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‘A big sea of opportunity’: How e-sports will help brands connect with Millenials

At last week's Mumbrella360 conference, PwC flagged e-sports as a growing opportunity for marketers. Mumbrella's Paul Wallbank speaks to Scott Wenkart from eSports promoter Showdown to find out how the growing industry can help brands connect with Millennials.

“There’s a big sea there but there’s not a lot of ways to go fishing there,” says Showdown’s Wenkart of the opportunities eSports presents to marketers.

Scott Wenkart founder and Managing Director of Showdown eSports

Scott Wenkart founder and managing director of Showdown e-

“The audience is really hungry for it,” he says. “They’re already playing hours and hours so to be able to create something for them to play in then to create something more premium and more professional in the local market has created a massive attention opportunity for us.”

eSports’ audiences are substantial as PwC’s Megan Brownlow described at last week’s Mumbrella360 conference how 43 million spectators watched the recent League of Legends championship final.  “The next big thing in sports, it drives advertising and subscriptions, is e-sports,” she said along with predicting the sector will earn  US$874 million a year by 2021.

Wenkart unsurprisingly agrees with Brownlow’s views although he points out the eSports sector is still relatively undeveloped: “There’s not a lot of opportunities I’d say that are really premium and polished for the brands.”

“Marketers have a great opportunity, as they do with any audience, to really connect to them. Whether it’s supporting a community or helping the players there’s a great range of opportunities for brands.”

Showdown has been evolving with the computer and online gaming industry since it was founded as Spiral Media in 2008. Six years later the company established its Twitch partnership in Australia and New Zealand before changing its name and rebranding last year.

“We’re really looking forward to rolling out professional programs around the biggest games in the market and taking them to the market,” says Wenkart. “There’s opportunities in rolling out development of Rocket League, League of Legends and more games to be announced.”

Twitch currently boasts 120m video viewers each month with 2.2m of those turning themselves into broadcasters which offers a range of opportunities for marketers says Wenkart.

“It’s a mass audience, it’s 18 to 35s, it’s an amazing world where people can interact socially around popular content. Ten years ago it was very much one directional, now we have a lot of things trying to buy our attention, I think Twitch has a natural edge… It’s really interesting as it’s a very analytics driven space.”

“This is 100% transparent, you are measuring the success of your campaigns in real time,” Wenkart says.

The sector isn’t without problems though as the marketplace’s immaturity sees the current crop of e-sports teams struggling financially.

“In the States there are prize pools going up to $20m now. A couple of hundred thousand is pretty normal, that can feed a few people and few teams really well over there,” Wenkart explains.

“What’s really important and interesting for the market to understand here though is there’s not a lot of that economic activity. A lot of teams are funding themselves and the prize pools are a lot smaller here. It’s a bit like football 15 years ago before the A-League was formed.”

The audience being made up largely of young men is another challenging factor e-sports organisers are having to deal with, although Wenkart sees that going away over time.

“It is male dominated, it does take a change in culture but look at what the AFL has done and some of these games are more male orientated although there are girls playing and they are good at it.

“As technology evolves and the internet improves I don’t think it will matter if you’re a girl or a guy, it depends on how much you like it.”

But the investments by established sports leagues is an indication of e-sports’ potential  Wenkart says.

“A lot of brands are currently working with really successful leagues whether it’s AFL, NRL or the ARU which are pretty mature products.”

Scott Wenkart will be appearing on the Future of Sports Broadcasting panel at Mumbrella’s Sport Marketing Summit next Wednesday, June 21. For more information, or to purchase last-minute tickets, click here

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