Esports are a big deal. As competitive gaming grows in popularity among Millennials, it presents a major opportunity for brands to tap into this notoriously tricky demographic.
Once a small niche, the esports industry now boasts hundreds of millions of committed fans, rivaling "traditional" sports with its reach. According to the Newzoo 2019 Global Esports Market Report, the industry's audience grew from 335 million in 2017 to a whopping 454 million in 2019. Nearly half of viewers can be defined as enthusiasts, who watch professional esports at least once per month.
That kind of growth might sound impressive, but it’s only the beginning. Brands that harness this marketing opportunity early on can make a strong impression on Millennial consumers.
Why Esports Appeal to Millennials
The esports industry represents a huge marketing opportunity with advantages that go beyond conventional athletics, namely, the ability to target Millennials—today's most coveted audience.
While esports appeals to fans of all ages, its primary audience is young adults. This is evidenced by a notable report from MRI-Simmons that reveals that more than 84% of current esports fans are younger than 35.
Young Millennial males may drive the current esports mania, but many Millennial women are just as invested. According to the Nielsen Esports Playbook, nearly 1 in 4 female fans watches esports on a weekly basis. For some games—such as FIFA—women make up one-third of the audience.
But regardless of gender, esports has experienced massive popularity across the Millennial market for three key reasons:
- Esports athletes are relatable. The average age of professional esports players hovers between 21 and 26—the lower bound of the Millennial generation. As a result, esports create an everyman perception that allows fans to see themselves in today's most influential stars.
- Esports build on pre-existing fandom. Esports enthusiasts enjoy watching athletes compete in games that they play themselves. This means that new esports fans are already invested in what they’re watching and possess a certain trust in the games, players, and brands they see on screen.
- Esports are more accessible. At first glance, traditional sports may seem easy enough to access—there are plenty of television stations dedicated to them, after all. But network coverage can be spotty and not all fans can afford cable or live events. Esports, on the other hand, can be viewed live free of charge, and without the scheduling limitations that accompany conventional athletics. No matter the time of day, enthusiasts can log in to see at least one of their favorite games being played live.
7 Best Practices for Millennial-Oriented Esports Marketing
Esports marketing is a growing industry in its own right, and all kinds of brands are looking to take advantage. In a 2018 Nielsen study on esports and Twitch, over 90% of fans using the streaming service could recall at least one sponsor occupying an industry outside of gaming.
But despite its value in branding, esports marketing can be challenging.
An overwhelming 90% of Millennials say that authenticity isn’t just important—it’s the most important factor they consider when deciding whether or not to buy from a brand. Brands that fail to appeal to fans' desire for relevance and authenticity risk alienating them.
So, be thoughtful when tapping into this powerful consumer demographic and keep these best practices in mind as you design your esports marketing campaign.
1. Take Varied Interests Into Account
Esports fans should not be treated as a monolith. Marketing efforts that appeal to NBA 2K enthusiasts, for example, might hold little sway for Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2) fans.
When planning campaigns, consider the demographic and personality differences that might drive such preferences. League of Legends players, for example, tend to be more methodical and might respond better to straightforward, gaming-oriented messages, while Fortnite fans will likely prefer flashier, trend-focused efforts.
These differences should be evident not only in the types of products marketed to specific subsets of fans, but also in the specific language and visuals contained within said marketing messages.
2. Pinpoint a Narrower Age Range
Age should also factor into marketing decisions. After all, preferences and spending power differ considerably between younger and older Millennials.
Marketing efforts targeted at the youngest members of the Millennial generation may turn off established gamers with careers and families of their own, and vice versa. Your best bet is to identify particular age ranges to target, rather than trying to appeal to Millennials as a whole.
3. Vary Your Marketing Methods
While esports marketing methods are primarily digital, they remain far more varied than outsiders might suspect.
In addition to social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, esports marketing efforts can target consumers via in-stream ads on Twitch or through influencer-generated content on YouTube. As with branding style, the ideal platform will largely depend on the type of event and the specific fans who use it.
4. Avoid Patronizing Messages
Esports fans are well aware of the stereotypes surrounding their favorite hobby—and they don't appreciate them.
Many fans are successful in their careers and academic pursuits, and they won’t respond well to marketing campaigns that categorize them as lazy, nerdy, or asocial. Marketing efforts should instead celebrate the many qualities that distinguish gamers, like perseverance, creativity, and loyalty.
5. Collaborate With Other Brands
Many non-gaming brands collaborate with game-oriented companies to host tournaments, sweepstakes, and other special events.
This approach can pave the path to impressive merch sales. Foot Locker and Champion, for example, joined forces to market a new line of jerseys based on several top esports teams.
6. Pursue Values-Driven Marketing
Millennials appreciate businesses that promote empowering messages or boost charitable efforts. Don’t hesitate to place core company values front and center, as Bumble did in a 2019 collaboration with esports agency Gen.G. Together, the brands launched an all-female Fortnite team in hopes of inspiring women to make their mark in the gaming world.
7. Capitalize on Experiential Marketing
Millennial esports fans crave new experiences, both virtual and in-person. If possible, integrate physical and digital marketing methods to form a lasting impression.
This approach made waves with a 2018 collaboration between Fortnite, Samsung, and Korean pop group iKon. An event celebrating the release of the iKonic Fortnite skin gave fans the opportunity to meet band members and play games at the Samsung 837 experience store. The brands involved capitalized on the event with marketing initiatives on YouTube and other social channels.
Harness the Power of Esports Marketing
As the esports market continues to grow, opportunities for connecting with Millennials will expand exponentially. Make sure you have the tools you need to succeed before kicking off your esports marketing campaign.
As one of the top marketing and branding companies in California, we are well-known for our creative digital marketing strategies which can help bring your campaigns to life (while helping you more effectively engage with your elusive Millennial audience). Get in touch today to discover a new world of possibilities for targeting gamers, esports fans, and other niches of the Millennial demographic.