Among the many niches of influencer marketing, esports is one of the areas that’s gaining traction. For brands looking at social media channels to enhance their reach, esports has proven to be a massive opportunity.
Esports is a fairly new term for competitive video gaming that is often livestreamed. Live tournaments have been commonplace for years, but broadcasting to live viewers has brought in a huge audience. Esports influencers aren’t just famous esports gamers, but often others from within the industry like esports franchise owners, critics, and sports reporters.
Currently, the global esports market is valued at $1.08 billion, and it’s expected to increase by more than 50% over the next three years. While there is considerable profit to be generated if you’re part of the esports industry, brands not directly in the gaming industry can also leverage esports viewership to their advantage.
Influencer marketing in the esports sphere takes place on live streaming platforms, primarily YouTube and Twitch, but physical arenas dedicated to live gaming that fans can tune into online also continue to rise in popularity. Brands today have the opportunity to tap into the diverse and engaged audience of passionate esports viewers by collaborating with influencers who use these social platforms to stream.
Can Non-Endemic Entrepreneurial Brands Use Esports Influencer Marketing?
While influencers within your brand’s niche are generally a preferable choice, a smart marketing strategy considers every influencer who has access to your key demographic. If that is Gen-Z males aged 18-34, esports influencer marketing is your best bet. The Gen-Z cohort of males follows gaming influencers greater than any other kind, and this audience can often be harder to reach through other channels.
Non-esports brands frequently sponsor tournaments, teams, and players, taking on a form of non-endemic (not directly relevant) marketing. Small entrepreneurial brands that aren’t related to the gaming market have also taken advantage of the audience these events get. To break down communication silos between newer brands and their target market, influencer marketing is a good start for brand awareness. Whether it's marketing for the best small business phone plans or a fashion item, as long as the influencer shares your values and has the attention of the audience you would like to reach, you can consider the influencer marketing model to spread the word about your brand.
Redbull’s partnership with Twitch gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is a great example of a brand not directly in the esports industry sponsoring influencer content related to gaming. Redbull uses Pixlee for Creators to discover and manage relationships and content from its vast collective of brand ambassadors and influencers with diverse backgrounds.
Why are Gaming Influencers Valuable?
Gaming influencers are not only limited to the tech and gaming industries. Within the creator economy, gaming influencers have opportunities to create content just like the biggest fashion influencers on Instagram. They’re enjoying partnerships with brands like BMW and Red Bull on a global stage, and this can only be attributed to their strong connection with their fan following.An engaged fanbase isn’t easy to come by in a world where likes and followers are difficult to amass organically. These esports stars have an organic following that they have built from the ground up. This is why both endemic and non-endemic brands are attracted by the size and scope of their audiences. Such a community that provides a sense of belonging can be valuable to marketers looking to have a conversation with this audience. Recent research shows that 12% of followers of gaming influencers don’t follow any other influencers. This is higher than any other influencer audience and gives brands access to an untapped and unique audience. The same research showed that followers trust the brand recommendations of gaming influencers 7% more than other influencers. This makes esports influencers more valuable to brands than an average global influencer because of high penetration rates. Another factor that makes influencer marketing work so well with esports is the authenticity of the influencers. Engagement is mostly in real-time, especially for live streams, while being natural and entertaining. The audience watches them to learn new strategies and also because of their enjoyable live commentary and answers to viewers’ questions.
How to Leverage esports Influencer Partnerships
There are many creative ways to partner with esports teams and players. Follow the savvy tips below to find the perfect influencer for your influencer marketing strategy.
Start by finding influencers whose values align with your brand, and whose follower base matches your target audience. If your target market is ages 30+, an influencer in the mature esports niche like League of Legends may be a better option than a Fortnite gamer with a younger audience. Work with an individual who has experience with your brand or industry, whether you’re a DTC brand or a SaaS brand. This is where using an influencer CRM platform comes in handy; Pixlee for Creators allows brands to discover relevant influencers from a database of willing and active online creators and manage all aspects of the partnership in-platform.
Crocs uses Pixlee to manage campaigns with influencers and harness user-generated content (UGC) from its community of fans. Though a footwear brand, Crocs made its way into gaming in 2021 through its “Build Your Life in Color” campaign encouraging gamers to showcase their personalities through unique, colorful minecraft builds to be judged by a panel of gaming influencers.
Your brand can approach the gaming world as a non-endemic brand in similar ways. You could create your own team of gaming influencers that allow you to create content and share on their channels. You can also use product placement as a form of subliminal advertising, sponsoring a gamer and giving them free products, their own affiliate marketing discount code, or merch with your brand’s logo. Social media contests oriented around gaming are also a great approach to collect UGC from your community while engaging with a new audience.
How to Measure the Success of Your Campaigns
To find out if you were able to get meaningful engagements through your influencer campaigns, using an influencer CRM platform like Pixlee’s is your best bet. Not only can you track success metrics from influencer campaigns, but you can also analyze KPIs on individual pieces of content your influencers share.
Pixlee’s platform features a robust toolkit of analytics to measure success of your influencer campaigns. For example, you could track conversion and site visitors through your CRM platform as visitors access your website in the middle of a gaming event.
Get Your Creative Juices Flowing With Esports Influencer Marketing
When you partner with esports influencers, you can find a number of creative and thoughtful ways to engage with a vast audience. It’s a symbiotic relationship where fans get to connect with their favorite influencers while brands gain exposure. Esports influencers are highly trusted from within their fanbase. They’ve developed genuine connections and they can drive authentic conversations around your brand. Their reach extends across multiple platforms and they can be powerful brand ambassadors who can help your influencer marketing campaigns have a significant impact.
Esports influencer marketing offers co-creation opportunities that help build trust in your partnership with influencers and create more value for your audience. You can also increase product appeal and drive actual sales, especially if you’re a tech brand that aligns itself with gaming influencers.Just like traditional sports, fans take note of brands that sponsor their heroes. Their loyalty will always extend to the brands that their favorite influencers promote. Esports is only getting started, and it’s onwards and upwards from here.
John Allen is the Director of SEO for 8x8, a leading communication platform with integrated contact center, call monitoring, voice, video, and chat functionality. John is a marketing professional with over 14 years experience in the field, and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs across SEM, SEO, and a myriad of services. This is his LinkedIn.
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