There are many similarities with traditional sports when it comes to sponsoring e-sports but marketers also need to understand the significant differences in this fast-growing market, an industry figure advises.

E-sports revenues are already at $900m in the US and are predicted to reach $1.65 billion globally in the next couple of years, with 85% of that coming directly from brand investment.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, Pay to play: The e-sports opportunity for sponsors, Sam Grimley of media valuation business GumGum Sports, explains that brands don’t have to toss out their sports sponsorship playbook completely when it comes to e-sports, but they do need to be aware of the sector’s unique attributes and to build out plans in accordance with these.

The inventory available in e-sports, for example, is limited in the same way as traditional sports, with signage on jerseys similar to that in football or rugby. But when players are streaming on Twitch, the platform can also provide branded overlays for partners, unlike the in-venue signage available in regular sports.

And since e-sports is essentially “always on”, sponsors have the opportunity to drive value all year round.

Just as the traditional sports audience can be broken down into fans of individual sports – football, cricket, basketball etc, with some overlap between them – so too marketers can break down the e-sports audience into fans of League of Legends, Counter Strike, Hearthstone and so on.

But all of these e-sports audiences tend to be younger, digitally native and truly global. They also show greater brand loyalty and consideration of sponsors who are supporting the teams, events and industry.

In part that may be because they are less exposed to traditional advertising, being more likely to be “cord-cutters” or “cord-nevers”; they also make greater use of ad blockers.

That makes it more important than ever that brands avoid being tone-deaf and ensure they speak to the particular audiences in the right way.

“Data can be used effectively to ensure demographic profiles and overall audiences align with the brand’s strategy,” Grimley advises.

“Likewise, using technology such as computer vision, brands are able to accurately quantify previously unmeasured sponsor media value across all television, streaming and social media in order to inform decision-making at all stages in the sports partnership cycle.”

Sourced from WARC