Over the past few weeks, as our lives have become almost exclusively digitized, we have seen many headlines about gaming and esports taking off.
Gaming is up, and esports is hot. What are you supposed to do with that? Where does one begin?
To get some insight, I reached out to my friend Nico Amantia, senior account executive at Scout Sports & Entertainment, a full-service sports marketing agency division of Horizon Media.
Nico’s main clients are in the QSR industry. He often organizes and executes brand activations, facilitating contracts and strategic partnerships between brands, talent, and events for both an esports and sports portfolio.
For example, last year, Nico organized a sponsorship activation between one of his clients and FaZe Clan, one of the largest esports and gaming organizations in the world. FaZe Clan has 8.5 million followers on Instagram, and each of its members has a few million followers of their own.
The sponsored video activation Nico organized brought in close to 1,000,000 views on YouTube.
I asked Nico to walk me through how someone should look into the gaming and esports industries from an advertising and marketing perspective. Here are Nico’s thoughts.
Understand the Industries, Especially Their Differences
Nico opened up by talking about the importance of proper education to the gaming and esports industries. Many people confuse and conflate esports with general gaming, and vice versa, all the time. “I’m always explaining the differences between esports and gaming,” Nico said.
“The first thing I did when the virus hit and forced so many dollars to become possibly uncommitted was create a brief educational document on esports and gaming and their differences for distribution within Horizon. As soon as that happened, I got a number of requests from other departments, not just within the sports marketing arm, to come in and give them the 101 on the two industries, what my recommendations are, and how to best proceed. We’ve even adapted my original overview to be client facing.”
“Think of gaming as a big box that esports takes up a small part of. Esports is the regulated, sponsored, competitive arm of gaming.”
For example, Fortnite is only an esport when it is played in an officially sponsored, regulated, organized, competitive tournament setting. If I get a group of my friends together and toss around a basketball, I’m not suddenly an NBA player or professional. Esports athletes are also part of teams that provide them with salaries, healthcare, housing, tournament and league participation, etc.
Gaming, on the other hand, refers to any casual, day-to-day person playing video games.
Twitch, for example, broadcasts mostly gaming content, where popular influencers (aka streamers) broadcast themselves playing video games. Some of the biggest names in gaming have loads of sponsorships.
Prime example: Ninja, a highly popular Fortnite streamer who signed a $30 million-dollar contract to exclusively stream on Microsoft’s platform, Mixer, has a sponsorship with Red Bull. Ninja sports the energy drink bull on his headband, various equipment in his setup, and also has a fridge full of Red Bulls behind him at all times, in view of the camera during play.
Align on KPIs and Objectives
The differences between esports and gaming are so important to know because Nico spends so much time determining with clients and potential clients whether casual gaming or esports is the right field for their goals and objectives -- i.e., awareness, conversion, etc.
“Most of my clients are in the QSR space. After I’ve broken down the advertising nuances between gaming and esports, we align on KPIs and objectives. Depending on their goals, I advise different strategies. More often than not,” Nico explained, “they really want to activate ASAP since they have lost out on cancelled or postponed events.”
More often than not, “for those turnkey kind of requests, you know, getting a promotional advertisement out, I’ve been concentrating a lot on individual streamer talent sponsorships; Getting something like a promotional advertisement, free delivery codes, showcasing a service, those things are most easily done through individual streamer talent sponsorships, which is what I've been spending a lot of time on lately. More advertisers are able to understand key metrics related to streamers because I can provide them things like CPMs and average viewership for a given content creator. While most people also understand the concept for a professional team, too, but those activations are not as immediate, since the viewership relies on the tournament schedule rather than streamers who broadcast nearly every day.”
Nico’s advice: “Throw out the hesitation, consider all your options, and find ways to pivot your business into new avenues.” He adds: “Gaming and esports are two, highly active industries that can be put to great use right now. Now’s the time to pivot and adapt your business, and these industries can really help with that.”