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Why eSports and Twitch Will Change Marketing

Originally Published: July 13, 2015

As a kid I grew up playing lots of video games from Halo to Call of Duty to World of Warcraft always carrying some interest about the industry with me. Nowadays League of Legends is all the rage (followed by Counter Strike, Hearthstone, DoTA2, and World of Warcraft). As a student, I’ve been lucky enough to realize a way to link my talents and professional interests with my hobbies.

Most Sundays when relaxing after the events of the weekend, I’ll get a chance to check out and catch one or two games of the NA LCS (North American Professional League of Legends games). This is quite similar to a typical Sunday NFL as games range from 45 minutes to 1 hour long and have commentators pre-game shows, post-game shows and interviews, as well as highlights. In total, 10 games are played across Saturday and Sunday with 5 games each day. This time frame lasts from around 2:30pm to 8:30pm or 6 hours of League of Legends.

While this may seem like no big deal or some nerd and geek filled day of video games it’s not. It’s serious business for the company who created and maintains the events that transpire around their game, Riot Games. Riot has reported earning around $200 million per year from their only game, League of Legends, but the number is undoubtedly higher as that was reported 2 years ago. During the World Championship for 2014, Riot stated,

“Fans around the the world joined us for 15 days of competition, all adding up to over 100 hours of live content broadcast in 19 languages via 40 broadcast partners.

In total, across all stages from Taipei to Seoul, we saw 288 million cumulative daily unique impressions. This is a familiar metric that’s calculated by taking the unique viewers every day and adding those numbers (but as most fans watched more than one day of the competition, it counts every day they tune in).”

Damn. If you don’t think that’s impressive or worth a deeper look at the demographics you might want to think about a career change. The final match for 2014 Worlds for the coveted Summoner’s Cup was hosted at the Sang-am World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, the venue of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and was sold out by 40,000 League fans. The final was broadcasted on and ESPN3 and the winning team from Korea walked away with $1,000,000.
2013 Worlds at the sold out Staples Center, in Los Angeles.

Moving onto this year the final event at Worlds will be hosted throughout Europe, in Brussels, Paris, London, and the finals in Berlin. A reddit user, farenknight, posted after trying to buy tickets to the first group stage in Paris that the tickets sold out in 10 minutes. This all happening almost 4 months before the event even takes place. You can bet your pants that this year’s world championship will be even more exciting and important.

As LCS teams duke it out each weekend to earn a spot at Worlds, they are cheered on by adoring fans in the masses. How much are in the masses? Around 200,000 consistently, for the 6 hours each day on the weekend. However, these numbers can be lower during breaks or bad team matchups and higher up to ~350,000 when fan favorites like Team SoloMid are playing. Quantcast houses some really interesting information about and its demographics. Ages range from <18-34 with a majority being in the 18-24 range. Largely male, 50% of the users are regular users and with 56,000,000 unique hits in the past month from 30,369,898 people you can imagine what some good ads could do for a company.

The Twitch user is also quick to flash a credit card by donating money to the streamers which usually flashes the amount they donated and a message of their choosing to everyone else watching the stream. These can be of any amount and if you watch any popular stream you will see an almost never-ending barrage of donations flashing up. Users can also subscribe to get updates on when the streamer is live, gain access to playing games with the streamer, and unlock special emoticons and perks for the stream. This comes with a $4.99 a month price tag though.

Imaqtpie, a league streamer, with almost 37,000 live viewers makes almost $8,000 a month from streaming.

This impressionable demographic could be huge to any company that can figure out the proper way to leverage it. Currently companies advertise under the streamer’s video, through shoutouts from the streamer, or by displaying ads during breaks between games. However, the last option can be difficult with many tech savvy people using Adblock software for their browsers.

What would an advertising deal with Riot Games be worth? Well as Coca-Cola renews its partnership with Riot Games, getting some juicy ad coverage during the company’s events you can expect Coke to see great returns from the viewers every weekend and especially during Worlds.

Let’s assume 350 million unique people will watch Worlds this October, in 2015. Coke could utilize their fantastic Share a Coke campaign (Share a Coke with: Team SoloMid anyone?) to create different items for the teams brandishing the League of Legends logo and giving a small in-game reward to gamers who buy a coke to support their favorite team, for example a profile logo of the team, or a 1-in-20 chance to win a certain skin (read a custom outfit for a champion players fight with) of the winning team. Now assuming 20% of viewers buy a coke to try to win a skin while supporting their team that makes 70,000,000 purchases. Now, assuming a bottle of coke costs 20 cents to produce including shipping and handling and a bottle sells for $1.50 we can estimate Coke taking home $91,000,000 from a deal using a current campaign.

This could be extended to registering a serial number to support your team by purchasing their specific Share a Coke can and rewarding fans of the team with the most shared Cokes with an icon or exclusive content from the team itself. That said, assuming our imaginary circumstance happens, the benefits would be intangible and unparalleled as a gaming partnership of that scale hasn’t occurred. This would be hugely beneficial to not only Coke, but Riot as they could potentially pay their victors with the sponsorship money from their deal.

ESports can be a huge boon to companies interested in not only Western markets, but also Eastern markets. Korea, China, and Japan are wild about eSports and have been since the early 2000s when Starcraft and Dota were the only names in the space. Getting well targeted ads into the Eastern markets will be incredibly important as eSports continues to see year after year growth. I’ll state one more statistic if you still aren’t convinced at how important eSports will be for marketing. League of Legends, in 2014, saw 27 million viewers during the World Championship which was higher than the final round of the Masters and only second to the Super Bowl.

So how can you leverage the eSports opportunity? Well start by looking at advertising on Twitch. Identify how your target market could identify with the product or service you offer and what you can do to properly create a unique campaign targeted at them. Remember, the Millenials and Gen X demographics are very adverse towards ads and require creative/masterful tactics to encapsulate, but as they move into financial independence you can expect spending to soar even higher in the coming years. This means the eSports industry will grow rapidly from its current worth of $194 million to $465 million in 2017, more than double its current value!

There’s no need to finish with more convincing, the proof is already there.