eSports, a New Era in Advertising

An Introduction to eSports

eSports is just a bunch of nerdy kids who are playing simpleminded games in their parents’ basement, right? Not so much. So, what exactly is eSports? It’s essentially organized competition between teams or players who are playing against each other in a computer or video game. These games are typically multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), such as “League of Legends” and “Dota 2,” or first-person shooter (FPS), such as “Call of Duty” and “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.” Please don’t leave out fighting games such as “Street Fighter” and “Super Smash Bros.,” though, as well as strategy games such as “StarCraft II.” But for the most part, MOBAs have dominated the market of late. Competitions take place in countries all around the globe for significant prize money. For example, The International, which is an annual tournament held for “Dota 2,” had a prize pool in its fifth running this year of over $18 million, with the winning team taking home $6,634,661. Even the last-place team in the competition, which was 16th place, took home $55,289. Also, these competitions are being played live in sold-out arenas with millions of people watching globally on streaming channels such as YouTube or Twitch. I’m not talking about some small conference centers here. I’m talking about KeyArena in Seattle, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and even Madison Square Garden in New York City. These stadiums are selling out for 3-4 consecutive days. eSports truly is a multinational competition for some big bucks.

The International DOTA Championships logo

Why Should Agencies Learn About eSports?

Well, as mentioned previously, this scene has some serious cash to go around for the tournaments. But the industry as a whole expects to generate $278 million this year, and it forecasts to be up to $765 million by 2018. The number of enthusiasts continues to increase every year and is now up to 116 million people, which, by the way, is more people than watch the National Hockey League. Sidney Crosby who? More like, GO FEAR! (Fear is a storied “Dota 2” player from Oregon who also happens to be part of the team Evil Geniuses, which took first place and the record-setting prize pool this year at The International 5.) I can throw jaw-dropping numbers at you all day to support the growth of eSports, but we know that agencies really love to tell stories and tap into all the consumers’ emotions. Therefore, I dare you to watch Free to Play (a documentary by Valve that follows professional gamers as they prepare for The International) and not feel a little bit for these players. These live events are raw emotion for these players as well as consumers.

Agencies will need to learn to accommodate this type of demographic. Authenticity is a key part in advertising to this group. If an advertiser clumsily releases something without doing the homework necessary for this group, then they will burn you across the Internet. Also, because this group wants the content now, think of it as almost unadvertising a brand rather than forcing ad content down people’s throats.

Photo of the League of Legends world championships at the Staples Center. Large crowd in a stadium.

“League of Legends” World Championship at the Staples Center

You Are Behind

If this is your first time hearing about eSports, then you are already behind. Start reading the news right now to keep up with this rapidly evolving phenomenon. It’s a landscape changing on a daily basis, and missing even a few hours on a busy news day will put you behind the curve. Advertisers need to learn and react quickly if they want to marry brands to certain events, players, teams, etc., but it needs to be done in a smart way for this demographic. Don’t ignore this emerging platform because if you do, then everyone else will lap you.


  • Esports Should Grow into a $765M Business by 2018 as Millions Tune in for Dota 2, Counter-Strike

  • Listen Up, Advertising Agencies: Something Is Coming!

  • Free to Play: The Movie (US)


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