Once upon a time, I wanted to be a video game journalist. But not just any video game journalist — I wanted to write about esports. My husband and his friends were obsessed with watching League of Legends live stream tournaments, and every time we hosted a party, my gamer heart knew esports was going somewhere. The problem was most media companies didn’t agree with me. Anytime I’d pitch a publication about the growth of esports, the polite but firm rejections somehow always boasted clear undertones of “you’re kidding, right?”
No, I wasn’t kidding, and the stats prove it, like those in the 2018: An Esports Snapshot report from TVEV. Esports isn’t just some little sub-genre of the gaming industry; it’s definitely and unarguably its own beast. When I dug into Tubular’s exclusive data, I discovered videos tagged with “esports” over the last year have pulled in an astounding 650 million total views. Here’s what else TVEV’s report and Tubular’s data had to tell me about the popularity of esports, and why it’s important for brands to sit up and pay attention (if they aren’t already).
Esports Is Big… And Is Only Getting Bigger
If 650 million total views in the last year wasn’t crazy enough of a number to show the staggering growth of this corner of the gaming industry, consider these other stats about esports videos from Tubular’s software:
- To date, more than 1000 creators with the tag “esports” in their title have uploaded about 393K videos which have generated 4.9 billion views on YouTube, 1.1 billion on Facebook, 65.6 million on Instagram, and 9.7 million on Twitch.
- Videos uploaded since January 2018 and tagged “esports” in their titles or descriptions have generated a total of almost 1.3 billion views at the time of this writing.
- The average 30-day engagement rate (ER30) of esports-related videos on YouTube land at an incredibly high 3x (2x higher than the baseline average).
- The most-watched clip out of all esports videos since January 2018 highlights an AR-based esports tournament and pulled in 18.5 million views and 505K engagements to date.
In addition to our data, other platforms and outlets have reported similarly-impressive info:
- Twitch has said viewers tuned into its platform to watch 355 billion minutes of live streams in 2017.
- VentureBeat reported more than 173,000 fans attended Intel’s Extreme Masters esports event for the ESL Championships, covering Counter Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, and StarCraft II; not only is this now the biggest esports event to date, but it’s also 73K higher than the average attendance of an international Formula One motor racing event.
- The ESL Championships also boasted a live viewership of 2.2 million concurrent streamers.
Still not convinced esports is a big deal? It’s probably time to change your tune towards this form of entertainment. Gaming and mobile market intelligence company Newzoo estimates the esports industry alone will grow to $905.6 billion by the start of 2019, which is a 38% year-over-year growth! Basically, you really need to care about esports because you’re missing out on huge branded and sponsorship opportunities. Not only are audiences fully on board with these games emotionally (as we’ll see in the next section), but some brands have already tapped into this frenzy with great success.
Both Audiences and Advertisers Are Esports Fanatics
Back in April, I wrote about the skyrocketing popularity of the Epic Games title Fortnite and how millions of people tune in to watch live streams and recorded content for this title. As an example of these numbers, I noted one live stream of the game by Spanish YouTuber ElRubiusOMG saw 1.1 million concurrent viewers. That’s half the number of live viewers the ESL Championships pulled in! Clearly, audiences around the world are more than eager to watch esports and live gaming events.
But it’s not that they’re just eager to watch esports videos and content; they’re ready to engage with it and even feel it, too. TVEV’s report pulled emotional response data from the emotion measurement company Canvs as it related to the top five esports videos on YouTube (according to Tubular data). The most-used words to describe these videos included “crazy,” “love,” “funny,” “hate,” and “enjoy.” Most of these words have a positive bent, but above all, they’re very passionate ways to describe how audiences feel when they watch esports — that is, they’re highly engaged.
Some astute advertisers have noticed viewer’s obsession with and passion for esports, and have latched onto this opportunity full-steam with campaigns surrounding not just popular gaming titles, but also well-loved digital celebrities. The Esports Snapshot report from TVEV noted how gaming YouTubers such as MatPat, ElRubiusOMG, and Ian Hecox of Smosh Games are viewed by many brands as perfect partnership opportunities due to their highly-engaged audiences. The report also revealed that linear TV ad spend on Turner and IMG’s premium esports tournament and content brand ELEAGUE generated 350 million impressions since January 2017.
Tubular’s software provides a little more insight into the value of sponsored deals in terms of esports videos. For starters, in this year alone, the esports organization HellRaisers partnered with Counter Strike: Global Offensive for a sponsored post which generated a whopping 4.8x ER30. In terms of views, Acer’s gaming hardware brand Predator Gaming scored big with its partnership with Red Bull Esports; several sponsored episodes of Red Bull’s behind-the-scenes-style “Esports Unfold” series have generated millions of views each, with the top clip about the Dota 2 team OG pulling in 2.2 million views since January.
Strategy Ideas for Brands Ready to Join the Esports Game
By now, it should be very clear the massive opportunity brands have to invest in esports content and its passionate horde of followers. For most gaming and technology brands, seeking out partnerships should be fairly easy, as these industries are all very closely tied to each other. But what are the next steps in terms of branded video strategy, especially if your company doesn’t relate to technology or gaming at all? Don’t worry — you still have plenty of options.
Here are just a few ways different types of industries could partner with creators to generate high-performing esports videos:
Food and beverages: Food brands don’t have to just sponsor a gamer whose audience is the same target audience they’re trying to reach. These companies could get even more involved and see if partners are willing to eat their snacks or drinks during a stream, or maybe even give them away as a contest to engaged viewers.
Financial and insurance: Gaming hardware, consoles, and accessories aren’t cheap, a fact professional esports gamers know from firsthand experience. Some could even be willing to partner with an upbeat, forward-thinking financial/insurance company which wants to reach gaming millennials and inform them of options which could protect their equipment and homes.
Travel and leisure: While some might see gaming as the equivalent of leisure, the two industries operate differently. This can be used to the travel industry’s advantage, though; hotels and resorts, for example, could promote their lightning-fast internet connections for gamers-on-the-go, while airlines could partner with creators and influencers who use them frequently or even exclusively when traveling to tournaments.
Non-profits and public service companies: These types of brands have plenty of opportunities to partner with esports leagues or gamers who have hearts of gold. A creator could, for example, partner with a non-profit to donate a certain amount of money to its cause based on viewership milestones on live content. And an electric company has plenty of incentive to work with esports influencers, since that company’s power allows those gamers to keep doing what they do best.
The opportunities certainly don’t end there for brands in all types of industries. Using some creativity, well-defined goals, and solid partnerships, companies around the world can get involved with the esports industry and capitalize on all its sponsorship opportunities. Will your brand be the next one I write about as an esports video journalist?
For more information on TVEV’s esports analysis, you can download the report here. You can also check out Tubular’s DealMaker software to get a detailed rundown of the top-performing sponsored content in gaming and esports.