Non-endemic brands have been challenged with carving out space for themselves within esports, but based on fresh data from Nielsen, many are finding their way. Nielsen just-released its “Esports Playbook for Brands,” a guide for brands exploring sponsorship or advertising relationships with key stakeholders in the esports ecosystem, which reports a 13 percent year-over-year increase in non-gaming related brand sponsorships. Nielsen created an esports division 18 months ago to help companies across the industry better leverage data and insights in their decision-making surrounding esports. So, we sat down with that division’s global managing director, Nicole Pike, also an advisory board member for Esports Business Summit, about trends at esports events, embracing diversity and the role of data in the industry.
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Event Marketer: What trends are you seeing in esports events?
Nicole Pike: A big one is cross-entertainment. Over the past year, especially, we’ve seen a lot more partnerships and opportunities to integrate live music into the esports event experience. We’ve seen ESL strike partnerships with a record label. Certainly, Overwatch League and others have built concerts into their big events. There’s obviously some of that happening online as well. At Nielsen, we are getting a lot more questions in the past six months asking what the different types of entertainment touchpoints are that esports fans like outside of esports. I think you’ll continue to see that be a growing trend, whether it’s making more weekend-long events or just making sure that there are things that are going to engage esports fans when they’re on-site for a big competition outside of just the match play.
EM: Tell us something you’ve learned overall about the esports industry in the past year.
NP: This comes a bit more from the data and research perspective, but one of the things that continues to be pretty eye-opening and makes me feel good about where we can help support clients in the space, is how much room there still is for different rights-holders—so, teams, leagues, organizations, publishers—to better understand their audiences. Certainly, everyone has a good idea of who the esports demographic is, and even some of the value that they can bring to brands. But the ongoing need for proof of differentiating their fans versus others is something that we continue to have conversations about every day. It is exciting to see how, as these rights-holders learn more about their fan bases, that can help unlock more opportunities in the category.
EM: Do you have any thoughts on how esports could embrace diversity on a broader scale?
NP: It’s important for rights-holders to understand the nuances of their female fans. Different properties are going to have different proportions of their fan bases who are female. But what is lacking, and something that could help them connect moving forward, is understanding the specific motivations of their female fans and how the reasons they follow and engage with their property differ from their male fans. Based on that, they can create different content and programs and even brand partnerships that are tailored toward the females, to make them feel like they are not just being considered as part of the overall ecosystem, but that their voices are being heard and their preferences are being catered to in a nuanced way.