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Esports Love Brands, but Do Brands Love Them Back?

For the brand selling peanut butter or mattresses or all-in-one vacation packages-anything that doesn’t have a natural tie-in to esports-is there a way to get involved in esports brand marketing?

Don’t worry about it and join the party, say esports leagues. You’ll be warmly welcomed.


Wendy Lecot of HyperX and Rishi Chadha of Twitter

The inaugural Esports Activate conference took place in New York City today, with experts discussing the growth of online gaming, focusing on topics like women in gaming and the use of data. One session called ” Exploring the Esports Brand, Media, and Sponsorship Model” looked at how advertisers can get involved.

The good news is that getting started is a lot easier than it used to be. According to Rishi Chadha, head of gaming content partnerships for Twitter, the esports world used to be a lot more fragmented, so getting involved was daunting for brands. They had to decide what genre of gaming they wanted to support and what events. It’s important for buyers to be educated on esports offerings, and “we’re starting to see that happen now,” he said.

That fragmented experience is starting to coalesce into more standard tournaments with a beginning, middle, and end,” added Josh Cella, head of global partnerships at MLG, a division of Activation Blizzard, and that helps brands understand the ecosystem. His company and those like it are creating an end-to-end value chain that makes esports look more like traditional sports and helps brands understand their worth.

But while brands can now understand the value of esports advertising, many are uncertain if there’s a place for their product. For many it’s a question of authenticity and whether or not their product has an authentic fit in the esports world. Cella says brands shouldn’t worry: Many brands involved now aren’t all about gaming, and they get a welcome embrace by fans.

“There’s been nothing but an extremely positive reaction from the fan bases,” Cella says. “They just want to see brands supporting this passion point of theirs.”

One way for brands to get over their fears is by focusing on supporting a league’s message. Rather than stepping in with their own message, brands should support a message that’s already there. It’s a sure way to get welcomed by the fans, Chadha said.

Confronting one big obstacle for brands, the panel looked at the problem of ad blockers. While blocker use is high overall, it’s much higher in the young and tech-savvy esports audience.

“It’s a real factor,” Cella agreed. His company advises brands to take advantage of integration opportunities, such as editorial sponsorships that won’t get blocked. He also encourages brands to be flexible in how they advertise, perhaps by using ad stitching rather than standard ad serving. Reaching this audience requires being open to new technologies. “You have to be a little bit flexible in looking at this,” he said.


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