The importance of esports to traditional sporting brands

Expanding commercial capabilities, all sports clubs and organisations have been forced to optimise brand dynamics, seeking to create stronger bonds with fanbases, audiences and communities. 

Competing for high-value contracts, sports clubs have to prove its value to marketing partners who will assess all elements related to coverage, exposure and ROI in order to gain the most out of a deal. 

Moreover, in recent years a burgeoning esports scene has entered the world of sports sponsorships. Though clubs may see esports as a bridge to new audiences, how should brands approach this blossoming yet unpredictable sector?

Alex Beazley-Long, the Creative Strategist at Imagination, an organisation which specialises in brand experiences, spoke to Insider Sport to discuss why brands should engage with esports and the potential crossover between firms which partner with traditional sports.

Beazley-long stated: “Esports is an opportunity for brands to get involved early with a sector that is going to grow exponentially over the next couple of years. Business Insider reports the esports ecosystem is on track to surpass $1 billion in revenue for the first time this year and most project it to hit $1.8 billion by 2022. Time is running out to be an authentic partner as opposed to jumping on the bandwagon.

“Whilst sports and esports differ in fundamental ways, a unifying factor is the level of emotional intensity on display. Whilst brands need to know when to step aside and let the contest play out, being there with fans for the highs and lows can create lifelong advocacy. Also, this is no longer a niche industry: with an estimated audience of 450 million that is growing by the day as outlined in Newzoo’s 2019 global esports market report.”

Traditional sports, particularly in football, feature multi-layered brand activations which can vary from typical shirt sponsorships to companies actively using a sporting organisation in order to enhance its identity. As brand activation evolves, the sectors being integrated will also broaden hence why more brands have identified esports as a potential entity to promote products to a younger generation.

A prime example is BMW, a firm with strong ties with golf’s PGA European Tour, which recently announced a global partnership with five of League of Legends organisations in an attempt to modernise the company’s image to the game’s audience.

Beazley-long continued: “As we have seen in the sports industry, sponsorship has moved beyond simply writing a cheque in return for naming rights. Visa has used its association with FIFA to commit to an equal investment in men’s and women’s football at a grassroots level, whilst Red Bull now own and operate several sports teams and league. Brands should be thinking about partnering with esport teams, talent and broadcasters that…

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