Innovation & Insights: Esports Landscape
Esports & the Importance of Streaming Platforms for Brands
Esports is competition in a video game format. But it’s also much more than that. It’s live streaming, live events, online tournaments, and professional leagues. Most importantly, esports is the next big sponsorship opportunity for your brand. At the heart of this web of burgeoning opportunities is the medium that is making it all possible: the streaming platform.
Simply put, streaming platforms are the next level of entertainment engagement in broadcast media. Plain and simple.
For the first time ever, broadcasters and advertisers have the ability to create a measurable, one-on-one connection with the viewing audience. In this exciting new space, three platforms have emerged at the top of the food chain in north America. Though each gives streamers and viewers the opportunity to interact, each is subtly different in its offerings, integrations, & user metrics to date.
- Twitch: Amazon-owned Twitch is the most successful platform in viewership and active users.
o Unique Feature: Publishers and esports organizers have the strongest visibility into the life and health of a game title or streaming genre due to its developed audience
- Mixer: Microsoft’s acquired platform Mixer has been tremendously successful in creating an active user base rivaling Twitch’s due to its accessibility and ease of use.
o Unique Feature: Mixer gained its high user base by being built into many windows products for ease of access on PC and Console
- YouTube Gaming: Although currently at a lower user base than Twitch & Mixer, this Google-owned brand has been one of the most successful online video distributors and leverages that brand and familiarity to attract impressive viewership numbers.
o Unique Feature: Equipped with Google analytics, YouTube Gaming provides advertisers with familiar analytics and reporting
As time goes on, many streamers and esports leagues are beginning to claim the advertising budgets of traditional media and sports. It’s a move that makes sense in light of the fact that aggregate esports viewership has already eclipsed most of the world’s largest professional sporting events. The traditional sports and media properties are even beginning to migrate to these platforms in the hopes of capturing a slice of this new audience. The NFL has begun distributing Thursday Night Football on Twitch, the LAFC has started media rights distribution with YouTubeTV, and the NBA is distributing its minor league games on Twitch with fan interactive features. The list goes on.
So, what does it all mean? The earlier a brand gets into the space and on board with these platforms, the better chance it will have of growing its footprint and driving audience engagement. As esports and streaming platforms continue to emerge, early-adopter brands will be best-positioned for future growth. What does “early adoption” or “entering the space” actually mean? As it turns out, there are some key elements for brands and businesses entering the space that will drive long term engagement with a tech savvy, young educated marketplace of fans.
Authentic Engagement & The New Relationship Between Audience & Entertainment
Yes, entering authentically in any space is important, but everyone seems to follow that guideline with no context around what it means or how to carry it out. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is the following point: streaming platforms provide a one-to-one relationship between audience & personalities, competitions and content. This connection engenders a hyper-aware audience that, ultimately, makes the individual viewer more invested in their experience. As a result, the line between “creator” and “viewer” is blurred in a way that is not possible in traditional media: viewers can influence the live conversation of the broadcast, elicit emotion from the streamer, contribute content to the stream, etc. This hyper-engaged audience can spell danger or upside for a brand, making it all the more important to understand how it all works and who specifically is watching.
· What’s the difference between audiences of different game titles and genres?
o Does your audience skew younger or older? What’s your target demographic? What kind of messaging achieves the best response for this group?
o Does your brand value an audience around emerging titles like Overwatch or traditional titles like CS:GO?
o What other titles or events does your target audience engage with?
o Are their elements of the titles, events, streamers that your audience follows that can be leveraged in your brand’s entry strategy?
· Should you be focusing your budget on sponsoring Streamers or taking a team or league approach?
o Does it make sense for your brand to sponsor a tournament? Create a competition? Foster an up-and-coming community or title?
o Which streaming platform and/or social media channel should your brand focus on?
o Sponsoring streamers can be one of the best ways to earn adoption and positive conversation around your brand, but often are harder to gain concise reporting and ROI
o Leagues provide a platform for long term growth and publisher or league organizer (ELEAGUE, ESL, etc.) provide legitimacy, but might not create as strong a bond as activating with a streamer would
Data is King … Its New, It’s Kind of Confusing, but It Is Imperative to Understand
Many of the questions laid out above are old ones and all of them address areas of understanding that marketers have sought for decades. What makes them hyper-relevant today is the existence of data that can actually answer them. Accordingly, understanding data in the streaming landscape, though tricky, is pivotal to the success of a brand’s sponsorship strategy. Data not only informs the strategy, it also measures the success of its implementation.
Twitch is 2nd only to Netflix in average time watched per user, so understanding the importance of concurrent viewership, hours watched is extremely important. Additionally, there is tremendous value in understanding the chat topics, context/meaning behind number & emotes that inform you how your brand was received, segmented to any desirable level of detail. Analytics providers like Stream Hatchet have been leading the way in defining those emotes and chat voice to understand brand safety, conversation context, and sponsorship value.
These platforms also give you the ability to look at the success of game titles, tournaments and leagues broadcasting on Twitch, Mixer, YouTube Gaming etc. From launch to the current day, it’s important to look at the journey through which any game title or tournament series progresses. Peaks and valleys in viewership can help brands predict success and engagement in the future.
Esports is here and it’s not going away. Streaming platforms are the essential medium behind esports’ rapid audience growth as fans and viewers engage with content and creators in previously impossible ways. Figuring out how to grow your brand presence in this exciting new space is the next big thing for your brand.