For all of the business sectors that suffered and are still suffering as result of arguably some of the most challenging times in the history of the world there were some industries whose set up and businesses were created for lockdowns such as fitness equipment and cycling retailers, ecommerce and food supermarkets. There were also a number of businesses, which were starting to gain more traction before the pandemic and by circumstance have had their industries amplified tenfold and attracted more fans and engagement than ever before.
One such industry is esports – the world of professional gaming – where some of the players have bigger social followings and engagements than some of the most popular sports stars in the world like Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, which was already growing at a rapid pace and has only been accelerated by the pandemic with more people watching and importantly engaging.
Contrary to popular misconception and misjudgement these players are not angst filled teenagers sitting in a darkened room 24 hours a day playing computer games, while gorging on crisps and downing energy drinks. These professional players are like any fine-tuned athlete with daily exercise routines, mindfulness studies and of course plenty of game playing time and in some cases earn the sort of money many of their parents won’t earn in a lifetime.
Not only that the leagues, tournament and competitions they compete in draw hundreds of thousands of fans in the live space – when allowed – and millions in the virtual space who are enthralled and captured by their skills. Similar to more traditional team sports there are fans of particular teams, but interestingly there is a twist. As well as fans being loyal to different teams, the players themselves often draw more resonation with their fans no matter what team they play for, which for the world of media and marketing, makes for a pretty engaged audience. These players are often essentially key influencers in their own right away from their day job just like actresses, pop stars and other sports stars. It’s a heady cocktail of engagement…
Looking at some of the recent headline stats such as 435.9million people watching esports last year, an increase of 10% on 2019, it is not hard to see why esports offers huge potential for anyone in the media and marketing space. Some global brands including Nike, Gillette, Adidas and Coca Cola – according to the latest stats from NewZoo global esports revenues topped $940m in 2020 – have spotted the potential and have dipped their toes into the esports world, but there is still a lot of trepidation from brands about the space, while esports organisations are very keen to tap into these media budgets to secure future partnerships and the future of the sector because it is only going to grow and grow, particularly when the likes David Beckham, Gareth Bale and Scooter Braun are involved quite heavily in teams and organisations.
Two years ago at Festival of Media Global a number of brands asked me to create some content around esports and how it could be used in their media and marketing strategies going forward. As ever when it comes to our events we obliged and brought Fnatic – one of the biggest esports teams in the world – with Ben and Jerrys to talk about the challenges and also the success the Unilever ice cream brand achieved by investing in the space.
This was only the beginning and it sparked an idea in my head, which I could not shake about how I could connect all of the global brands we speak to on a weekly basis via Festival with the esports sector. After some interesting conversations it quickly became clear esports organisations were keen to talk with brands about potential partnership opportunities and this led me to think of creative ways I could help both sectors come together. It became obvious there was no B2B awards programme celebrating and making heroes out of the people and companies behind the scenes of the esports eco-system. There was no programme designed to showcase the work the social, content, and apparel teams are doing for esports organisations, so we decided to launch the inaugural GameFace Awards to do just this and bring across all of the judging processes successfully employed at the Festival awards programmes around the world.
We also wanted to ensure we created an inclusive jury, which features not only global brands and media agencies, but a variety of esports experts ranging from players, teams and organisers to help promote esports as a sector for everyone. This has also led us into a partnership with thegameHERs for our inclusive initiative category whereby we celebrate the best inclusive initiatives being implemented in esports.
The end result of all of the above has been a lot of interest from the esports sector, but also from global brands keen to utilise the power of esports in their media and marketing strategies and GameFace aims to make that connection as smoothly as possible and help create the right partnerships for the right brands. Watch this space and make sure you enter to celebrate the fantastic work being curated in the esports sector.