Video games and esports are nothing new. This giant industry is estimated to be worth around $160 billion with esports alone expected to generate $1.8 billion by 2022.
Gaming is also attracting an enormous audience – bigger than the music and movie industries combined. There are over 2.7 billion gamers worldwide, smashing the stereotype that gamers are only young and male.
There’s a huge opportunity for brands to leverage esports and gaming to build brand affinity, customer loyalty, and drive sales. In 2019, over $450 million in esports revenue came from brand partnerships. And over $17 billion has been invested in video games and esports startups in the past 5 years. We’ve also seen the emergence of gaming-focused VCs which indicates this is a hot area for VC investment.
Despite this massive captive audience and capital, most brands have yet to engage with this industry. At Pilot44, we often hear clients say that gaming doesn’t make sense for their brand. Well, we’re here to tell you differently.
In this post we’ll explore 5 brands with successful esports and gaming activations with a particular attention to:
- The different kinds of partnership and activations
- The goals of each partnership
- Key takeaways
Let’s dive in.
When Fortnite announced a “Food Fight” mission, pitting Team Burger against Team Pizza, Wendy’s found an organic way in. Missions in Fortnite are available for a limited amount of time, which creates more opportunities for brands to create a unique in-game experience rather than simply repeating an existing activation.
While Wendy’s didn’t appear in the game itself, they asked fans to play for Team Pizza – a dig at the in-game burger chain which used frozen beef – then streamed video for 10 hours a day. In the process, they gained 7,400 followers on Twitch and tens of thousands of comments.
“What we did wasn’t down to a paid relationship with either Twitch or Fortnite,” Wendy’s Senior Director of Media and Social Jimmy Bennett told Digiday. “We see a lot of brands jumping in and trying to use paid media to grow their media presence, but it’s actually more exhausting to try and do it that way. We didn’t have to do so much heavy lifting and put so much money to support it because we were able to organically lean into the experience.”
The objective was to go beyond just reaching the audience: Wendy’s wanted to build relevance on the gaming community’s terms and gained their own following in the process.
Tampax was looking to authentically drive educational awareness and top-of-mind relevancy for the “unreachable consumer,” with a focus on females between the ages of 18 and 24.
Tampax leveraged 10 influencers to create testimonial-style social videos that are framed like PSAs. The content delivered humorous, tongue-in-cheek information that surrounds very well-known topics within esports and gaming. The double-entendres relayed a memorable, positive, and educational message about periods and tampons.
This pilot enabled Tampax to address their business challenge and authentically and successfully leverage gaming to educate and inform their unreachable customer. Tampax was able to harness unique user-generated content across social media channels in a completely new way, not only for Tampax and P&G, but also relative to sponsored content as a whole. This campaign exceeded all qualitative and quantitative goals and secured a first-mover advantage for Tampax in the gaming space.
In August 2019, Gen.G, an esports team organization, partnered with Bumble, a women-first networking and dating app, to form the first all-women Fortnite team.
Bumble added a gaming badge for Bumble BFF users to add on their profiles and connect with other female gamers. They also integrated custom content with Gen.G pro players and streamers explaining the partnership values.
The goals of the activation were to promote a healthy environment for female gamers to succeed and connect with each other, while also generating positive brand affinity and awareness within the gaming community. Bumble also wanted to provide opportunities to support emerging segments of the esports community, especially by creating and strengthening platforms for women.
The results were over 300 million views of the announcement and associated press, as well as increased brand awareness and affinity. The partnership was so successful that they expanded it a year later to form an all-women VALORANT team.
This highly focused partnership was on brand for Bumble’s leadership role in female empowerment. And it was especially meaningful for women gamers that have been marginalized in the industry.
In 2019, DrLupo – one of the most recognizable players in Fortnite streaming – closed a sponsorship deal with State Farm. DrLupo has nearly 3 million Twitch followers and is beloved for his talent and personality alike. In 2018, DrLupo held a charity stream for St. Jude’s Research Hospital and raised $1.3 million.
In the last two years, State Farm has solidified multi-year sponsorship deals with several prominent esports leagues that included on-screen branding on broadcast streams. At first glance, an insurance sponsorship may seem like an odd fit for an industry that’s more likely to attract snacks and fast food chains as sponsors. But, as generations have grown up with video games, the age of the average gamer has also increased. According to a 2020 survey, 26% of gamers are now in the 34-54 age bracket. So, in reality, they’re the perfect audience.
And the potential for sponsors is huge. This isn’t a one-time celebrity endorsement or product placement. Streamers spend anywhere from six to twelve hours a day with their audience, often simply hanging out or interacting with them through the chat.
And, for his part, DrLupo was excited to have them. “I want to give them an appropriate representation within the industry and do them justice. Because it’s State Farm!” Lupo told Cheddar. “It is one of the largest non-endemic brands you can bring into esports.”
Bounty partnered with Stream Elements, the leading live publishing platform that provides influencers and brands with the capabilities to create highly customizable livestreams across Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook.
The pilot authentically integrated the brand’s name and equity as the quicker picker upper within the sponsored livestreams of 14 influential gamers on Twitch. The goal was to drive mass awareness, viewer engagement, and purchase intent for Bounty and ensure the Quicker Picker Upper is an essential accessory to every gamer’s battle station.
The results of the pilot were promising, exceeding industry benchmarks for impressions, average minutes watched per viewer, and raising money for Feeding America in the meantime. Overall, the success of the pilot demonstrated the importance of sponsored streams as part of a brand’s gaming strategy since they’re a highly customizable way to engage with the gaming community. This is even more so when tied to a specific CTA – in this case, donating to Feeding America.