Behind the Rise of Esports and What It Means for Brands

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Ian Porter did something that unnerved his parents: He dropped out of college to play video games for a living. “They were obviously giving me crap about it and telling me, ‘When are you going back to school?'” His retort, half-joking, was, “I want to make more money than you guys next year.”

Pretty soon, no one was laughing. Mr. Porter, 23, a onetime honors student at the University of Washington, hauled in nearly $200,000 over a 12-month period in 2014 playing in video game tournaments.

Three years later, the money continues to roll in for Mr. Porter and other players like him who are climbing the ranks of the nearly $700 million global competitive video-game-playing industry known as esports. The prize pools are rising because there is a large, ravenous segment of fans who watch online or pack stadiums like Los Angeles’ Staples Center to cheer on their favorite players competing in games like “League of Legends” and “Call of Duty.”

The explosive growth has started catching the eye of big-spending marketers including Arby’s, Audi, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Gillette and Bud Light. They are among the brands putting money into esports in hopes of reaching the sport’s demographic sweet spot: males between the ages of 21 to 35 who are increasingly hard to reach via traditional advertising. For marketers able to navigate the nascent esports landscape, which one analyst group compared to the Wild West, the paybacks can be huge because gamers have shown loyalty to brands that do it right.

“If you are a CMO and you are not in esports in 2017, you are going to risk getting fired,” said Tobias Sherman, global head of esports at talent agency powerhouse WME-IMG.

See more at AdAge.

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