Are you ready to fill the live content vacuum with esports? The strategy you should focus on right now to drive instant fan engagement.
The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on live events brings along some critical consequences for the sporting world. With no live sports to watch and the world population being under lockdown the attention is shifting from traditional sports. In the meantime, online streaming services and video games are gaining in popularity. As a collective effort to stay in touch with their fans and satisfy the content shortfalls, more and more clubs, sport organizations and brands are turning to esports as a real solution to digital engagement.
In this article you will learn about:
How esports went from a geeky trend to the global industry it is today
Esports as the ultimate fan alternative during the Corona crisis
How to use esports to keep your fan community engaged and fill the temporary content void
Esports – from geeky trend to global industry
Esports is a form of sport competition using video games. Professional gamers get together to compete in a multiplayer environment either individually or as teams. It is a rapidly growing market expected to almost double in 2020.
Breaking the stigma
In 2011 the streaming platform for video games Twitch was launched. With the rise of Twitch and other streaming platforms everything changed. Twitch would later be acquired by the internet giant Amazon and turned out to be the most popular streaming platform in the world. The insane engagement on the platform made esports viewership numbers explode.
In august 2013 Riot games sold out the entire Staples Center (known for hosting the NBA finals and Grammys) for the world championship of League of Legends. Between 2011 and 2013 the total numbers of viewers went up from a respective 1.7 million to 32 million. This marked the introduction of esports as a spectator sport to a lot of mainstream consumers.
All eyes on esports – the most diverse and booming audience
After that the esports market continued to grow rapidly. The low barrier-entry and viewer friendly design of video games made it an easy trend to fall into. In 2015 the League of Legends world championship gained over 36 million unique viewers. An impressive feat, considering the 2015 NBA finals had a total number of 23 million viewers.
Following this the esports market started gaining authority and brands like Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz and T-mobile started investing into esports as a way of brand activation. From the total market revenue of 900 million dollar in 2018, 353 million dollars came from sponsors. The revenue of the esports market is expected to surpass 1.5 billion dollars by 2023.
Today, with the mainstream media’s full attention and the numbers to back up its success the industry plays among the big leagues. In contrast to the stereotypes the esports industry manages to reach a very diverse audience. Given the age and broad demographic of esports fans, traditional media might find a rare opportunity to access and monetize these consumers in many ways.
While esports isn’t seen as a replacement for the sports industry, it is still an explosively growing industry with tens of millions of fans. Leading accounting and professional services firm, Deloitte, reported that even if the esports market size reaches it’s expected revenue of 1.5 billion in 2020, that would represent only one percent of the global sports revenues. That being said, esports does reach hundreds of millions of people on a regular basis. As such it is comparable to many traditional sports with large audiences and big sponsors. A recent publication by another Big Four professional services firm, PwC, predicts that esports will have more viewers than NFL football by 2020. They go on and describe the market as an “advertising goldmine” due to the various monetization possibilities such as paid subscriptions, donations, ads, sponsors and merchandising.
Esports still standing – the fan escape from boredom during the Corona outbreak
Now all live sports are cancelled, and fans that are left with free time are tuning to esports. Professional esports organization Team Liquid stated that viewership is up 30% higher than any month in the company’s history. Streaming platform Twitch itself went from 33 million to 43 million viewers between March 8 and March 22, surpassing 3 billion hours-watching time on the platform.
With all sports events being cancelled, there is a large group of fans left that are looking for entertainment. Which explains why platforms such as Youtube and Netflix are also gaining attention. The latter of which is having a worldwide 51% increase in usage. Both streaming services have announced to lower their bitrate to prevent network problems from happening, anticipating the rise in number of users and time spent on the platform.
Pro athletes like NBA star Kevin Durant are turning to esports during coronavirus to keep his fans engaged. Darren Cox, CEO of Torque Esports says:
“The possibility that esports could serve as a distraction for not only fans who are already on board, but could also lure new viewers while much of the public is stuck at home certainly exists.”
The coronavirus is creating a new generation of gamers and game spectators. Verizon reported a 75% increase of video gaming during peak-hours. Traditional sports are joining the party with Formula One being one of the first organizations to pick up esports and live stream virtual grand prix series across Twitch and YouTube with stars such as Max Verstappen.
Long before the covid-19 outbreak, the management consulting firm McKinsey reported that many sports executives fear that the root cause of declining ratings and aging audiences is the disengagement of younger audiences from live sports. However, in the same report it is stated that esports fans are mostly also regular sports fans and that the problem isn’t in the disengagement from sports but in the platform. Clubs aren’t losing fans, they are fighting short attention spans. That’s why newer platforms that provide an interactive experience are gaining popularity so rapidly.
Using esports to fill up the content gap
As traditional sports are completely on hold for now, all eyes are on esports. Sponsors and broadcasters are looking to esports to fill the live content vacuum.
“The changing environment is turning both consumer and advertiser attention toward the video gaming content space, with esports being a major part of this”, said managing director of Nielsen Esports Nicole Pike.
More and more sports organizations are realizing the opportunity too, and organizations such as the Premier League are taking a turn into esports.
On the 21st of April the ePremier League Invitational Tournament started – a weeklong FIFA tournament aired on NBC. All matches are broadcasted and livestreamed on nbcsports.com, the Premier League’s site and social media as well as Sky Sports’ Twitch and YouTube. A number of star athletes partake including Alexander-Arnold from Liverpool and Raheem Sterling from Manchester City, and all prize money from the tournament are donated to the National Health Service.
Major League Baseball’s latest video game collaboration is a tournament of all-time greatest players called “The Dream Bracket”. An online competition made up of all 30 MLB clubs, whose 26-player rosters comprises the greatest stars in team history. The entire competition is live streamed by the title sponsor DraftKings, on MLB’s Twitch channel and social media from April 21 to May 4.
Proximus, one of the biggest broadcasters of live sports in Belgium is also dedicated to growing the esports scene in this region. As an effort to keep sports fans digitally engaged they partnered up with the Belgian Pro League and launched the Proximus Pro League e-Cup. With StriveCloud as a technology partner they created an online FIFA tournament in which fans can enrol to represent their favourite team and play against each other. Fans are invited by Proximus and the Belgian Pro League to register on the platform where they are able to compete against other players for points and prizes.
By organizing digital competitions, all football clubs in the Belgium Pro League were able to turn fans’ eyeballs back to the club and retain engagement during the coronavirus lockdown. Within the first hours of going live, the platform registered over 2,000 fan sign-ups. Moreover, the fans liked the experience so much that over 3,000 matches were played in just 2 days. One player even played 100 matches in that time which is over 12 hours daily. That is equal to watching over 3 football matches a day!
Too long, didn’t read? Here’s what you missed:
With the postponement of all live sport events, fans are left in a loophole without new content of their favourite sports.
Esports is an attractive and valuable alternative for sport organizations and brands to fill the live content vacuum and provide fans with a fun digital alternative. It’s a great way to pivot and handle the lockdown period like a boss.
Over the years esports has grown from a geeky trend into a global industry. Streaming services created a highly engaged, worldwide and diverse audience for esports which is why the market is projected to almost double its revenue in 2020.
During the Corona lockdown, esports are still standing. Fans are looking for online alternatives to engage with their favorite clubs. The online fan activations are also helping sponsors gain back precious eyeball time, resulting in a win-win for all parties. Sport organizations like the Premier League and Major League Baseball are turning to esports during these times. What will you do?