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The eSports opportunity for marketers begins at the grassroots

Marketers looking to stamp their brand on the international video games arena need to be “prepared to make mistakes”, one of Asia-Pacific’s biggest media owners has said.

Ciaran Davis, the chief executive officer and managing director of Here There & Everywhere, claimed the eSports world is “an oyster” for brands, but only if they’re willing to approach it from “grassroots up” and with “authenticity”.

Speaking during the Mumbrella360 Asia conference in Singapore last year, Ciaran argued there was a wealth of potential in Asia, but that the region was lacking any real infrastructure for marketers to play in at present.

He said: “If brands are going to get involved with eSports, authenticity is essential. If the community of eGamers thinks a brand is coming in commercialise their community, they’ll be dead.

“You have to start at a grassroots level; you have to be prepared to make mistakes. You can work with the community and develop it for them to make sure it’s more commercial, but ensure it still has its integrity. Brands that don’t do that are going to suffer big time.”

Davis (far left): “This is about building up a new sports paradigm”

Investment in eSports, which sees millions of gaming players around the world competing both online and in huge physical stadiums for huge prize money, is growing rapidly.

Last year, roughly US$696 million was spent on the sector. More than US$1,488 million is predicted to be spent on eGaming by 2020.

The largest prize pool in eSports history was offered at the Dota 2 2016 International Championship Tournament, with a total of US$20 million.

Owing to the big money at stake, a number of mainstream sporting companies have began dipping their toes in, including the Football Federation Australia, which launched its own FIFA ’18 e-League last year. 

However, according to Davis, for mainstream sports to make the most of the opportunity, the stakeholders need to treat it as a new entity and not use it “just to keep their own cause alive”.

“This is about building up a new sports paradigm,” he said. “If Paris St Germain or Manchester City are doing it to maintain their own relevance, they’re going about it the wrong way and they are throwing money out of the door.

eSports is a native digital sport in its own right. It’s not looking to migrate into digital. It’s learning a lot and making a lot of mistakes yes, but it’s not facing some of the challenges traditional sports face because it is operating in a digital world.”

Looking closer to home at Asia, Davis added that in order for the industry to really take the region by a storm, it needed more structure.

“If Asia can get the structure right – it has led the development of eSports around the world – and get the leagues organised locally and globally, then the world is an oyster for brands,” he said.

That’s what eSports is crying out for at the moment.”

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