LONDON: Marketers seeking to reach young consumers  turning away from television could consider eSports, which observers have told Warc is growing rapidly and is set to reach a tipping point.

A Warc Trends Snapshot, eSports – A new type of sponsorship opportunity, examines the rise of "the biggest sport you've never heard of" and looks at the implications for brands.

There are currently some 300m fans in 152 countries streaming gaming content through online platforms, while an associated industry has developed around live events, with enthusiasts coming to watch professional gamers in action just like a classic spectator sport.

According to Scott Nowers, co-founder/ceo at media agency Waypoint Media, eSports has now "reached a tipping point in terms of audience size and acceptance into the mainstream."

A sign of the momentum building was evident when Amazon last year spent almost $1bn to acquire Twitch Interactive, the owner of a leading eSports streaming site which is the fourth-biggest source of internet traffic in America.

During the next three years, Nowers predicted, this area will become more "culturally significant", with a greater number of brands which are "non-endemic" to the gaming world seeking to play a major role.

"Now is the time for brands to move on this opportunity: the cost of media will only be climbing from here," said Nowers.

He also suggested that "it's become viable to start moving dollars from TV ad-budgets to gaming-related marketing investments".

Addressing how marketers might approach this, Chris Coles, sponsorship manager at Synergy Sponsorship, advised that the fan base remained heavily tilted towards young men (average age 21) which would not appeal to all brands.

In addition, a popular view of eSports was that they are sedentary and unhealthy, despite professional gamers having strict training regimes, and he accepted that some brands would not yet be ready to tackle that perception.

For those willing to take the plunge, however, he said that commercial activations still revolved around "value-in-kind deals and basic 'badging' of a brand logo". But meaningful opportunities existed to support broadcasters, tournaments, teams and athletes.

Research shows that Millennials place an enormous value on genuine connections, so getting in on the ground level could help marketers prove their authenticity – those joining in later could be accused of trying to climb aboard a bandwagon.

Data sourced from Warc