The esports bandwagon is showing no signs of slowing

The global boom in esports has opened up a world primed for unique and engaging brand experiences, but brands must take their move into the space with caution, explains Showdown's Andy Walsh.

Competitive video gaming, otherwise known as esports, has achieved massive global scale over the past few years.

In 2017, global esports revenue was predicted to reach US$696 million with an audience of 385 million, making it bigger than NFL football.

The global audience is estimated to pass 600 million by 2020, while here in Australia we are also over-indexing, with 90% of live esports viewed on Twitch, with a unique audience of 1.5 million each month, spending on average three hours daily.

There are some key drivers creating huge buzz across global media, gaming industry, investors and the world of brands. These trends are underpinned by a combination of vital growth elements:


Twitch continues to surge in traffic laying the foundation as the world’s largest digital esports stadium.


Professional gaming leagues, creating structured commercial platforms for brands, while providing growth opportunities for players.


Booming global gaming audience creating millions of potential new players and a captive audience.


Large growth in global competitors, passing 200 million, chasing the big prize money and career paths now on offer.

Thoughtful consumer experiences are a vital part of a brand’s marketing strategy, with brands being forced to innovate in ways outside of standard marketing and creative communications.

We see trends in cross-branded collaborations in the world of fashion with Nike leading the charge; and technology brands, like Microsoft, helping musicians innovate to engage their fans, this thoughtful approach requires a combination of strong leadership and smart strategic thinking.

The world of esports has almost created the perfect storm for brands, where an audience of more than two billion highly engaged gamers are ready with fingers on controllers for whatever comes next.

Campaigns in Australian esports, and even global esports, are really still in their infancy, only scratching the surface of the bulging opportunity. But this is quickly changing with brands like Dell, who announced at CES last week that they are partnering with Team Liquid, a top global gaming team, to outfit an esports training facility in LA, clearly demonstrating the value for brands in this space.

Team Liquid training area concept art

We can draw lessons and commonalities from a range of other sporting codes who often wrestle with the challenges of content distribution and engaging an audience who are over-capacity with content. Yet with Twitch the trend is the complete opposite, where traffic is growing, gaming is growing and esports is growing, and still fans want more.

The industry is at a tipping point in Australia allowing brands to enter the market at the perfect time and create a unique role that is ownable, at the right price.

But there is an element of buyer beware.

It is vital that brands understand the world of gaming and esports to create a program that meets their objectives while staying true to the audience, this means dealing with the right partner in the ecosystem. We see across Twitch that brands are welcome in the gaming space, but doing it well requires authenticity.

The need and appetite from gamers to grow their world is at an all-time high, where gamers see brands bringing creativity and new ways to connect with like-minded fans.

Within the industry we see 2018 as a year to lay the foundation for innovative work that continues to build and inspire the gaming community, while creating clear roles for brands. 2018 is looking to be gaming’s biggest year yet, as brands’ appetite for thoughtful brand experiences combined with huge forecasted industry growth will drive a world where everybody wants to play.

Andy Walsh is director of strategy at Showdown.


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