eSports: Out of the Basement to the Main Stage

On Sunday, August 23, a sporting event the magnitude of a Rangers or Knicks Game 7 took place in New York City. Thousands packed a sold-out Madison Square Garden, while hundreds of thousands more watched the live stream across the world.  A large, passionately-engaged global audience of mostly younger well-off men…but just a few leading advertisers present? What’s going on here?

The electronic sport (eSport) League of Legends is the answer.  Specifically, the North American League Championship Finals, played among the best electronic sports teams in the world. League of Legends (LoL) is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) computer game played competitively around the globe by over 67 million people each month (Riot Games Inc).  Marketers who have yet to explore eSports, and specifically League of Legends, as a potential platform to reach consumers need to start taking notice, and here’s why:

Targeted reach: According to SuperData Research, the global eSports audience, which is mostly male (87%), skews younger, and has an average household income of $74k, will surpass 134 million viewers in 2015.  If you’re looking for these guys, a highly sought-after target for many brands, look no further.  They are uniquely reachable, sizable, and have money to spend.

Audience Size and Growth: In 2011, the Season 1 LoL World Championships drew over 200k simultaneous viewers.  Three years later, concurrent viewership peaked at over 11 million (5000%+ increase).  Newzoo, a games market research company, expects the number of eSports “Enthusiasts” to increase from 89 million in 2014 to 145 million in 2017.  For comparison, approximately 94 million Americans watch professional ice hockey, while 151 million watch the NFL.

It’s a sport: Despite being broadcast on a Jumbotron, or via streaming video on Twitch or YouTube, major competitions have the feeling of any big four playoff game.  The high quality analysis, state of the art technology, replays with commentary, and recap shows aren’t a whole lot different than watching SportsCenter.

It’s only going to get more expensive: With the likes of Coke, Monster, Samsung, and even Geico getting involved in eSports with various LoL sponsorships, along with the growth in viewership, the cost to reach these consumers is only going to increase.

Marketers shouldn’t write off these events as merely video games – they are significant sporting events and should be thought of as such in order to understand their true value.  Getting in early, and depending on the category, potentially locking out competition, can be a huge advantage for a brand.


*Image courtesy of Fremont Herald.

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