Esports in CWG: Are brands ready for the next level?

Industry players say the Commonwealth Esports Championships is a great opportunity for marketers and advertisers due to the scale and reach of the event

e4m by Shantanu David
Published: Jul 28, 2022 8:38 AM  | 6 min read
Esports

The world of gaming is all geared up for the inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships set to take place in Birmingham on August 6 and 7. It will happen in tandem with this summer's Games, but sport separate branding, medals and associations. That being said, esports is being widely expected to become part of the main line-up by the 2026 event.

We spoke to industry players and experts on what this means for the universe of gaming in terms of scale and reach.  

Shrenik Gandhi, Co-founder and CEO, White Rivers Media, observes that in India, esports is considered entertainment rather than a sport, and so its introduction in CWG is bound to change the perception. “Once it is officially recognized as a sport, esports athletes, organisers and other involved parties will have to pay 20% sports tax instead of the current 35% entertainment tax - that itself is a huge boost to esports in India.”

According to Gandhi, with dedicated medals and branding the esports championship will be a tremendous step forward in bringing esports into the limelight. The featured games, eFootball, Rocket League and DOTA 2, are already popular among the youth and bespeak the potential of esports in India, he added.

Krutin Shah, Co-founder and COO, Phyvital Inc, points out that this year CWG eSports is expected to get over 500 million views, which makes it an important eSports event in terms of building global visibility. “Indian teams participating can expect to build fan followings and recognition across the globe. This will raise the profile of teams and players,” he says, adding, “If you consider the scale in terms of views and eyeballs for the event, it’s at par with some of the largest global events. So, it’s a great opportunity for marketers and advertisers.”

Agreeing with this, Sidharth Singh, Co-Founder, CupShup, says India is perfectly poised to make the best use of the seismic shift in perception that esports is undergoing. “With close to 700 million smartphone users, cheap data services and high-speed internet connectivity, and the interest of Indians spilling over to sports other than cricket are all good signs for the gaming and esports industry.”

Singh goes on to say that despite a relatively younger demographic and tech-savvy population, India contributes only 1% to the ecosystem, much lower as compared to the US and China. “With awareness of global sporting events like Olympics and CWG transcending metro cities and going to Tier 2 and 3 cities, it can give a big fillip to the industry.”

All of this is great news for the increasing number of esports athletes in India, as well as the ecosystems they play in, as increased interest and acceptability of esports and gaming as legitimate careers as well as entertainment media is drawing in brands and advertisers, both endemic and non-endemic.

Shivam Rao, Co-Founder, Trinity Gaming India, a gaming content and marketing company, believes that while there is enough space in the endemic market for esports, it being part of the Commonwealth Games line-up will attract a lot of non-endemic advertisers as well.

"There has been the rise in prominence of so-called non-endemic brands amongst sponsors and advertisers over the last couple of years and CWG will accelerate this more. You don’t have to be an endemic sports brand to show up in sports, and esports is such an essential part and even more after CWG, that gaming in the next coming years will be a place you build reach," he points out.

Anurag Khurana, Founder and CEO, Penta Esports says, “While this is a pilot event, the event is still likely to bring attention to the Indian esports athletes at the event as they would be representing the country for the esports titles as will other athletes be for other sports.”

“The esports and gaming sector is scheduled to hit Rs 11 billion by 2025, and much of this will be derived from Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets. Nor the growth will be solely driven by the tech-savvy young generation,” says Singh adding that the gaming industry is serious about bringing the elder generation into their fold, and are hence roping in known faces from yesteryears like Raza Murad and Annu Kapoor. These players are also promoting themselves in vernacular content, which makes it appealing to the endemic markets.

“With the performance of India as a country getting better with each passing Olympic event, CWG will be the next frontier for Indians to garner interest and esports will definitely try to capitalise on it,” adds Singh.

“We, at Phyvital, are working on something for eSports during this period. More details will only be announced just before the event but we are excited to showcase our work during the time period as well,” asserts Shah, adding, “We expect any athlete competing and performing during these games will be able to get exposure like none before, and will open up many more doors for endorsements and a showcase for the future.”

According to Gandhi, “The athletes are extremely excited as they get to compete and be recognized at such an illustrious event. It will also give them much-needed exposure and pave the way towards building an ecosystem that supports the development of esports in India.”

This desire to go mainstream is not just limited to esports, as all manner of gaming companies, from fantasy to esports to Real Money Games like poker, are pushing forward the messaging that gaming and online play are ubiquitous in life today.

Siddharth Kothari, Brand Head, Adda52.com, says the platform will continue with their series of campaigns, around the idea that anyone can become a skilled poker player.

“Everyone plays games on their phones, and the person next to you could be a professional gamer or esports athlete or poker champ. There is no fixed demographic of gamers. While the younger players make up the majority, there are also plenty of older players of some games or the other. Gaming and esports are part of everyday life now,” notes Kothari.

Gandhi affirms this: “You snooze, you lose! The growth and potential of esports are massive and the sooner you get involved, the better. The introduction of esports, first in the Asian Games and now in the Commonwealth Games marks its momentous start in competitive sports at a global level.”

 

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