Sponsorships in the esports space continue to evolve as major companies seek to maximize the ROI for their marketing investments. While slapping a logo on a team jersey or livestreaming overlay is easy, it may not give sponsors the maximum awareness and engagement that they are seeking for their brand. Content collaboration with teams and influencers has become commonplace, but some brands have taken matters into their own hands by hosting their own esports events.
In Brazil, for example, Ambev (part of Anheuser-Busch InBev), has partnered with digital bank Nubank to launch a new esports circuit called Good Game WP. Ambev even launched a new division to help oversee the events and to seek additional esports partnerships. Whiskey brand Crown Royal and Colombia Records have also launched a series of NBA2K events in partnership with NBA2K teams Hawks Talon and Detroit Pistons GT. In late July, Toyota also put on a 10-day virtual racing competition in partnership with esports org Gen.G.
These recent brand-led events follow similar efforts from Chipotle, which has held its own Chipotle Challenger Series in consecutive years, and Budweiser, which has held its own “Battle of the Best” tournament featuring some of Twitch’s top streamers. Ultimately, by hosting esports events, brands are paying for exclusive and total control over how and where their brand is displayed – it’s their show and they don’t have to share the spotlight with any other sponsors that may have outbid them for better positioning.
For some brands, this approach cuts out the middleman and fosters a more direct-to-consumer relationship, but in many deals, teams are still necessary. Teams with the most popular content creators are likely to attract sponsors for brand-led events. Tournament organizers and agencies with broadcasting expertise are also going to be in high demand as brands are not likely to hire for these skills and will outsource to meet their esports needs.
Brands have a real opportunity to broaden their reach through esports, as Interpret’s Esports Replay™ shows that year-over-year the percent of the US population watching esports has risen from 13% to 15% from early 2020 to early 2021, despite all the challenges posed by a global pandemic.