The Gaming and E-Sports Industry has grown into one of the biggest forms of entertainment and is projected to continue to grow by double digits in 2021. With the help of the pandemic, the gaming industry is now making larger revenues than both the film industry, with $100 billion in revenue and North American sports, with $75 billion in revenue, combined. From streaming subscription game services, digital-only copy game sales, mobile in-app purchase freemium games, to an increasing number of cross-platform games that aren’t limited to a specific console, there are an overwhelming amount of options available to Gamers and Brands alike. With the gaming industry able to move much of its operations to the virtual world, continued growth and adaptability offer a secure investment for brands looking for another stable marketing channel.
E-sports have not only bolstered the gaming industry but also enabled collaborations with other industries. Businesses that can move quickly and think creatively in an unfamiliar environment will benefit from this continued growth and adaptability. If you are just getting started in the industry, now is the time to create strategies to leverage digital opportunities for real-world results and impact. Only by activating gaming tribes and communities can companies better appeal to them. Identifying which kind of content will resonate best with these tribes is the first step. What is the best approach to mobilizing and activating gaming tribes to create real-world results?
Four Winning Tactics and Examples
The growth in the industry spans several social media, review, and blogging websites. While the familiar social channels are present, Chinese messaging platform WeChat and American live-streaming website Twitch make the strongest showing along with forums and blogs.
Source: Linkfluence Gaming Report, "Where is the Growth coming from on Social Media"
With the most relevant social channels identified, it is more clear where marketing departments should focus their energy. How these platforms are leveraged will be the key to continued success in the space.
1. Adapt Marketing to E-Sports Tribes and Digital Occasions
Although 2020 had an impact on the way E-sports leagues and teams ran competitions and conventions, many quickly found new ways to engage with their fans in the digital sphere. As in-person events were canceled, gaming tribes moved their conversations under hashtags like Overwatch League #OWL2020 or #blizzcon.
For players that see gaming as a way of life, they are more prone to bringing their virtual experiences into their real lives. Hardcore gaming tribes share a mix of mainstream and niche interests, but all share the same passion for gaming. This passion can be leveraged by brands as shown by recent fashion and luxury collaborations.
Louis Vuitton’s 2019 partnership with League of Legends garnered 1.2m posts on the social web, and was seen as a moment of clear validation for future e-sports partnerships. These collaborations have moved a larger share of the conversation into the mainstream as celebrities in traditional media spaces wear the merchandise.
2. Activate Underused Gaming Influencers
The popularity of gaming influencers has been under-utilized by many brands particularly in the west. With the variety of games and tribe communities, there are plenty of activation options once a brand has identified their objectives.
The Gucci x FNATIC collaboration brought two brands who are both considered to be at the top of their field. FNATIC is one of the most successful esports brands with experiences and activations in cities from LA, London, to Tokyo. Gucci released a limited edition collectors item watch, the Gucci Dive, at the same time as the #GucciOffTheGrid collection.
The popularity of gaming influencers drives online craze and sales, driven by Gucci’s understanding of the motivations of the key consumers in this space. The collaboration was broadly discussed on the social web during men fashion week. The $1,600 time pieces sold out in 48 hours, and Gucci achieved a higher reach than a typical fashion collection with 82% of related posts on Twitter vs the average 3-5% typical of fashion brands. The subtle nods in the watches design to the gaming world were noted by many in the community and further pushed the campaigns reach.
3. Use Non-Gaming Content to Bring New Communities into the Game
The rise in popularity of Nintendo Game Animal Crossing brought new gamers into the fold, and further inspired brands to bring more interests from the real world into the game. Fashion Luxury brands forged partnerships with games to create fun and diverse gaming experiences and more exposure for the brands. Outfit of the day or #ootd Instagram accounts like @NookStreetMarket and @CrossingTheRunway began sharing designer outfits from Animal Crossing avatars. With the rise of the tag, both fashion trends and the creativity of the gamers have become much more visible online.
For Luxury fashion brands that can forge partnerships with games to bring interests from the real world into the digital world, the fresh exposure for the brand in a totally new occasion can draw more consumers. Gaming platforms offer major opportunities to engage with mainstream audiences. Leveraging the online universe to host creative events and create a 'phygital' experience can extend to virtual Fashion Shows and more.
4. Look Beyond the Hardcore, to the Growing Mainstream
With casual gamers representing a significant chunk of the players, this “mainstream takeover” makes the esports universe a key territory for brands wanting to increase visibility. Coca-Cola has been named as the sponsor for the eNASCAR iRacing Series, and created new assets to promote the partnership.
Sports partnerships are common with beverage brands, and e-sports are now reaping the benefits of such collaborations. Redbull famously took extreme sports into the mainstream with sponsorships and endorsement deals that also lent the brand a cooler image in the eyes of its consumers. Coca-Cola started this tradition in 1928 with its sponsorship of the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Their forward thinking approach to partnerships allowed them to achieve global brand recognition for its sponsorship reach.
Although "@cokeesports" did not garner as much engagement online, the beverage manufacturers ability to quickly pivot to a new plan has put it at the forefront of esports sponsorships. As the gaming industry continues to grow, new and exciting opportunities will continue to present themselves.
Versatility, Agility, and Consumer Centricity
A multifaceted approach to marketing is necessary to meet the needs of gaming communities. E-Sports athletes and gamers are part of an active and vibrant community. They seek immersive experiences that enable interaction and participation. The feeling of belonging to something bigger is hard to beat and presents a unique opportunity for brands. Creating partnerships within the industry can bring gamer interests from the real world into the game and vice versa. Brands, E-Sport athletes, and casual gamers can all enjoy a fun and diverse game environment with fresh exposure for the brand in totally new occasions.
AI-Enabled social data analytics allows brands to identify their tribes, follow social trends, and better track the success of their digital campaigns. In the fast-paced digital sphere, always-on monitoring gives stakeholders actionable insights in real-time. Gaming may be a new frontier for some brands, but as the sector continues to grow, time and care invested in the community can improve the experience of all. There are many more tactics brands have used with success to take advantage of the growth of gaming and build fresh rapport with consumers, discover five more we’ve uncovered in our The New Age of E-Sports Report now.