Beer buddies: Esports’ growing relationship with alcohol brands

As the esports industry continues to mature, it makes sense that leading brands behind products like alcohol would take a closer look at the esports audience. While the esports demographic does skew younger than traditional sports fans (typically in their 40s and 50s, depending on the sport), Interpret data finds that the average age of an esports viewer in the US is 33 years old, shattering the perception that esports is just for tweens and 20-somethings.

Activision Blizzard recognized this opportunity last year, changing its rules for both Overwatch League and Call of Duty League to allow teams to accept sponsorship from both alcohol and betting companies. Bud Light has also sponsored the entire Overwatch League in the past, and we’ve seen parent firm Anheuser-Busch (which also produces Budweiser and Stella) also sponsor esports orgs like Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid, Toronto Ultra, and more. In 2020, Bud Light became the official beer of Riot’s League of Legends Championship Series, and more recently, its new brand, Bud Light Next, became a sponsor for EVO 2022. The beer brand even launched its own esports-focused channel on Twitch in 2020, noting that “gaming is where culture is being set.”

The growing connection between esports and alcohol is not unique to the US or to Bud Light. As Esports Insider points out, in Brazil, numerous esports events have seen participation from brands like Heineken, Ballantine’s, and Johnnie Walker. Last year, tournament operator ESL signed a three-year deal with German beer Warsteiner for its esports events in the country. Meanwhile, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company signed its first esports team last year, aligning its Voodoo Ranger beer brand with Dignitas.

Alcohol brands have long been some of the biggest sponsors of traditional sports. Until recently, Anheuser-Busch was the exclusive beer sponsor for the NFL, but many of the leading brands are recognizing the opportunity to reach younger consumers through gaming and esports. It also helps that numerous sports athletes have participated or invested in esports themselves.

The synergy between alcohol brands and esports is quite strong, according to data from Interpret’s New Media Measure®. Whereas 86% of the general population in the US reports purchasing any kind of alcohol on a weekly basis, that figure jumps up to 95% among esports viewers, which is even higher than traditional sports league followers. That said, it’s worth keeping in mind that the overall pool of consumers watching sports still remains far higher than those watching esports, but that gap should get smaller in the coming years.