Authenticity Helpful When Brands Engage With Esports

It is a growing part of the sports landscape; eSports is set to near $1 billion in ad revenue this year, according to NewZoo’s global esports Market Report.

With its overwhelmingly young male audience, the market appears ripe for expansion. Brands are eager  to make an impact with
this demographic. (One increasingly hard to reach via TV.)

One of the issues that gives advertisers pause is “authenticity.” Should a brand apply the same principles to esports as they do for regular sports? Or should they integrate themselves in an authentic, organic way?

During a panel at Advertising Week New York Wednesday, the question of authenticity was debated by executives from video game publishers, esports leagues and brand agencies.

“The authenticity factor in esports is overblown,” said Josh Cella, head of global partnerships, Blizzard Esports Leagues. “All of the research we did this year for our partners — every one received an overwhelming response from our viewers. They’re just thankful they are in, supporting this passion of theirs.”



Of course, marketers are wary of making a misstep with an occasionally fickle audience.

“What are ways that we are using the IP? How can we interact with the audience and do things that add value to the space?” asked Chad DeLuca, head of gaming-esports, Publicis. “There is always the commentary about logo-slapping, and how it is a big turnoff. That is why you lean on some of these partners, because they know the space, it is great to have them guide us.”

Victor Sunden, CRO, global esports tournament company Dreamhack, likened the landscape to “tribes,” with different games, publishers,  leagues and teams, each with its own perspective. Sunden said it is worth it for marketers to “take the time to understand the communities and understand how to interact with them.”

“There are different ways of being authentic, you can take a long-term strategy and try to build something, or you can partner with someone who has an authentic voice in the space, and take a shortcut,” Sunden added.

Authenticity is not just important when it comes to understanding the esports leagues, it is also key for brands to know their skill-sets and how best to capitalize on associations.

“There are a few important questions that brands need to ask before they dive in. What type of game content do we want to align our brands with?” said Scott Pogrow head of business development for the esports team owner FlyQuest Sports. “A lot of non-endemic brands my have some issues with first-person shooters or red-blood content… Secondarily, why are we getting into esports?”

“Do what you do best. If you are great at making compelling original content, that is something that can be transferred to the esports space,” Pogrow added.

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