The Rise of Esports in a “Sports-less” World
As we approach the end of the first month of social distancing, self-quarantining, and the absence of sports, consumers continue to look for new ways to entertain themselves and get through this unique experience. Additionally, while most brands have appropriately adjusted their messaging “tone” and some have jumped into the Covid fight with resources of their own, still others continue to look for ways to adapt and even thrive during this time. The answer to both of these problems may be found in one platform — esports.
Esports Have Adjusted Quickly
While social distancing has caused sports to come to a halt, esports has quickly resumed their seasons and is continuing to rise in popularity. As you may be aware, esports has the unique ability (compared to traditional sports) to continue its matches with its athletes in the safety and comfort of their homes. The major esports properties (League of Legends, CS: GO, Overwatch, etc.) all converted to fully online seasons within weeks of the government-mandated quarantine. Esports will have most of the sports landscape to themselves for the next few months at a minimum, and perhaps longer.
While one could argue the Coronavirus has helped the overall growth of esports (Twitch viewership is up 31% in the month of March), the rise of esports started years ago. Since 2016 (281 million viewers), esports has had average YoY audience growth of 14%, and by 2023, experts are predicting esports to have viewership numbers eclipsing 600 million. Some reasons for this:
In a world where more and more content is being consumed online rather than linear TV, esports has made the large majority of their matches live and free to watch via Twitch. That’s also another reason why some sports fans have turned to esports; they don’t need to purchase anything additional to their NBA League Pass, NHL Center Ice, or NFL Red Zone.
Over the last few years betting across the United States has become more lenient, and if it keeps going in that direction, it’ll be huge for the growth of esports. Companies like FanDuel and DraftKings were quick to add esports to their daily fantasy offerings, as leagues were shutting down, in the hope of retaining a massive customer base hungry for betting action. In Newzoo’s latest esports Market Report they predict that fans’ collective spending on esports betting will soon surpass their spending on merchandise and tickets.
Esports Fans & Brands
Esports fans are smart, loyal, and incredibly passionate. If you’re looking to jump into the world of esports and find success you’ll need to speak the language of their “community”. They’ll know right away if you aren’t genuine. That being said, if you can earn their trust and become woven into their world there is massive opportunity. Brands have been investing heavily in that opportunity recently, with almost $700 million invested in 2018 alone (38% increase from the year prior). If the investment increase keeps going at this rate, Newzoo predicts by 2021 that number to be $1.3 billion!