By Antonio Margaritelli, Beer Khamtonwong, Jonathan Smetherham, Ryan Borja, 2CV

Image by Ella Don (Unsplash)

eSports is a growing global industry, with 40 million-strong audiences in Southeast Asia alone. This is a significant opportunity for brands to capitalise upon, but many marketers are unsure how to do so. 2CV’s global segmentation of eSports fans will help you take the first steps towards reaching this valuable audience.

What is eSports?

eSports is competitive video gaming that often includes a spectator element. The biggest genres are shooters (e.g. Halo, Call of Duty, Fortnite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive), massive online battle arenas (e.g. League of Legends and Dota 2) and sports simulation games (e.g. FIFA eClub World Cup, F1 eSports series, iRacing, NBA 2K). 

eSports is similar to real-world sports: games are played in front of fans in stadiums and watched online by millions, with post-game analysis, highlights, and storylines.

The rise and size of eSports

Between 2020 and 2022, the number of global eSports viewers rose by 22%, reaching 532 million (from 436 million), while revenue climbed by 39%, reaching $1.4 billion (from $1 billion). The League of Legends Championship now attracts more viewers than the Super Bowl! 

Asia has always been an eSports hub

Millions of Southeast Asians regularly watch eSports tournaments, and the region is home to the world’s fastest-growing audiences. While South Korea has been regarded as the global eSports capital for many years, with players and teams who are household names jostling for glory in popular events, eSports is now firmly established across the region. 

According to Newzoo, the eSports industry in Southeast Asia is poised to increase from $39.2 million in 2021 to $72.5 million in 2024, with more than 40 million people across six Southeast Asian countries regularly watching eSports. Indonesia alone has 17 million viewers. 

Four main factors are fuelling the growth in Southeast Asia: 1) the affordability of smartphones and mobile gaming culture, 2) younger populations and women’s increasing participation in eSports, 3) the popularity of established and new games, and 4) increased focused on eSports by brands, including partnerships with eSports influencers and merchandise. 

The marketer’s dilemma

Since 2019, 2CV has partnered with the World Federation of Advertising to forecast industry trends and identify skills that marketers will need in the future by speaking to senior marketers from some of the biggest global brands.

Our data show that while 86% are interested in investing in eSports, only 45% are actively doing so. 

We have discovered that marketers increasingly understand how eSports can give their brands a competitive edge, but many are hesitant about allocating marketing budget to eSports because they don’t know how to do so..

2CV’s solution

Audience understanding is crucial for successful marketing ROI.

To get to the heart of why people love games, we have spent the last 20 years developing a unique segmentation that categorises gamers based on the emotional needs that gaming fulfils, rather than on behavioural measures like hours played or money spent. This has been successfully used to develop some of the world’s biggest titles, as well as niche and independent ones.

Recently we noticed a growing demand among non-gaming clients to understand eSports audiences. Therefore, we developed a first-of-its-kind, global segmentation of eSports fans, covering 6,600 respondents from the US, the UK, Germany, China, South Korea, and India.

We identified five primary motivations for engaging with eSports:

1. Competition: Born winners battling to be the best. They see glory in topping leader boards, achieving high scores, and beating others through skilful gaming.

2. Thrill-seeking: Those who get a kick out of energy and chaos. Their competitive spirit brings out a mischievous edge as they want to dominate, no matter the cost.

3. Belonging: Sharing something with friends is key. Bragging rights, social currency, and shared experiences are most important.

4. Progression: Studious fans who improve their own games by analysing others’. Highly engaged through strategy and game completion. 

5. Escapism: The smallest segment, but gaming and eSports are central to their identity as they lose themselves in the game worlds and live vicariously through the pros.

How can brands get involved?

eSports is here to stay and it offers brands a unique opportunity to engage with a young and passionate audience. The simplest way for brands to engage with eSports fans is to follow the example of traditional sports marketing:

• Advertising (e.g. digital ads on eSports-related sites, in-game ads, adverts during game breaks or overlaid during broadcasts)

• Sponsorships and brand partnerships (e.g. partnerships with specific leagues, competitions, players, or teams, or branded equipment deals like mousepads and headphones)

The eSports community is generally open to both forms of marketing, but it’s essential that the brand speaks the community’s language and holds their values, otherwise there’s a substantial risk that eSports fans won’t look on the brand and its products favourably, and will ignore or reject them. The golden rule for any brand entering eSports via sponsorship is: don’t do anything you haven’t always done.

To avoid a misstep and ensure your brand strikes the right note, understanding your audience is key, and this is exactly what our solution provides.

This article was first published in the Q2 2023 edition of Asia Research Media

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