For brand marketers to engage gamers, it’s critical to first understand its unique culture, community and sub-communities. Once this is mastered, define your brand’s point of entry and point of difference before mapping out your marketing strategy. Clarity there will help achieve your objectives such as raising awareness, driving perception change, or spurring action while creating rewarding consumer experiences for gamers.

If brands don’t start with the basics, their messages will fall on deaf ears, wasting time, money and credibility. Here are “10 Commandments of Gaming & Esports” that brand marketers can follow for success in this space: 

Thou shalt:

1. Recognize the difference between “Gaming” and “Esports”

Gaming is about the playing and/or watching of video games, while esports is the competitive version of gaming where individuals or teams compete on an amateur or professional basis. A small but important distinction: it’s ‘Esports’ when used at the beginning of a sentence and ‘esports’ when used within a sentence.

2. Support consumer passion across the spectrum of gaming

There are multiple gaming platforms, game genres, and titles that attract different fandoms. To reach gamers and their various communities, marketers must align their efforts across much of this spectrum. Just like you can’t reach all sports fans by only sponsoring and activating NHL games, the same applies to gamers; supporting a single genre, game, or team simply won’t work. League of Legends fans for example are very different than fans of Super Smash Bros.

3. Keep your ear to the ground

Listen to gamers at consumer events like PAX and DreamHack, or esports events from ESL, Riot Games, and Overwatch League; on social media, and online with platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Mixer. Understand the industry by building an informal gaming and esports Board of Advisors to provide agency, publisher, platform, event, and esports team perspectives. Engaging with the gaming industry and understanding trends shaping its evolution will help uncover relevant opportunities.

4. Add value

Determine how your brand and its resources can positively impact this audience’s passion. Brands that provide stability, growth, and innovation are recognized and rewarded. Most non-endemic brands (brands who market products/services other than games, associated hardware, and accessories) are relatively new entrants, so their impact and resulting long term success is still to be determined. Endemic brands such as processor chip manufacturer, Intel, have long supported the growth of gaming and esports, as evidenced through their flagship tournament series Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) in partnership with ESL. As a result, Intel has amassed a direct conduit to this audience for its products through IEM events across the world and their associated broadcasts that reach millions. Non-endemic brands should take note from Intel that continued and sustained support goes a long way in earning respect from this community.

5. Fight against stereotypes and misconceptions

Gaming is a massive audience with Global Web Index (GWI) reporting 86% of internet users playing on at least one gaming device within the past month. This figure increases to 92% among ages 16-24 . It also features a diverse population of people of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, nationalities, and abilities. The stereotype of young men relegated to their parents’ basement held some degree of truth 20+ years ago, but with the increased accessibility of the internet and gaming platforms, this no longer holds weight. Take time to understand the various communities, what they love about gaming, esports, or a particular genre or title and how that experience can be made better. A powerful example from earlier this year came from Microsoft’s release of its adaptive controller and 2019 Super Bowl commercial, which recognized the unique challenges gamers with limited mobility face. Their tagline rings true, when everyone plays, we all win.

6. Avoid interruptive marketing

There is ample opportunity to be part of a gamer’s passion without interrupting their experience. Instances where brands push out marketing messages to this audience without regard, relevance, or genuine integration won’t resonate. With interactive Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming platforms available, the focus should be on creating a two-way experience between brands and consumers. A recent example involved auto brand Porsche unveiling its new Formula E car live on Twitch in which viewers controlled the in-real-life (IRL) actions of two drivers who revealed the car after viewers completed a series of challenges. This along with Netflix’s interactive Black Mirror: Bandersnatch interactive episode are some early examples of more to come in the progression from passive consumption of entertainment to more interactive forms. From interactive storylines to viewer interactivity that impacts streaming or gameplay, we predict this will provide for many innovative opportunities for brands to connect with this audience.

7. Partner and activate

Your brand activations will resonate with gamers by partnering and leveraging brands, teams, organizations, and personalities already in the space. These entities have built trust and credibility, and can help marketers better navigate the landscape and connect with this audience. For example, consider partnering with gaming influencers like TimTheTatman, Pokimane, or Nadeshot, who have cultivated meaningful relationships with their fans to deliver experiences that integrate the brand through on-going engagement.

8. Accept that the only constant is change

Gaming and esports are dynamic environments. A degree of flexibility, patience, and curiosity is a must as innovations in live stream platforms and the structure of esports continue to evolve. Refer back to Commandment #2: if you do this, you’ll be in good shape, as you’ll have already diversified your approach across the gaming spectrum.

9. Focus upon inclusivity versus exclusivity

Gaming is inherently inclusive as the games themselves welcome all skill levels from the recreational player to the professional. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be as successful an entertainment medium as it is. Whether at an event or through a stream, gamers value unique experiences, but unique shouldn’t be confused with exclusive. Brands should design their primary marketing activation less around exclusive, or VIP-like moments and more on great one-to-many experiences that can be enjoyed by all. This audience may have at times felt like an outsider, so think twice before activating experiences that may limit access or participation.

10. Remember to have fun

Gaming is fun, even in the competitive esports arena, and brand marketers need to understand these communities won’t welcome yesterday’s marketing efforts. They want something that reflects and complements their DNA. Speak to their passion and bring the fun when you activate in this space.

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