Esports in Australia – a marketers perspective

Esports in Australia – a marketers perspective

What is Esports? What’s all the hype about and what opportunities does this industry bring to the Australian economy?

Last week I was invited to attend the Ashton Media inaugural Esports Conference, held at ICC Darling Harbour. I must admit I was a little skeptical at first. Isn’t Esports, just kids playing video games? However, after listening to a great line up of speakers, I was surprised by the size and dramatic growth of this industry. I was fascinated by the synergies with traditional sport and excited by the marketing opportunities to target and reach a millennial audience.

Growing in popularity

By 2017, the Esports industry attracted a global audience of 192 million. This represents 106 countries playing competitive video games. Global revenue is expected to hit USD $1 Billion by 2019 and whilst this industry is well established in Korea and the US, Australia is about six years behind Korea and three behind the US. You only need to look at these countries to see where this industry is heading.

Australian market

Our Australian audience has now been estimated at 1.5 million with 74% aged between 18 -35 years old (33% women: 67% men). They are millennials, tech savvy and highly active on social media. They are switching off the TV (61% vs 17% public) and are increasingly using Ad-blockers (72% vs 20% public) – making them a difficult demographic to reach. They consume media when they want and like to control their own media experiences.

Esports has been compared to motorsports. A player sits in the driving seat, competing against other players on a playing field. The field is the game – and there are lots of games to compete in, including strategy, fighting and traditional sports. Popular games are League of Legends, StarCraft, Street Fighter, Fifa18, Over Watch and Counter Strike. Playing requires skill and those at the elite level are not what you expect. They wear team uniforms, they are fit, healthy and attract a following.

This year the Intel Extreme Masters competition was held at Qudos Bank Stadium, Sydney attracting a live audience of 18,000 with prize money of $260,000. The event was broadcast online in 20 languages, reaching over 13.5 million viewers (up +75% Year on Year) resulting in more than 8.4 million hours of content being watched by viewers, an increase of 232% YoY. Smaller grassroot competitions are held locally and broadcast on Twitch TV. This year an Australia-wide League of Legends high school tournament has also been launched, where schools compete against each.

Looking ahead

In the US the Overwatch League Grand Finals have sold out New York’s 20,000 seat Barclays Centre with USD $1.4 million prize pool up for grabs. Not only are arena’s being filled out, new purpose-built facilities are being built and broadcast rights are being competed for. Esports will be included as a demonstration event at the Asian Games and as a full medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in China. The IOC and Global Association of International Sports Federations recently met in Switzerland to discuss its possible inclusion in the Olympics.

Overseas players can earn seven figure salaries and their teams recruit team chefs, coaches, psychologists and dietitians. Since 2013, the US State Department has recognised League of Legends as a sport, meaning competitors can enter the country on the same visas as other athletes.

An opportunity to engage with millennials

Esports has captured the attention of some big companies, including Telstra who has recently invested in an American Esports team. According to Telstra’s Executive Director Network and Infrastructure Engineering Channa Seneviratne “Esports is the fastest growing spectator sport in the world.” Telstra, Intel and Ericsson have partnered together to bring an unrivalled gaming experience with 5G technology. “5G has the potential to change the way we live and work, and today’s 5G gaming demonstration shows it will unleash a host of new opportunities” said My Seneviratne.

Traditional sporting organisations are seeing esports as an opportunity to reach a new audience – increase fans, sponsors and ultimately make more money. The Adelaide Crows Football team have made sporting history by becoming the first mainstream sports organisation in Australia to buy a professional esports team ‘Legacy’ to play in the game of ‘League of Legends’. Using its high-performance environment, expertise in traditional sporting and leveraging their resources, they have created a professional Esports environment which has expanded their reach to a younger demographic and created a new audience for the club.

Companies looking to capitalise on the growth of Esports need to carefully think through their strategy. A thorough understanding of the industry, the games and diverse and passionate players is needed. Be authentic in your approach and don’t go for the hard sell. Find a way to support players and fans, adding value to their experience, and they will reciprocate.

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