Brand integration in esports: how to engage with the audience?

Brand integration in esports: how to engage with the audience?

Dec. 18, 2020
Insights 3 min read

In an interview for Forbes Ukraine’s second issue, General Manager at WePlay Esports Oleh Humeniuk tells about brand integrations in esports.

What’s common between sports and esports? And what is the difference between them?

Like in traditional sports, players and teams are competing for a championship title and cash prizes. Champions of major competitions often become idols with their fanbase. 

The main difference between these two disciplines is a physical load on championship participants. Instead of muscle power and flexibility, players develop reaction time, strategic thinking, and other necessary winning skills. Meanwhile, the psychological load that esports players experience isn’t smaller than the one athletes do.

In traditional sports, athletes must gather in one place, while esports players can compete both offline and being thousands of miles away from each other. 

Is esports a business?

Yes, definitely. For video game developers, esports is a way of keeping their existing audiences engaged and reaching new ones. Independent tournament operators get revenue from selling broadcasting rights, tournament tickets, and brand integrations. 

Professionals are usually the esports industry's workforce. For example, General Producer at WePlay! Esports Maksym Bilonogov has experience working in TV, while the business development department is a mix of experts in various fields: marketing, media rights, sponsorship integrations, etc.

Esports continues to gather momentum even during the quarantine. Most of the tournaments are actively hosted online, and brands use this opportunity to tell about themselves in a digital space.

WeSave! Charity Play, the charitable esports marathon that aimed to combat the spread of COVID-19. Video credit: WePlay Esports
WePlay! Pushka League, the Dota 2 online tournament that was taking place from April 16 to May 12, 2020. Video credit: WePlay Esports

What are the benefits of brand integrations in esports?

Esports allows for reaching an audience who is indifferent to traditional marketing tools: billboards, TV advertisements, and web banners. Youth, who’s actively watching or playing Dota 2 and Counter-Strike, currently buys or soon will be able to afford themselves gaming devices, modern smartphones, trendy outfits, and accessories. For many companies, brand integration in esports is an investment in their future.

A creative approach to integration allows for introducing oneself in a memorable and native way: an audience will like it, and a brand will increase loyalty among viewers of esports streams.

Using augmented reality during the WePlay! Clutch Island tournament. Video credit: WePlay Esports

What brands partner with the esports industry?

Endemic brands with esports fans as their target audience are computer and peripherals manufacturers, such as Intel, Asus, Logitech, Razer, and others. Automobile manufacturers Audi and Mercedes-Benz are among non-endemic brands. 

WePlay Esports has already been cooperating with brands like Moneyveo, PepsiCo, and McDonald's.

Please describe methods and technologies that brands can use to effectively integrate into esports.

Brand integration focuses on storytelling, creativity, and technology. The WePlay Esports studio uses augmented reality, which brings unique opportunities for collaboration with brands.

For example, during the WePlay! Bukovel Minor 2020 tournament, McDonald's offered viewers a promo code for a free order delivery across Ukraine. We created an SFM video with a courier from Dota 2 who delivers a McDonald's takeaway bag to game characters.

Stage scenery integrations, host mentions, or raffles can be additional brand activation options. 

Tell us about the future of esports. Are the industry and audience still growing?

The global esports audience grows by 15% yearly, according to closed data from Newzoo independent esports analytics provider. These are mostly young people, 18–⁠35-year-old men with middle or high income, who are interested in social media, movies, cars, computer technology, and gadgets. We are talking about millennials or the so-called digital natives.

Newzoo estimates that the global esports audience will reach 646 million people in 2021. Among them, 295 million will watch games regularly, and 351 million – from time to time. 

The esports audience in Ukraine is 1.67 million people. In particular, 599,000 of them are regular viewers, and 1.08 million are those who occasionally watch tournaments.