In this piece, Graeme Du Toit, Head of Marketing at ESL Australia, explains what brands should look out for when entering the space
It’s not a matter of ‘if’ esports will overtake sports as the most popular form of competitive entertainment for young Australians, it’s a matter of when. Every parent can relate; the generation growing up in Australia now are more interested in the latest Fortnite update or League of Legends patch than whatever’s happening in the cricket.
Esports has an audience of predominantly 16-25-year-old gamers, the sort who are more likely to be watching Counter-Strike or League of Legends on a Monday night than MasterChef.
According to a recent internal survey that polled esports viewers within Australia & New Zealand, we’re seeing 55 per cent of these viewers are watching every match of their favourite esports league – sometimes up to three days per week.
Last year, we saw viewership growth of over 60 per cent in Australia & New Zealand alone, as over 3 million gamers tuned in to watch our professional gaming tournaments on Twitch.tv.
Although some of that could be pinned on the large amount of time people were spending at home, what we’ve seen is most of those viewers stick around in 2021 – and we’re on track to record a growth in total viewership of over 20 per cent this year – 10 per cent above what’s been predicted by Newzoo.
What is clear is that among young audiences, esports is the most popular form of competitive entertainment.
That viewership comes with a trademark high level of engagement from an Australian audience as well – and is reflected across the social media accounts of Australia’s top esports leagues.
After the success of locals in an international tournament earlier this year, the League of Legends Circuit Oceania saw average engagement rates of over 5 per cent on gaming-focused channels like Twitter, a value that dwarfs the industry average for the platform of ~0.1 per cent
Digesting The Numbers
The conversation for brands entering the space has shifted – there’s no longer a question of if the audience is there; the challenge is how to engage with them.
Marketers entering the space can relate to this challenge; in almost every meeting there’s a moment where they talk about their young son or daughter that plays Fortnite and Minecraft; watches Fresh, and is suddenly crazy about Pokémon.
Because of this realisation, brands in Australia are beginning to explore gaming and esports, and have the opportunity to reach a massive pool of hyper-engaged gamers.
Two-thirds of gen-z list gaming as their primary form of entertainment, and two-thirds are also ad-blocking, creating some serious tactical challenges for advertisers that want to win over this audience.
What esports brings to the table is a platform-agnostic way to reach these fans in the most authentic ways possible.
Much like traditional sports, fans who play games casually will watch esports and seek to imitate the amazing, skilful plays they see on a broadcast – when we start to connect a brand to those memorable moments, that’s where we see success.
More generic platforms like TikTok might offer marketers an impressive high-level figure, but after a recent poll of over 7,000 gamers, what we’ve seen is a gap – 71 per cent of esports fans aren’t on the new platform yet.
Platforms aside, looking at many of our biggest tournaments around the world, we’ve seen a level of brand retention that persists months after activation has finished. Fans are connecting with brands involved with esports on a deeper level, and that’s where the real value in the space sits.
Outside of a few key leaders, like Dare, Menulog and DoorDash, brands have been slow to embrace gaming in Australia.
In markets like the US, brand investment in gaming is much more common and we expect to see a big shift here in the next 12-24 months.
For the new entrants, we’ve seen success when brands come into the space with an open mind, wanting to build an authentic connection to an esports audience.
It’s very easy to try to copy what you do elsewhere, or fall into some easily avoidable gaming cliches, only to end up with gamers writing your brand off as another flash in the pan in what’s become a highly competitive space.
The key piece to that puzzle is authenticity – it’s what we see audiences expecting, both on and off ‘the pitch’. A fan may be watching a streamer at one moment, flick over to an esports broadcast the next, and expect that the esports broadcast has the same energy, honesty, and authenticity that the streamer has.
This is what draws the audience into the content over more sterile and choreographed broadcasts found in more traditional media.
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