As traditional sports slowly return in a limited capacity, esports has become the go-to for many seeking their competition fix during lockdown. According to one estimate, viewership on Twitch – the most popular streaming platform on the market – spiked significantly during the pandemic. Average viewership jumped from 1.6M in March 2020 to more than 2.4M in April 2020. While this spike is slowing down, viewership is still up overall: Twitch viewership increased a staggering 70.8% from July 2019 to July 2020.

Obviously, esports is not a passing trend. The market is expected to surpass $1.5 billion by 2023. And universities are incorporating esports into their education programs and extracurricular activities.

With increasing excitement and growth in the industry, the media conversation around esports is active. According to research analytics site, Quid, esports coverage increased 50% year-over-year since 2019. This presents a host of opportunities for brands to increase their visibility. It also suggests a significant challenge to break through the noise. For this reason, an integrated communications strategy that utilizes earned and paid media, as well as influencers (AKA key opinion leaders or KOLs), is the right approach for esports brands.

Esports Increase

Breaking Into the Esports Conversation

Earned media placements in industry and business publications remain a primary trusted source for consumer awareness and understanding. Reporters want to connect with brands to provide information and insights that benefit and educate their audience. For an earned media program to be effective, targeted and tailored outreach is key.

When Extreme Networks and SUNY Canton wanted to elevate their esports efforts, RPG worked with eCampus News to develop a three-part series on esports athletes, academia and technology. This resulted in thought leadership about all angles of video game competition—for the right audience.

An earned-first approach is strengthened by complementary paid programs, from influencer-created content to paid amplification via social. Sponsored articles or podcast episodes, traditional web ads and paid social media campaigns further amplify a brand’s voice and increase overall visibility.

To complement SUNY Canton’s eCampus News coverage, we coordinated a sponsored article with VentureBeat. This gave us the opportunity to directly promote Extreme Networks’ technology and SUNY Canton’s program, whereas the eCampus News coverage noted above offered a vendor-neutral approach. Giving gamers the chance to see your message in multiple formats and places increases recall, key to driving sales.

Many influencers only work with brands from a paid perspective, yet consumers still trust influencer content. Nadeshot, a former Call of Duty professional gamer, has a YouTube channel with an extensive reach: 3.25 million subscribers. Given how influential he is in the space, it’s difficult to secure his interest without a sponsored video review. Influencers with a smaller reach are more willing to work with brands without payment. Paul Amadeus Lane, a broadcast personality who focuses on tech more generally, often works with brands from an earned media perspective, hosting executives on his radio show and promoting episodes on his social channels. Whether you’re engaging influencers via an earned or paid approach, they deliver third-party validation with an authentic, more personal touch.

Get Your Game On

Esports’ popularity shows no signs of stopping. An integrated earned-first approach that meets consumers where they are—online—is key to breaking through in the conversations that matter to gaming consumers.

About the Author

Alex Connelly

Alex works with B2B technology clients across a range of industries to elevate their brands, subject matter experts, and new products and solutions with an earned-first approach. As the day-to-day lead for her clients, Alex is responsible for crafting strategy around daily media outreach, content creation and social media management while working closely with account teams on program execution. In addition to her focus on earned media, Alex has a passion for creative storytelling across mediums, collaborating with clients and creative teams on video projects, graphic development and podcast execution.