Brands That Engage With Esports – A Panel Talk

brands that engage with esports

Esports is big. In fact, it’s a billion-dollar industry. But that’s not enough. For esports to become worldwide, a common word used by everyone, the brands have to buy into it in a much bigger way. The brands that engage with esports understand the present generations.

For instance, millennials aren’t watching TV or sports as much as the previous generations. You can reach a millennial more easily with games, esports, and other digital media. This was a topic that was discussed on a panel at CES 2020.

brands that engage with esports

The group included big names:

  • Josh Cella – Head of Global Partnerships Activision Blizzard Esports
  • Grace Dolan – VP of Home Entertainment Integrated Marketing Samsung Electronics America
  • Sarah Iooss – Head of Sales at Americas Twitch
  • Bryan de Zayas – Global Director of Marketing at Dell

Why are Gaming and Esports Important to Your Brands? How do brands that engage with esports leverage the industry?

Josh Cella said that gaming and esports are what Activision Blizzard does on a daily basis. With three publishing units – Activision, Blizzard, and King and covering PC, console, and mobile, games are the heartbeat of the company. In conclusion, Activision Blizzard equals gaming.

Grace Dolan made a statement that she and her company are probably the outsiders on the panel. She said that Samsun Electronics America understands the importance of gaming and that 67-68% of Americans are gaming. In other words, more Americans are gaming than are not. As a TV manufacturer, they have to understand the needs of their users and how to create better products and therefore, a better experience.

Sarah Iooss explained that gaming is the foundation of Twitch. The lifeblood. That’s where it all began. The community has expanded far beyond gaming and esports since then. For some, it’s a way of life.

Bryan de Zayas mentioned Alienware, the computer subsidiary of Dell and their gaming products. They are the perfect example of how brands engage with esports. The company was created with a goal to make PCs that will give gamers the best experience ever. They provide the best technology for gamers, and that is their role in gaming and esports.

Why are traditional sports still bigger than esports? Why don’t brands shift their sponsorships money into esports?

Josh Cella talked about the longevity of the traditional sports that have run decades, even centuries when it comes to soccer. Their Overwatch League is only three years old, and they are slowly coming to the age where monetization expectations are higher.

He mentioned that gaming and esports has an advantage over traditional sports. For example, as soon as a game is out, anyone with a PC and an internet connection can access it. That simply isn’t possible with conventional sports. He finished his answer by saying that esports is on the right track, but it’s going to take some time.

Sarah Iooss said that traditional sports inspire Twitch and that they copy many elements of it. Think about the fans, the fandom, and the experience they get. There wouldn’t be this panel talk if everyone didn’t think esports is going even further.

Bryan de Zayas also mentioned the age difference. Esports probably started around 2005, and this is a really young market. Traditional sports have been there since the beginning of time. Because we are in the digital age, everything is happening super-fast. What took traditional sports 100 years, might only take esports ten years.

When did Dell and Alienware get comfortable with esports?

Bryan de Zayas said that straight away in 2005, Alienware saw the potential of esports. It started sponsoring the tournaments of that time. Those events would usually happen at significant events like E3 or PAX. They weren’t standalone events. Nowadays, you have stadiums built for things like Overwatch League. And that happened in the last 12-14 years. That isn’t a long time.

Is there enough data collected and shared with brands for them to make a good decision?

Josh Cella said that in the past, there wasn’t enough data. After the launch of the Overwatch League in 2018, it was necessary to start collecting and presenting data. People loved to see data comparison like you see on the NBA. Of course, more and more companies are adding their own layers and measurements.

Bryan de Zayas said that it’s effortless for brands to invest a lot of money in technology. But is it worth it? They need to know what they are getting in return.

The most critical data is the gamer at home. Above all, you have to understand what his needs are and how to make it easier for him to enjoy his game and be better at it.

If it’s a large-screen TV, then produce it! Hone in on it!

How Important is Authenticity?

Iooss mentioned that authenticity is one of the most important things on Twitch. In other words, most people follow their favorite streamers because of their personality and not their gameplay. That’s when they decide to support them monetarily.

De Zayas added that it’s very important to listen to gamers. For instance, when it comes to launching a new service or product. Players are incredibly passionate and vocal. It’s hard to get into a gamer’s mindset, but once you’re there, you’re there for life, as long as you don’t screw it up.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask!

Cella added that he believes the authenticity concept is a little bit overblown. For instance, any investment you make, be it in NBA or MLS or an esports league, you want to do well. Fans appreciated when brands like Coca-Cola and T-Mobile came to support the Overwatch League.

Coca-Cola and Deutsche Telekom – Brands that engage with esports

For instance, one great example was when Coca-Cola bought a bunch of all-access passes and gave them away on Twitch. It was pretty simple, but the fans appreciated it. It was a steppingstone for Coca-Cola, testing the water, so to say. They will move onto bigger things in the future, of course.

Coca-Cola understands that brands that engage with esports have an edge over competitors who don’t. Therefore, they are doing it before their competitors.

Similarly, another example is the multibillion company Deutsche Telekom that bought 25% of the stake in an esports team.

What about women in esports?

The panel host asked the guests what they think about a report stating that 62% of women esports fans do not believe that brands market to them. In other words, things need to change.

Cella said that is true and believes to be a problem. Only one woman professional is playing the Overwatch League and that they would love to see more. Above all, it’s what everyone wants, and everyone needs to work on in the future.

Iooss mentioned that 50% of their panelist are women. However, what most see as a problem, they see as an opportunity. Sometimes the conversation can be nuanced.

For example, most women in gaming don’t want to be called “female gamers.” They are gamers! It’s an equality question.

She said that we need to listen to women who are already doing it. We need to look at it as something broader and push forward.

De Zayas mentioned that this conversation needs to happen a lot more. Additionally, young girls understand that there is a safe environment for them to the game. He said his daughter that is ten years old. It’s not always the safest environment for her when she is online.

Young girls need to understand that they don’t have to drop their hobby as they grow up.

Even if you’re not going pro if you are enjoying it, why stop? In other words, we need to make it easy for them to play and enjoy.

In conclusion, it’s probably the most challenging work ahead, but we need to figure it out.

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