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Who are esports bettors and how can betting operators connect with them?

| By iGB Editorial Team
The unique culture of esports offers new marketing possibilities for betting operators open to innovation. But first they need to get a handle on the vertical’s demographic…

By Kenneth Wiliams

Overview of who esports bettors are

Betting operators are already familiar with esports’ logistical hurdles. Odds, integrity and rapid change are slowly being solved, but marketing still poses many challenges. Gamers are a new audience that still hasn’t been clearly defined. Their response to gambling advertisements varies. 

Appealing to esports fans can also be risky. They’re extremely fickle, and any efforts that seem detached or misinformed can harm your brand’s perception. The attitudes of potential esports bettors can vary greatly from region to region and even from game to game. Identifying your market is the first major step towards a successful esports marketing campaign.

There are two perspectives to take when identifying esports: their statistical demographic and their cultural traits. Factors including average age and regularity of wagering can impact a company’s marketing efforts – or even whether they want to pursue esports at all.

What’s the difference between esports bettors and sports bettors?

Esports fans exhibit different gambling habits from their traditional counterparts. Esports bettors tend to wager very frequently and are likely to be personally involved in their favourite competitive title. 

A white paper published by International Gambling Studies revealed some interesting stats pulled from more than 3,500 British esports bettors.

  • 21 years old: The average age of an esports bettor is considerably younger than the average demographic.
  • 58-42 male/female split: This is a much more even split when compared with standard betting. Women are more likely to play video games than ever before.
  • 39% are regular gamblers: Almost two-fifths of esports gamblers place multiple bets every week.
  • 3.1 impulsivity score: Esports bettors scored a whole point higher than the norm on a test measuring impulsiveness.

Some of these traits buck expectations. The gender split of traditional sports betting was thought to be exacerbated by the lack of female esports circuits, but women make up a substantial segment of esports gamblers. The relative youth of esports fans can also affect campaign plans. They consume very different kinds of media and are much more open to new technology. Esports fans expect advanced services such as live betting and cryptocurrency support.

Another significant difference between esports and traditional sports bettors is their involvement with the actual game. The same report noted that more than half of esports bettors play their game of choice multiple times a week. NFL fans might toss around the pigskin at family gatherings, but they very rarely assemble 22 people in a line-painted field to tackle each other. Even if they do, they don’t hop into a Discord server with friends to watch their replays.

Other sports like basketball, golf and tennis are more practical, but they’ll never match the accessibility of a computer game that finds an equally skilled opponent in less than a minute. This opens up interesting marketing opportunities to be discussed later, but know that most hardcore CS:GO bettors are hardcore CS:GO players. 

Esports and gambling addiction

More than half of IGS’ responders were regular gamblers. Their relative youth, combined with their impulsivity, raises valid concerns regarding their stability and healthy gambling habits. More than half (53%) of those surveyed reported habits that would place them above an eight on the Problem Gambling Severity Index, making them quantifiably addicted to betting. 

Betting operators cannot ignore the potential for serious gambling problems with esports. Many sites already offer dependency resources for their clients, a trend that should continue with pro gaming.

How can betting operators connect with esports bettors to drive revenue?

Connecting with the people described above may seem daunting, but betting operators have found great success through innovative marketing techniques. A common thread through successful campaigns is the betting operator’s willingness to leave their comfort zone. Esports are exciting and strange, so companies must make strides to meet fans halfway. If your esports ad doesn’t immediately capture fans’ attention, they won’t hesitate to tune out.

The Esports Integrity Commission estimates that 42-44% of esports betting is on Counter-Strike, making it the most important market to appeal to. Betway’s Aim Challenge maps for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have drawn a lot of attention from esports fans and diligent CS:GO aspirants. They’re a series of in-game playable Counter-Strike maps that resemble a military training course, complete with a stopwatch. After showcasing the maps with pro players at major tournaments, Betway released it for the average player to enjoy.

Famous players and content creators like TenZ and Stewie2k immediately got to work showing off the map and setting a record time. Aim Challenge 2.0 went on to receive several industry awards and more than 500,000 downloads. The clear in-game Betway branding has pulled prospective gamblers towards the site. Branded custom maps in Counter-Strike are one option, but an easier option would be sponsored training games like KovaaK and Dota Polygon or agreements with online stat-trackers like OP.gg.

A less-involved method would be to convert the existing affiliate infrastructure towards esports. Affiliate links are a proven method of performance-based marketing, and the decentralised nature of esports makes it particularly open to the system. Dedicated affiliate websites have value, but working directly with content creators or esports teams is also an option. Independent figures across YouTube and Twitter are generally open to most sponsorships. 

Educational content like Beastcoast’s YouTube guides are an ideal point of entry for esports affiliate marketing. These videos provide both entertainment to casual viewers and valuable strategies for most involved gamers. These efforts could even be tailored depending on your sportsbook; if you don’t offer lines for the game being featured, coordinate with the creator, so only the most relevant content features your company. From the viewers’ perspective, your betting site is both supporting their favourite creator and providing them with valuable entertainment. They’re much more likely to connect with sponsored content they already like than a rotating link in the corner of a Twitch stream.

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