Surely if we made one today, many more people would know what the esports and even which competitions are most in vogue.

The almost global confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Internet consumption to skyrocket, and with it hand in hand, streaming audiences for electronic sports, a sector that in 2019 it already moved 950 million dollars At a global level, but that it continues -or continued- typecast in the vision that it only reaches a certain very young audience.

Since the start of the pandemic, the world of esports has also been affected, having to cancel face-to-face events such as the major leagues of League of Legends, which have been completed or are taking place online.
This for the sector has been a major blow due to the loss of income from ticket sales and merchandising, but While conventional sports have been convalescing throughout this time, esports have been reinforced.

A close example: the final phase of Orange Super League organized by Mediapro in Spain, the most renowned league, also closed online, and broke any previous audience record. At the end of March, in the toughest time of confinement in Spain, it gathered nearly half a million spectators, 51% more than the previous year.

To this has been added the advent of many professional sports leagues. LaLiga soccer in Spain or the NBA They have organized tournaments among their stars, while Formula 1 has come to transfer the great prizes that you already know will not be able to compete with your gaming leg, the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix, where some of the professional drivers will compete.

Despite cancellation of face-to-face tournaments, online esports audience has skyrocketed

“To a large extent, for people who wanted to see a competition, but also for brands that were looking for ways to sponsor themselves, esports have remained the only possibility”value Óscar Soriano, CEO of Play the game agency, one of the main marketing agencies linked to the sector in Spain.

“There has been a rise in public via streaming, or rather, it has exploded,” he says. According to the data published by this agency based on information from Stream Hatchet, on Twitch channels in Spanish you can see that the increase is 150% compared to the previous year. “They are breaking records for audience and exposure to a wider audience that either had never heard of esports, or had barely been interested in it,” Soriano tells Hipertextual.

José Ramón Díaz He is the CEO of the Vodafone Giants – six times champions of the Orange Super League – and President of the Association of esports clubs (ACE), an organization founded in 2018 that brings together professional Spanish teams. We asked him if the cancellation or transfer to online of face-to-face tournaments has weighed more or the positive side of the increase in audience and new audience. “[El paso a online] It has not been a problem in itself because there have been no cancellations at the national level, but a significant loss in terms of meeting with the fan and supporter of the teams and which has also affected sales of associated products“He values.

Neither such a young nor so specific audience

Speaking of esports, the image that comes to mind is that of a young audience, but the actors involved confirm that this is less and less like this.

“The bulk of the esports audience is obviously very young boys and girls, but the evolution and the years that the phenomenon has been going on make us start talking about the majority band starting to open up towards the 20-30 years . In any case, the brands that have seen it know that this audience in a few years will already be an adult consumer. This is the only way to explain why firms such as Mercedes or Louis Vuitton have entered the sector with force, ”says Soriano.

BMW is another of the brands which has recently entered the market by sponsoring five European clubs, and public analysis also shows that in markets where the industry is more established, such as the United States or Japan and Korea, the average viewer of esports is usually a person with a capacity above average purchasing power. Summarizing, “You have to remove the image that the esports audience is only a 14-year-old boy in his room”, stresses the CEO of Play the game.

Many brands have entered esports in these weeks due to the lack of other competitions where to invest in advertising.

But there is also something that separates him from the spectator of conventional sports. “There is a fundamental difference in the audience for esports and other sports, and that is that the vast majority play games that they are spectators of. That percentage in football falls, in basketball too, and Formula 1, you will tell me who has an F1 in the garage. This equivalence between professionals and the public is a fundamental factor in engaging the audience, “adds Soriano.

But, How has the situation of COVID-19 affected the sponsorship of esports? Without giving concrete data, Soriano points out that his agency is increasing the number of proposals and negotiations in these weeks. “It is simple. In a year without Eurocopa, without Olympic Games… many brands have dusted sponsorship proposals in esports because it is now the only existing showcase ”, although that does not prevent the slowdown and the economic crisis from also affecting other firms that have cut their advertising investments in all markets.

In Spain, for example, Chupa-chups, the well-known candy brand, has announced an agreement with Vodafone Giants in these weeks of confinement. The return to be signatures is evident on the digital plane. The Vodafone Giants Twitter account has more than 330,000 followers, and Chupachups has changed the focus of its publications to talk about gaming seeking to connect with that audience.

“The impact these actions have for brands seeking to position themselves in digital environments is very evident. It is true that the phenomenon of esports has gone unnoticed by a good part of the general public until now, but since we started in the sector 4 years ago now -that in such a changing world it has been like 40- we had the impression that we were working with a volcano about to explode for all the potential it had ”, analyzes Soriano.

Take advantage of the wave

To this has been added the enormous showcase that has meant having Real Madrid or NBA players playing games online, with sports newspapers pouring their information into these tournaments due to the lack of sports news.
From the ACE, Díaz values ​​that it has been “A very positive point the approach” of conventional sports leagues “To our environment and hopefully continue with these initiatives when we have overcome this moment.”

The player Marco Asensio of Real Madrid was the winner of the FIFA tournament organized by LaLiga

The secret seems that it will now be able to retain part of that public that may begin to be interested in following esports competitions as a result of initiatives like these. However, Is it easy to start following esports as one more sport today? There are different games with greater or lesser impact (LoL, Counter Strike, FIFA …) parallel championships and simultaneous events, a calendar in which it may be difficult to land for a neophyte.

However, from the sector they value this as one of their strengths, and they also criticize being asked for a rigid organization in an environment that has barely been around for five years before the general public.

“Esports are not a single discipline but multiple and with different forms of competition and entertainment channels. Tournaments, events and competition formats are marked by the competitive video game. It may seem complex, but it really is like when we talk about different disciplines within the sport, where soccer has its competitions, its rules and tennis has its different formats, etc. There are already reference competitions both nationally and internationally. in the professional environment and diversity also makes us reach various types of public, ”says the president of the ACE.

Industry before sport

What does seem obvious is that, underground or not, the esports industry should not be considered minor. According to the estimates of the Global Esports Market Report, in 2023 your global income worldwide will have risen more than 50% over the current ones to add more than 1,500 million euros.

“The secret of this growth is, as we mentioned before, the bet that non-endemic brands are making. Sectors such as food have come together strongly over what until now were common: telcos, software companies or gaming peripherals, and this has been especially noticed these days due to the absence of other advertising platforms, ”they comment from Play the game.

The esports industry will exceed 1.5 billion in the coming years

It can surprise seen from outside the sponsorships that many of the teams have, although as soon as it begins to scratch in the dimensions of its audience it stops doing so. Given this, the one that the sector values ​​as a somewhat repetitive question opens: esports, Sport or not?

“Professional esports teams are private companies. The project usually appears first and then the entry of sponsors, although there are some teams that have been created as a result of the support of a brand, “says Díez, who believes that the everlasting comment on sport or not” is always on the table, but for us it is not so relevant. There are aspects that bring us closer and others that separate us. Esports have their own identity and we would like to continue working to build our sector in an organic and sustainable way over time ”.

Soriano also describes the debate as somewhat “old school”. “If we want to assimilate it to sport due to the generation of community and values ​​that it has, it is so. But there are many other things where it is evident that it does not fit, and within the sector, the perception that I have is that this debate has been somewhat overcome ”.

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