With scarcely the kind of attention other sports marketing endeavors are receiving, esports is growing into a major platform for marketers. New research today from Parks Associates shows that 10% of U.S broadband households watch esports content on sites ranging from Amazon’s Twitch to YouTube, and 62% actually play an esports game for at least an hour a week.
"Esports is currently a niche market, but it has the ability to engage often hard-to-reach demographics," says Hunter Sappington, a Parks research analyst, in comments accompanying the latest report.
"Esports is a young, dynamic, and fast-growing industry. While viewership of many traditional sports is waning, esports is well positioned to capture the attention of a generation that grew up playing video games.”
Sappington advises marketers to jump in now, while the getting is good. "By participating in this market during its formative stage, pay-TV providers, networks, and other ecosystem players can influence the trajectory of the market and secure content rights to key events,” he says.
In some ways, esports is a perfect reflection of how sports and leisure changed with the internet: the report says 67% of viewers use computers to watch esports, followed by 45% using TVs and 34% using a smartphone.
Indeed, “real” sports and esports have twinned seemingly easily.
This year, the NBA helped start its own esports offshoot called the 2K League with partner Take-Two Interactive, with 17 teams competing in the first season that started in May.
Some brands have been quick to react. The Samsung Galaxy Pro-Game team has been a powerhouse in the League of Legends championship series. Coca-Cola, LG, Intel and IBM earned street cred with gamers by sponsoring major events.
The Red Bull Battlegrounds is a sponsored series of esports competitions held throughout the United States. Old Spice, T-Mobile and Papa Johns are old using esports events or landing pages to market themselves to a mostly male, mostly millennial crowd. Experts say it will be a $2 billion industry within two years.
Parks says the typical gamer is under 35 and, not surprisingly, up on the latest video trends and technology. They spend an average $47.23 on non-pay-TV video entertainment, the new study says, compared to just $22.97 for non-gamers.