It can be hard to access the so-called millennial generation, now aged between early 20s to late 30s. As an audience, millennials fall in a less accessible place, lost somewhere between the traditional print media and TV ads of their parent’s generation, and the prolific social media usage of Gen Z.
But there are a few secret ways in that you might just be missing – and one of these is the exponentially growing industry of gaming and e-sports. The sales of games globally in 2017 totalled $121.7 billion, but that total, as impressive as it is, doesn’t even include the vast industries and influence held by e-sports (up to $696 million in 2017) and gaming streamers on YouTube and Twitch. What do all these numbers actually mean? Well, that image you have of a smelly teenager in the basement – that’s somewhat out of the picture now. The gaming industry has come a long way since its origins in the 1970s, as proved when looking at the scale and impressive animation (something we look out for) of the presentations at the annual E3 gaming conference. This year, E3 was watched by 97.6 million people – to put that into context, the FA Cup final was watched by a mere 8.7 million.
So how does this exponentially growing industry affect brands, and how might it be a way into the Millennial generation? The typical participant in the e-sports industry is male and between 21 and 35 years old – a coveted demographic that is becoming hard to reach through traditional advertising according to AdAge. Sponsorship of e-sports, currently at $113 million annually, is predicted to more than double to reach $607 million by 2020 according to Newzoo, who specialise in esports, games, and mobile intelligence. What do these sponsorship opportunities afford to brands?
Well firstly, completely international viewership, with considerably more measurability, due to the digital platforms such as YouTube and Twitch analytics. Secondly, strong influencer marketing – the stars of e-sports are also likely to prove more loyal and affordable influencers than their traditional sports counterparts – many of whom make their living from streaming and having a close relationship with their legions of fans. You can be sure that a personal recommendation of a related product from a known gaming streamer will go a long way to create brand loyalty and esteem in the tight-knit gaming community.
How about an example? In 2017 Audi sponsored a professional gaming team (yes, it is a real, paying job!) with Christian Weiglin Thorn, Head of Marketing saying, “It is a very interesting area with huge and strong demographics. Looking into the numbers, we saw that there actually is a substantial number of mature people within the esports audience. This move not only got the brand in front of a key emerging demographic of successful millennial professionals but helped with their image as a current and young brand. Audi has since been joined by the likes of other international companies like Renault and Gillette.
A word of advice to brands raring to get on board with this burgeoning industry – this is an audience used to high-end content, pushing boundaries visually and technologically. The games themselves, their advertising, the production quality of competitive events, and social streamers have seriously stepped up. So, if you are creating content, be it a targeted YouTube advert, animated presentation for a conference or event, or collateral for team sponsorship, make sure that it is designed to wow. If you do, you might just win yourself the brand loyalty of an elusive target market.