GGB attended the XLIVE eSports Summit in New York that took place earlier this month. The theme of the show seemed to be larger brands teaching people how to activate in eSports. For those of us that might be less media/advertising savvy, this more or less means they were teaching people how to advertise in eSports. We met some great people doing some really cool stuff (which we will talk about a bit later) in the space but it is clear that brands are still struggling to understand eSports and gaming in general. If your most successful engagement in eSports is a tweet hashtagged #FORTNITE, are you really in a position to be giving advice? We think not.
As we were discussing the misconceptions about the eSports and gaming audience we came across a few reoccurring themes:
Brands don’t understand the relationship between eSports and gaming in general. While the LCS may be the major event, the audience is League of Legends players. What are the chances that someone watching, or attending, a League of Legends major doesn’t know what an inhibitor is? Very slim indeed. Major events certainly have their place relative to a brand’s approach but, its about the game stupid 😉
They don’t understand the technologies. For very obvious reasons the eSports and gaming space is technology rich. There are incredible APIs out there, the audience is among the most technologically savvy in the world, and gamers are connected to many of these different technologies simultaneously. There is massive opportunity to build really cool tech integrations. Most brands and agencies don’t understand what the tech is, much less how to integrate.
Discrimination. Media and agency folk in-general have always had a bit of a low opinion of gamers in general. They consider them “nerds” and they see themselves as stylish, cool, hip nuevo versions of Mad Men characters. They conjure up World-of-Warcraft-Southpark-episode-visions of a teenager sitting at a desk for untold hours, surrounded by pizza boxes and Mountain Dew bottles, refusing to take time away from his en-devours to wash himself (or herself, a little bit to demonstrate the fact that they totally disregard female gamers). While this image may have had some ring of truth in the distant past, it certainly isn’t representative now. Gamers are very well educated, they have moderate to high incomes, they have disposable incomes, they purchase luxury goods, and you aren’t going to appeal to them with nice color palettes, great fonts, or beautiful product shots alone. Gamers are the “cool kids” now, get with the program. Lifestyle brands that get the gaming and eSports audience are poised for growth.
The sum of the parts….. Strategies like promotional give-aways, discounts, social proof, trust and all of the other traditional tenants of advertising and marketing are still relevant, but they cannot stand alone in this space. Delivering value for this audience is delivering technology, functionality, interfaces, and integrations across all assets involved in an activation (copy, creative, format, etc.). Define your goals, identify tech platforms across the space that you can leverage to do something really cool and engaging, mix in what you know alread in creative ways, and create the whole that is greater than the sum.
Scale & drive reach within the category. Brands must be able to scale and reach the audience in platforms with the targeting capabilities required to drive goals, and the reporting capabilities measure performance against those goals. Team sponsorships, event sponsorships, and influencer campaigns will always have their place but technology driven engagements delivered through scalable media platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. are the real winners.
Here are a few of the organizations we met at XLIVE, we hope to do something really cool with these brands very soon:
Fabzat – Fabzat is a perfect example of a really cool technology driven brand delivering real value. Utilizing 3-D printing technology and connected APIs they allow players to print very high-end figurines of in-game avatars. They have support for a lot of really popular titles and they are rolling out new integrations all the time.
Ultimate.gg – Ultimate does a lot of awesome stuff. They have a massive eSports/gaming content studio, they host great events, and they have lifestyle clothing brand that actually gives gamers the respect they deserve.
Blinkfire – Blinkfire is an analytics tool designed for measuring sponsorships and influencer value for brands. Among other things, they have an awesome in-stream image recognition technology that is a game changer.