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Volume 25 No. 61
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Esports' Millennial Appeal Proving To Entice Once Weary Sponsors Across Sports Industry

The growth of esports, especially among the elusive millennial set, has made it attractive to more sponsors who may not traditionally operate in that world. At the first Lagardere Sports esports Rising conference, Jack in the Box Dir of Marketing Communications Adrienne Ingoldt discussed the company’s multi-million dollar deal this week with Team Envy. “We know the audience maps closely with our audience, they’re fans of the games and the category as a whole,” she said. “They’re playing in that space and buying those jerseys.” Envy Gaming Head of Marketing & Revenue Mark Coughlin added, “It was as close to a perfect match as you could get. They’re putting enough money aside to do something with it, more than just putting a logo on a jersey and hoping it will do something, because we know that doesn’t.” This is just the latest example of non-endemic brands getting into the game. Twitch Dir of Global Esports Sponsorships Nathan Lindberg: “It’s been interesting to watch brands see success. Comcast, Geico, and Pepsi made the early investments and have seen tremendous success.” He said advertisers who wouldn’t consider esports two years ago now “see possibilities of partnering with this space and having success with it -- driving that brand engagement with affluent millennials, that group they need as the next generation of customers.”

NOT A HARD SELL: Comcast Senior Dir of Sports Brand Marketing Matt Lederer said selling esports to his bosses was the easiest meeting he’s ever had, even though they don’t know the difference between DOTA and Mario Cart. The company sponsors the Evil Genius team and has a deal with esports event organizer ESL. “We are talking to a young, male, extremely diverse segment that’s crucial to our business, to our influencers,” he said. “We want them to talk about having Xfinity and how they do x, y, z to do this. It’s a marketer’s dream. Evil Geniuses play and live in a total branded environment (in their two houses). They’re in the (S.F.) Bay Area and Chicago, two of our markets. ESL side gives us breadth, agnostic to any game.” MGM Resorts Int'l Senior VP/Entertainment Rick Arpin notes the company’s unique position as someone who may host esports as well as sponsor them. The challenge, according to Arpin, is that esports are “growing from digital to physical, instead of vice-versa. The demographics are so good (and) it gets people exposed to us. Maybe it’s the first time they come to Las Vegas. Hopefully, it’s the first of many.”

PLAY THE GAME: As for where to find gamers on social, MVPindex co-Founder & CMO Kyle Nelson says, “The top platform is Instagram, identical to other pro sports. It’s 32% of engagement, but different from pro sports. Twitter is the second platform. YouTube is about the same as Twitter, but Facebook is further down. The reach is there on Facebook but the engagement is not. They may have fewer fans than LeBron (James) or (Jordan) Spieth and others, but the engagement rate is three or four or five times higher.” A few lessons for brands looking to break into esports. Coughlin notes: “The main attraction is these are the cord nevers, cord cutters, the unreachable demo. It’s understanding and recognizing there can be overselling, overcommercialization -- so make your brand mean something in the world of esports.” Twitch’s Lindberg: “I tell brands to think about credibility and getting it from the audience. Brands shouldn’t be shy about financially subsidizing teams to do better. Hashtag ad is actually a badge of honor. You’re helping my team create more content. You don’t have to hide the fact you’re sponsoring a team.” MGM Resorts’ Arpin added, “I don’t think most brands are doing a good enough job around activation. If we spend $1 on sponsorship, we need to save $1 to $2 for activation. We didn’t used to have a column for activation, but a tent and a table with a drape on it is not going to cut it anymore.”

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