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Guest Column: The disruptive rise of esports: What will it mean for brands - Supratik Sen, UCypher

10-January-2018
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Guest Column: The disruptive rise of esports: What will it mean for brands - Supratik Sen, UCypher

Packed stadiums, big brand sponsorships, groups of overexcited fans, and huge prize pools. These are all descriptions of a typical World Cup, here in India. But no, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a complete new sport, a whole new bet – Esports!

Esports is exploding as a career option and is touted to be one of the fastest growing sports worldwide. While in India, it still fights the perception of not being a serious sport, we are not far behind. The Indian gaming market is estimated to be over USD 500-600 million with more than 2000 teams consistently participating in tournaments nationally and on a global scale. Today, the sport is on the shores of India desperately waiting to break in!

With the rise of esports beckons a new frontier where youth, technology and competitive spirit unite. And while the evolution of esports sees bold and burgeoning brands invest in its future, everyone has hopes of reaching the sport's demographic sweet spot: mostly males between the ages 10 to 25, who are comparatively hard to reach through traditional marketing tactics. Unlike traditional sports, this audience is comparatively young. And that’s the best part, sport teams can get a fan and customer for life. As far as players are concerned, they believe in loyalty. To them first impressions matter. So the idea is - instead of trying to sell to the gamer, learn to sell with them.

With the worldwide audience base for esports content estimated to be 258 mn people, the ROI for brands is huge! The industry looks at a base of young people who are willing to spend hour after hour online as well as at venues providing plenty of opportunities for brands to engage with them.

And to add, the costs related to the payroll are lower than in traditional sports as well, considering an esports team traditionally has fewer players. In 2017, the professional esports industry expected to generate USD 696 million. This includes media rights, merchandizing, ticket sales, advertising and sponsorship, with sponsorships contributing the largest share.

The growth of the sport is massive – so much so that it is now an exhibition sport at the 2018 Asian Games and is announced as an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in China.

This advancement has already lured some of the biggest brands in the game. For example – brands like Intel, Alienware and Dell, with smaller spends, have moved to sponsoring teams like Team Brutality – Crosshair, gigabyte and esports clothing. Brands are now seeing the potential to invest in the future of esports and this includes building their own IP, though on a ground level. In the case of Red Bull, Adidas, and Mountain Dew, they are invested heavily in esports and even sponsor many athletes around the globe already.

And not only brands but top colleges across the globe are offering scholarships to esports athletes as well. Major American Football, NBA, Soccer Teams are singing on esports teams to be a part of their sports plans. Prize monies have increased to television reality show levels.

With UCypher, India’s first multi game multi-platform esports championship, we are not far behind. UCypher boasts of a prize pool of 51 Lakhs with CS alone, picking over 20 lakhs from the pool.

While in India, right now, mostly tech brands seem to be interested in this space because of high affinity, the need of the hour is bigger sector brands from FMCG and retail to jump in and create a platform for these esports athletes to reach global standards. There lies an opportunity to own this space or even have high brand recall associated with the sport.

Once the sport is recognised by Government bodies, the credibility of this disruptive storm will go on the rise, allowing more people to want to be a part of this. Imagine if esports could rake in approx. $1 million in prize pools, without official government backing, the stage is set for this sport to grow multi-fold!
This year’s Defence of the Ancients (DOTA) 2 international prize pool is currently sitting at an approximate of USD 10.8 million. To put that into perspective, the prize money for winning the Superbowl is USD 8.5 million, while the ICC Cricket World Cup offers $US10 million and UEFA’s Europa League offers USD 9 million. The world is heavily invested in the sport.

Nearly everything happening in esports is promising, from development of new competitive titles to the passion of the esports audiences. No longer can people say video games will get you nowhere, because a professional esports player could earn a salary higher than a doctor’s. It’s one of the fastest growing industries, growing at a rate almost faster than show business.

The opportunities for marketers willing to take the plunge are obvious. But it will take brave marketers – and the correct insights – to ensure that esports continues on its upward trajectory.
All this means brands are going to open up esports in the near future. But the big question is will it be too late for them? And which of these brands are willing to punt big on the future of esports today?
Supratik Sen is CEO of U Sports and Co-founder of UCypher

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com.

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