This article is a continuation of our recent contribution to the June/July 2019 issue of iGB Affiliate, which coincided with iGB Live!, where we discussed how affiliates can capitalise on the esports vertical, its momentum and overall marketability. With multiple international events and an esports industry designed for growth, discover how some affiliate businesses are positioned to cultivate a loyal customer base.
Engagement & Growth
On 20th August, less than a month after Fortnite crowns its champion, The International, an annual Dota 2 tournament, will descend on Shanghai for its first-ever appearance in an Asian country. The tournament, which at the time of this writing is on pace to surpass last year’s $25.5m prize pool, does have a relationship with the Asian market as China has 11 top three finishers in eight years.
However, as the NFL has found with their increased presence in the UK (i.e. 16 London games in the last five years), the more sustained an organisation’s role, the more engagement they can expect in return. Emphasising this point is the forthcoming launch of London’s NFL Academy this September, where student age 16 to 18 will receive instruction from full-time coaches. The esports industry, like the NFL, is showing an appreciation for the benefits of extending the reach of its influence.
On the topic of expansion, one which is always up for discussion across North America’s four major sports leagues (i.e. NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB), esports is an industry designed for growth. In fairness to the “big four”, as well as European football clubs, the overhead costs of the average esports team cannot begin to compare to those operations.
A prime example of growth in esports are the eight expansion slots that were made available ahead of the 2019 season of the Overwatch League (OWL), bringing the league total to 20 teams. The teams, which reportedly spent upwards of $40 million each for their slots, are indicative of esports’ global appeal as Atlanta, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington D.C., are all home to new franchises.
Another distinguishing trait of the OWL, which is operated by Blizzard Entertainment, is that it aspires to operate on a city-based structure where teams would have home venues to foster fervent fanbases and passionate rivalries. It is a far cry from the enmity that surfaces when Liverpool and Manchester United take to the pitch or when the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears clash in one of the NFL’s oldest rivalries. But it nonetheless lends momentum to a future filled with potential.
What does that potential mean for affiliates?
The Affiliate Approach
Affiliates are in an enviable position when it comes to strategising for an esports market that is rife with engaging personalities, big-picture thinking and celebrity influence. The latter of these points is bolstered by the involvement of household names like Steph Curry, Michael Jordan, Odell Beckham Jr. and Drake.
The industry even has its own annual awards show to recognise the best across a variety of categories, including ‘Personality of the Year’. Last year’s winner in the category was Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who has over 4.3m Twitter followers and more than 14m on Twitch, the Amazon-owned live streaming platform.
One of the most consistently cited strengths of successful affiliates is an ability to adapt to changing environments and identify optimal methods for engaging diverse target audiences. This will be an important skillset in understanding the mindset and motivations of a prospective esports bettor compared with those of a typical punter.
A speculative yet optimistic approach to esports, will position affiliates to respond appropriately to opportunities in emerging markets. This also applies to the US market where many affiliates, operators and suppliers, closely monitor legislative developments on a state-by-state basis.
While projections for the future of esports vary and merit constant evaluation, affiliates also know better than any industry stakeholder the challenge of waiting too long to cultivate a loyal customer base. The question of whether to adopt a corresponding engagement strategy is one that affiliates will need to reflect on in the months to come while evaluating the potential cost of inaction.
Now that you’ve read both parts of the article, let us know what anticipated changes you believe will be implemented in the esports market leading into next year. For more information on our US-focused products and services, please contact our Marketing Communications Specialist Justin Way.