The bubbling fever of eSports shows no sign of abating. It has a potential global audience of over 1.4 billion and professional eSports players have followers in the hundreds of thousands across their social platforms. These eSports influencers have a niche but highly involved under-30s audience that engages with them daily. For brands, this is an awesome opportunity to build a contagious network of advocates and influencers on a global scale. So, how can brands leverage this influencer platform to appeal to this young, eager audience?
A new report from research firm Newzoo states that 73 per cent of eSports fans are millennials and just this year eSports professionals topped Forbes' 30 Under 30 gaming list.
Major household brands like Red Bull and Coca-Cola have successfully entered the space to engage with under-30s, hiring full eSports-centric marketing teams dedicated to understanding or empowering these consumers through highly relevant micro-content and event sponsorships. Coca-Cola has spent several years connecting with fans of the most popular eSports title in the world, Riot Games’ League of Legends, giving amateur players a chance to make it to the professional scene. The events provide live broadcasts of the competition, prize money and salaries to competitors.
Here are a few pointers that should help brands get ahead.
Brands must get under the skin of the target audience and understand how they want to be communicated to. Audiences, particularly the under-30s, are more brand discerning than ever. They want to know more about a brand than just its product and marketing; they want to understand its stories, heritage, provenance and values. But if brands want to create brand evangelists they must go above and beyond and demonstrate an in-depth understanding of those key influences that will resonate with the target audience and help to achieve that bulls-eye insight.
Millenials demand authenticity from brands: shared values, purpose, ideas, taste, humour. When brands don’t embrace their truth, they won’t communicate effectively to make real human connections. It’s about keeping it real and human by leveraging the right influencers, whose audiences match those of the brand. Further research by Newzoo reveals that 40 per cent of regular eSports viewers don’t actually play the game they watch, which highlights the potential for constant dialogue between professional player influencers and their fans. There is an enormous opportunity to gain natural affinity with a passionate under-30s audience for low cost. Coca-Cola have tapped into the target consumer’s need for fast, brief content by creating snackable content that brings frequent updates to the game or news on the latest champions. This gives consumers real-time, regular content that’s highly relevant to the community.
Create a fan base
A fan base needs to be created by activating the right influencers and gaining advocacy amongst the superfan base. Gamers and eSports fans have an extreme sense of community and are far more inclined to support a brand that supports their favourite player. But it also needs to go further than that to push a deeper level of engagement. By hand-picking and nurturing the influencers and grassroots player fans and bringing them into the inner circle so that they’re given access that isn’t public. Those fans become even more engaged as ambassadors. They have a shot of extra knowledge about the brand to pass onto ordinary fans who are likely to put their trust in the believable and real.
eSports is not to be ignored, nor the value of the influencers to create strong brand advocacy amongst the under-30s audience.
Tom Ellis-Jones is chief client director at creative agency ZAK. Follow him on Twitter @tomej1.