Marketers that have already signed on as sports league sponsors in the real world would be wise to sign on in the virtual world as well.
According to the ESPN Sports Poll, conducted by TNS and Electronic Arts, more than a third of sports video game players say they spend as much or more time playing the game than they do following the same sport on television. Among these players, 75% of them said the in-game advertising helped reinforce the company's real world sponsorship.
"The fans, as part of the realism of the sport, expect it," Robert Fox, senior vice president at TNS and director of the ESPN Sports Poll, tells Marketing Daily. "It takes them out of the game and the experience if it's not there."
While the average fan casually follows six to eight different sports, he or she is an "avid fan" of only two or three of them. These avid fans have much more engagement with the sports and their sponsors, Fox says.
"There are a lot of casual fans, but the avid fans are the ones really paying attention," he says. According to the poll, sports gamers are much more likely to be avid fans of the corresponding sports that they play.
For instance, only 34% of the general population would be considered avid NFL fans. Among sports fans, however, that segment rises to 39%. Among sports gamers, 55% would be considered avid NFL fans. A similar trend holds true for avid fans of college football, the NBA, the NHL, international soccer and professional golf.
"If you're a real-world sponsor, these are the fans you're trying to reach. You've got to be in the game," Fox says. "It's a chance to reach these fans with greater efficiency."