The sheer scale of content consumption from the recent Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Sydney esports event demonstrates the powerful levels of engagement by fans in the sector.
Content generated from the tournament was viewed over 55 million times across all platforms including by over 20 million viewers tuning in across the duration of the event. Counter-Strike fans across the world watched almost 10 million hours of content over the course of the event, up 16 per cent from the 2018 competition, according to event organisers, ESL. There were also 36,000 event related tweets.
For the right brands, esport is a growing opportunity, according to Beau Ushay, Principal of Ushay Consulting Group, which specialises in owned media and content an owned media and content specialist.
“The audience tuning in to these competitions is from fairly consistent demographics . [They’re] 18-35, tech-savvy, early adopters who spend the majority of their time online.”
Ushay, who has a long pedigree in esports including stints at IGN, Ziff Davis and Tribal Live said the questions brands need to ask themselves is ‘Do they have right proposition which is going to engage this audience? ‘
“The gaming audience tends to be fiercely loyal, so winning them over to your brand can create lucrative promoters for years to come. The fans are vocal about their opinions and are seen as the trusted source for tech/entertainment advice amongst their peers. So their perspectives can influence others,” he told Which-50.
According to Ushay, “Esports has been considered a sub-culture for a long time so its long-serving fans welcome the funding which has allowed their beloved competitions to be accessed more readily and enjoyed more easily. However, gamers are an audience which is highly cynical and will not take kindly to brands jumping in and slapping their name on something for a one-off promotion.”
He cautions that brands need to show real commitment to the promotion and growth of the sector, adding value to the audience and enhancing their experience, to truly win over the fans.
Sponsorship is an important new revenue stream for the organisations and players at the heart of esports.
“We are starting to see players, teams and organisations generate income from sponsorships. While still in its infancy, sponsoring a player, league or event is a concept most brands are familiar with and find easy to justify, whacking their name alongside a team or tournament,” he said.
However, he cautioned, whether that’s effective or not is up for debate. “But it is a tried and tested method for brands they can easily grasp that provides a low barrier to involvement.”
“These funds are then used for prize pools to attract the talent, just as prize money attracts competitors in other physical sports.”
According to Nick Vanzetti, MD Senior Vice President of ESL APJ, “Between those who watched online and the 7,500 fans who attended each day of the main event, there is a growing appetite in Australia for the highest level of Counter-Strike.”
“IEM Sydney is a truly world-class event, and seeing our broadcast reach over 20 million people around the world is a testament to the quality of the tournament.”
“We owe the continued success of Intel Extreme Masters Sydney to the esports community in Australia and around the world, which continues to grow at an incredible pace,” said John Bonini, Vice President and General Manager of VR, Gaming and Esports at Intel.
“This community is why Intel keeps fuelling this growth with more esports, more great content for PC gamers and more innovation when it comes to performance and power.”
IEM Sydney, which the organisers claims is Australia’s biggest esports tournament, saw Team Liquid from the winning the CS:Go tournament and taking home the lion’s share of US$250,000. A second competition stream – Overwatch – was won by local esports outfit, Order.