Why Legacy Media Brands Will Not Make E-Sports Work

E-sports is everywhere you look these days. Former LA Laker Rick Fox purchased a team last year, Audi recently announced an e-sports sponsorship deal and YouTube has landed exclusive deals with select leagues. It’s no surprise traditional media brands are trying to jump in and grab themselves a piece of this growing marketplace.

Recent reports show e-sports has an estimated online audience of 225 million and growing. Brands, media and publishers are chomping at the bit to establish their own e-sports presence, especially as traditional sports viewership numbers continue to decline on TV. But these players need to understand that the audience for e-sports is significantly different from their traditional ones for  TV and on digital.  More importantly, reaching these e-sports fans will take a new approach that may be inherently outside of their comfort zone and core competency.

Because the core audience of e-sports is comprised of millennial men, connecting with this audience is quite different from connecting with the typical broadcast model of football or baseball viewers. E-sports offers a dynamic, interactive experience and fans expect a certain level of dialogue with their favorite players and teams.



That’s why digital publishers that already cater to this millennial audience have a leg up against more traditional publishers. In addition, because the industry is so new and ever-changing, the companies that can be nimble and can evolve their e-sports strategy as the industry adapts will be able to keep up with the fluid and growing industry. For instance, some may argue that pulling in editorial audience members from Reddit may be more vital than social publishing and/or digital traffic recirculation strategies, which have become standard in some cases.

And as with any new venture, the brands that can make an authentic connection with e-sports will get the best results, especially those committed to grass-roots sponsorship and on-site activations. However, brands need to find ways to be native to the e-sports experience, since most e-sports audiences have ad blockers enabled so as not to interrupt their viewing. The brands that can become part of the community or even help create more communities will cultivate a much longer lasting position in the field.

The bottom line is that e-sports is already becoming more mainstream, and the barriers to enter the space are only going to get more difficult. The brands that can make the leap now, stretch outside their comfort zones and develop this new core competency authentically, will be the only brands set up to succeed.

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