by Larissa Faw
There's a widespread misperception that the eSports genre is only popular among college kids or teens living in their mother's basements, but the reality is a more wide-ranging and diverse community that provides opportunity for advertisers to reach working professionals with substantial buying power.
That’s according to new research from Mindshare North America which shows that 43% of eSports enthusiasts have an annual household income (HHI) of $75,000 per year or higher—and nearly one third (31%) have an HHI of $90,000 or higher. Plus, 58% of these fans are over 25 with kids in their households.
“There is a huge opportunity for marketers right now in eSports,” says Joshua Spiegelman, managing director, Mindshare Spotlight, the dedicated sports and entertainment partnerships unit of Mindshare NA. “This passion point has an audience of incredibly engaged fans, many of which - for millennials and gen Z in particular - can be challenging to reach through traditional media channels.”
There are several ways advertisers can reach these fans by improving the gaming experience. More than four in 10 respondents (42%) would like brands to give away free stuff, such as tournament tickets, computer hardware, or t-shirts; 41% would like brands and advertisers to demo new games and maps; 34% would like them to provide customized in-game experiences/items, and 32% want brands to provide access to exclusive tips and tricks on gameplay from eSports athletes.
"Given eSports is still in its infancy relative to more established “stick and ball” sports, there’s a lower cost of entry to engage in meaningful partnerships, collaborate with talent to create contextually relevant campaigns, and dominate share of voice," says Spiegelman.
Still, although everyone loves free stuff, Mindshare recommends other tactics to connect with fans. Three in 10 respondents say they would like brands to help them meet their favorite teams or athletes.
Per the report: "eSports fans see the players and teams as celebrities. Brands can align themselves with these stars, much as they do with other influencers online and on television. And they can enhance the gaming experience by giving fans an opportunity to meet these players or see them live, especially since eSports enthusiasts are willing to travel.”
Six in 10 of eSports fans are willing to travel to see their favorite games, tournaments, and players. While both genders spend time watching eSports alone, Mindshare finds women fans are more likely to watch streamed games with family or friends physically in the room; men, by comparison, watch with friends online. "Since a number of fans are willing to pay to avoid ads in eSports, larger-scale sponsorships that provide brands the ability to integrate within an event also present an opportunity for borrowed equity," states the report. "It doesn’t mean that brands shouldn’t invest in 30-second spots, but rather that it should be part of a larger, organic strategy that feels authentic to the game."
“Forget the stereotypes—your typical eSports fan isn’t just someone playing World of Warcraft in his mother’s basement,” says Mark Potts, head of insights, Mindshare NA. “The eSports community is varied and evolving, ranging across audiences of working professionals, parents, and more. It’s important for marketers to understand the nuances and differences in fans based on different eSports games, platforms, and experiences.”
Mindshare NA surveyed 497 eSports fans (ages 18 and up) nationwide in April 2016 through its survey platform The Pool. This research follows the agency’s 2016 Culture Vulture Trends report released in January that identified the "Rise of eSports" as a critical trend for brands and marketers.