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Written by: Jason Lake – Founder & CEO of Complexity Gaming

Although leveraging esports to reach younger audiences is nothing new to brands, this unprecedented time has solidified the value of esports sponsorship. As traditional sports have gone dark, esports has leveraged its digital roots in order to step up and fill that void. With the future of traditional sports and live entertainment still uncertain, the scale, resiliency, and stability of esports is promising and suggests that more brands may turn their attention to the ecosystem.

When engaging non-endemic brands and introducing them to esports, we’ve been fortunate to lean into best practices of one of the most renowned traditional sports franchises in the world: the Dallas Cowboys. From working closely with our sister traditional sports team, we’ve found that player performance and innovation are two key areas of focus when it comes to sponsorship. Like the Cowboys, we aim to elevate our players both in-game and out-of-game by awarding them the same benefits as traditional sports athletes and equipping them with top-of-the-line tools for success. For example, a football team wouldn’t put its athletes at a disadvantage with faulty cleats, which is why we’ve partnered with Herman Miller to develop supportive chairs for gamers that alleviate back pain associated with long hours of sitting. A quarterback’s decision-making speed can make or break plays. With this in mind, we’ve partnered with The Sports Academy to help speed up player reaction time.

By approaching the industry through a traditional sports and esports lens, we’ve developed a few tricks of the trade that can help brands be well-positioned in the crowded esports space including:

First things first, take a step back and make sure the brand is getting into esports for the right reasons 

Esports has a lot of hype right now. It’s easy to get swept up. While esports may seem like the golden ticket to reaching the sought-after Gen Z audience, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right route for every brand. It’s important to think about WHY esports. Does the product serve this audience? What is the value proposition to the fanbase beyond awareness? In an industry where authenticity is everything, it’s even more vital to align with your target audience.

Take into account all of the entry points and select a partner that aligns the brand’s goals

Esports is an umbrella term with near-infinite ways to get involved. There are game publishers, teams, individual players and streamers, leagues, and tournaments — just to name a few. Each game title has its own unique community. And further, still, each gamer has its own community of followers. Brands should walk before they run by evaluating all options. Will the product or service benefit players? Is the brand more well-suited to support game publishers? From there, consider partnering with an organization that you trust, that aligns with the overall sponsorship goals, and is brand safe. It’s important to be cognizant of the potential partner’s past in order to avoid messy PR headaches or community backlash.

Think carefully about the brand’s expertise and how that can add value to the esports space 

Simply slapping a logo somewhere doesn’t work very well in esports. Rather than blindly hopping on the esports bandwagon, evaluate how the brand can carve out a unique sponsorship or solve an industry-wide problem. Evaluate the strengths of the company and decide where indispensable value can be provided to the industry. What can the brand provide that no other brand can? How will the partnership push the industry forward? We’ve found there’s tremendous untapped potential on the player side of the industry. As esports matures, organizations are looking to award professional gamers the same benefits as traditional sports athletes. From physical health and wellness tools to nutrition guides and financial literacy programs, there is ample opportunity to improve player care. If sponsorship of teams and players doesn’t feel like the right fit for the brand, there are many promising areas of growth across the industry from mobile esports to charity.

Get in and stay in

To put it into perspective, esports is where football was in the 1970s. Since the industry is still growing and there are many lessons still to be learned, brands will probably encounter some bumps in the road. Additionally, if they haven’t already, investors are going to ask the tough questions. Esports will experience a correction of the market, which is why it’s important to stick it out for the long haul and think of it as a long-term investment.

With traditional sports sidelined for the immediate future, esports can be a great way for brands to reach coveted younger audiences. Esports is a digital sporting space for our new digital world. Every marketing executive should be evaluating his or her company’s position in the space. Just remember that one size does not fit all and be in it for the long haul.

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