBA 2K’s video game franchise is the highest grossing sports title in North America, bringing in $1.5 billion annually. The NBA 2K League features NBA franchises and only drives the traditional sports involvement objective further. The participating NBA franchises’ commitments are worth $750,000 for three years in the league, buying into the 2K league’s value.

As traditional sports games are not as popular in the esports realm as shooting and strategy games, brands still see it as an avenue to pursue.

According to Nielsen, 58% of the U.S. esports demographic is receptive to corporate brand involvement, and that’s a big playing field.

“Esports is a puzzle,” said Myers. “As it progresses, there will be more confidence for brands to jump in. Most are the technological and endemic sponsors; the growth is there for more movement.”

Traditional sports leagues are not trying to salvage their leagues, but rather searching for new ways to engage their audience. Esports, as Centerfold Agency’s Tim Rebich believes, has a different opportunity comparative to traditional sports.

“The content and messaging will still have to be timely and relevant,” said Rebich. “But they have more latitude to try out the ‘latest and greatest’ technology to communicate the content and messaging.”

As long as there is no shortage of support, esports will continue to rise up.

“Once you see a big movement, you want to be a part of it,” said Myers. You want to add more entertainment on top of the action on the field.”

Esports represent a traditionally younger audience, and Myers knows strategic social media use needs to be conducted.

Image via the Esports Observer

“Esports are on the younger side so you need social [media] to attract sponsors and brands,” said Myers. “Outside brands invest in their talents to help drive sponsorship. You become attached to who’s watching and becoming involved with the sports.”

For example, according to Forbes in 2017, Audi placed ads on social media and streaming broadcasts during the ELeague Finals and DreamHack. A simple ad placement and visibility resulted in exposure nearly 10 times its initial investment, and 40 percent came from social media mentions and images.

Rebich understands exactly how a brand can successfully do this in esports.

“Any brand looking to get involved and make a lasting impression should align themselves in a relevant manner that creates interaction between them and their audience,” said Rebich.

Esports has the opportunity to leverage tech-forward activations without forcing opportunities.

Rebich has seen time and time again proper brand activations light up and know esports fall right into the playground of brand opportunity.

“It is a great opportunity in a future-facing sporting environment to explore different activations, means of messaging and how to elevate the overall brand experience.”