The relationship between esports organizations and their brand partners is no longer in the honeymoon phase. In the past, non-mainstream brands viewed esports partnerships as an opportunity to establish a presence in the gaming community.
In 2022, the same brand partners are taking things a step further by requiring accurate tracking of engagement and ROI.
“Brands are getting more sophisticated and saying, ‘Here are the criteria that will get me a successful ROI on my marketing spend, and you have to prove it to me,'” said Adrian Montgomery, CEO of ‘Enthusiast Gaming, at Digiday earlier this week. . “So if you’re the company that aggregates audience data that can’t back it up, it won’t be enough for a Procter & Gamble; it won’t be enough for a Bacardi or a Coca-Cola.
The past few years have been a boon for esports companies; Teams have set successive records with the size and scope of their brand partnerships. In June 2021, TSM changed its name to TSM FTX after signing a ten-year, $210 million deal with a cryptocurrency exchange. In January of the same year, Team Liquid also signed a 10-year extension of its partnership with PC maker Alienware. With gaming gradually becoming the dominant form of entertainment, brands are turning to esports to reach this growing audience. “I think brands are finally starting to realize that the way you get Gen Z’s attention has totally changed,” said Lavell Juan, whose college esports platform Brag House has McDonald’s and Coke. -Cola among its brand partners.
Despite this increase in brand activity, precise numbers describing the returns on brand investments in esports are scarce. A recent report published jointly by Nielsen and leading esports team Fnatic attempts to outline some of the benefits for brands that partner with esports organizations. Digiday reached out to Nielsen, Fnatic and other experts to shed light on the findings and methodology behind the report.
The key details
- The report was a joint effort between Nielsen and Fnatic, but the research itself was carried out by Nielsen, who Fnatic’s Director of Partnerships George Mead described as “an independent third party.” Nielsen’s basic tracking method is based on recognizing logo placement in esports broadcasts: using an algorithm, the company assigns value to partnerships based on how long they are viewed. brand logos on screen and the percentage of screen they occupy. The report also pulled data from surveys of esports fans, though it didn’t specify the sample size. “There are a number of elements to this; I don’t know if I would say there is a specific methodology,” said Phelan Hill, chief strategy officer at Nielsen Sports. “It’s just about understanding size and scale, and comparing them.”
- The core of the report is its tracking of metrics such as viewership, specifically average concurrent viewers (the number of concurrent viewers), peak concurrent viewers, and total hours watched of events. ports. The report says last year’s League of Legends World Championships drew an average of 30.6 million concurrent viewers, more than the 9.9 million who tuned in to the 2021 NBA Finals. But while that number be promising, that’s only part of the picture. When tracking average concurrent audience, it’s important to keep in mind the denominator of the equation: available audience. While the League of Legends World Championship’s average concurrent viewership is an impressive number, no matter how you slice it, its percentage of the total available viewership was likely much lower than the NBA Finals.
- Another promising statistic is the marked increase in brand recall resulting from brand activity in the esports community. According to the report, 87% of esports fans can name at least one esports event sponsor, with Red Bull, Nike and Xbox leading the charge when it comes to brand recognition. Part of this increase is the result of increased efforts by the esports organizations behind their brand activations. “We don’t really look at partnerships without having the storytelling as part of it,” Mead said. “Brands want to be able to tell their story in a natural, authentic and meaningful way – it’s no longer about slapping jerseys or putting your logo on different assets, which was essentially the old way of thinking in traditional sports. “
Another goal of the report was to track general fan sentiment towards esports sponsors. In general, esports fans are more likely to have a positive opinion of event brand partners than traditional esports fans. “The main message for us is that the average sentiment is 55% positive around brands in this space,” Mead said.
The report indeed indicated an average positive sentiment of 55%. Fan sentiment towards brands was slightly higher in the US market and slightly lower in the UK. However, these results focus on the markets most relevant to Fnatic and its LEC fan following: the US, France, Germany and the UK. 85% of the global esports audience is not included in these markets, and almost a third of the total audience is in China. That doesn’t mean the numbers are necessarily so far off, globally: China is teeming with esports companies, and so brand recall and sentiment in that market is likely to be equally high there. low.
Make calculations, socially
Esports teams are able to leverage their extensive social networks to support their sponsors – an advantage the report highlights by listing Fnatic’s social network total at 7.6 million. This figure only includes official brand accounts, not social accounts of Fnatic team members. “When you do that, people move around a lot and there’s this fluctuation,” Hill said.
Indeed, the combined number of followers of esports organizations may see significant drops after losing high-profile influencers. But it’s the combined number that matters most for measuring brand exposure, and one that esports organizations often use to pitch their social reach to potential partners. Fnatic’s official brand accounts have 7.92 million subscribers, according to gaming and esports data platform GEEIQ – but its total social reach is 33 million, including its player accounts. In this case, the report is arguably underestimating an important aspect of the potential ROI value of esports teams. “The way we see it, the full ecosystem is what’s really engaging and powerful, not just the official channels,” Mead said.
Many fish in the sea
The report focuses on the growing ROI of brands partnering with esports teams, but partnering with organizations is just one way for brands to get involved in the esports community. All major esports leagues also have brand partners; brands such as BMW and Ford have had success sponsoring events in smaller esports such as Rocket League. While sponsorships from esports organizations can be a powerful asset, brands with deeper pockets can sign league-level partnerships to reach a relatively large fan base.