Even prior to Covid-19, esports stock was on the rise. Today, the global lockdowns and unprecedented pause in traditional sports have accelerated its growth, creating a massive moment for the industry to capitalize on. Esports has an extraordinary opportunity to showcase its strengths, innovation, and long-term viability as an entertainment platform.
To sustain growth and elevate itself to the next level, the category must take the following steps:
Embrace the power of women. Esports has a long-held reputation of operating as a boys’ club. As mainstream sports, knows firsthand, continued growth lies with expanding appeal to women, especially the younger generation.
Concurrent with the accomplishments of female athletes around the world, an increase in high-level female sports participation has occurred. Esports can borrow from this playbook by developing a strong pipeline of female talent to diversify its fanbase. The category must have zero tolerance for misogyny or discrimination, and continue to embrace, champion, and invest in a female audience.
Keep attracting fan-favorite athletes. With sports leagues at a halt, athletes have turned to gaming and esports to stay relevant and connected with fans. Prominent NBA, NFL and MLB players such as Kevin Durant, Le’Veon Bell, and Blake Snell have participated in tournaments and live streaming using platforms like Twitch that serve as an authentic convergence of gaming and sports, carving out new opportunities for brands.
Athletes appeal to a younger gaming audience and provide traditional sports a crossover into gaming. Marketers have more opportunities to partner with professional athletes and esports platforms to create compelling content, allowing brands to speak authentically to a gaming audience through the lens of traditional sports.
Sports leagues need to go all-in on esports. As we increase our digital dependence, sports will not have immunity to that trend. While many traditional sports leagues reach older consumers (compared to esports) and are still very reliant on linear television, esports provides a gateway to attract and welcome in younger fans and expand into new platforms.
By fully leaning into esports and developing a strong presence in the space, leagues can successfully reach new fans, stay more culturally relevant, and provide incremental opportunities for partners and sponsors.
Continue to tap into local markets. Esports can still broadcast digitally during a global pandemic, conducting live gameplay and holding top-tier tournaments, a distinct advantage compared to traditional sports.
However, the inability to hold live in-person events creates a setback in establishing local, city-based presences. As esports continues to closely resemble the infrastructure of traditional sports, localization is an important component to strengthen the bonds between fans and their favorite teams.
Esports’ popularity has become undeniable. However, its ability to keep gaining momentum once we return to some level of normal rests on its ability to draw a link between consumer appeal and brand sponsorship in the coming months and beyond.