By Josh Walfish
As esports have grown in popularity worldwide, some of the biggest international brands have dipped their toe into esports sponsorship. Marvel, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are just three of the dozens of major companies that have sponsored an esports team or tournament over the past two years as they try to connect with new audiences. Even though all three have very high brand awareness, they needed to reconnect with their audience and make themselves relevant again.
The reason why these companies chose esports is the growth potential in the industry. A data analysis from Hive in 2020 that compared brand sponsor presence and prominence across different sporting events showed that the broadcast of an esports event displayed fewer than half the number of brand sponsors than the traditional NBA broadcast. That means there is more space for brands to dominate the sponsorship and the eyeballs in esports events.
Of course, it isn’t all about the views because most of these companies are already well-known among the esports crowd. However, these sponsorships are part of them trying to provide value to the esports fanbase, which esports fans recognise far more than the traditional sports fan. A YouGov survey found that nearly three-quarters of esports fans notice whoever is sponsoring the event or their favourite team, and more than half of those fans “loved” when their favourite team had a “cool sponsor.”
Big brands’ approach to esports sponsorship
The bigger brands have had to learn on the fly when it comes to sponsoring esports entities. One chief marketing officer told a reporter that he didn’t want to add value, he wanted to receive it, but of course, that is the opposite approach to take in esports. The most successful larger companies understand that to connect with this younger esports audience, they need to add value to the space if they want to receive it.
The growth of esports since March 2020 is not lost on these major companies, who have seen their other marketing sources take a dip. Whereas traditional sports and other marketing spaces had a tough time in the early parts of the pandemic, esports began an exponential rise that companies wanted to jump on. So they did their research and made sure to make the biggest impact they could on the industry.
A 2020 report from McKinsey & Company identified the need for authenticity for the non-endemic brands joining the esports space. The most successful brands are adapting to the ever-changing flow of the industry and building expertise about esports to help them make decisions. This knowledge makes these companies more authentic to esports fans and helps build the necessary credibility and reputation for success.
Who is engaging with these sponsorships?
One of the largest sectors of growth for esports sponsorships is the esports betting platforms. Betway, an esports-focused sportsbook, partnered with Paris Saint-Germain to sponsor some of their teams. Meanwhile, 1xBet entered an exclusive partnership with ESL to become the first betting operator to hold exclusive rights to an event. 1xBet is the exclusive global betting partner of the ESL Pro Tour CS:GO and ESL One Summer and Winter Dota 2.
Those are just the most prominent examples of esports betting operators joining in the sponsorship arms race. All of these sportsbooks realise the power in being first into the scene as the popularity of esports rises, and the revenue from betting on esports begins to climb as well. The hope is that those who adapted early to the growing esports betting trend will become the premier outlets for esports fans looking to bet on their favourite video games.
It is not a coincidence that the betting operators who took the first plunge are the ones who specifically wanted to focus on esports as their main offerings. 1xBet, Betway, Parimatch and more are all trying to home in on the esports demographic and know that sponsorships are the best way to get their name out there for esports fans. It is why all of these betting operators have jumped at the chance to partner with teams – or in some cases, leagues themselves – to expose their brand to more esports fans.