DSM Present e-Sports Panel at NEM2017
Author: Tom Henderson
E-Sports – it’s no longer just a buzz word. E-Sports is very real and very much going mainstream. With the advent of EA’s big push this past 6 months to open up the FUT Championship to all gamers, it won’t be to long into the future before the Football World is speaking of 50,000 seater stadiums being packed with fans ala what we see in Korea with League of Legends.
Recently we saw BT Sport agree a deal to show live qualifiers of EA’s FUT Championship, a move that really shows this sport is going mainstream. ESPN have supported FIFA in North America and we've also seen 2k partner recently with the NBA to form a 2k League which will start next year and mirror the real world season.
There have been a handful of clubs that have entered the space already, they will be a step ahead for now and will reap the rewards financially sooner than their counterparts. Last week EA announced that there will be more Club and League tournaments for the FIFA 18 championships.
It was fantastic for me personally to attend NEM 2017 this year in Dubrovnik, a TV Market Place that occurs each year. This year for the first time they included e-Sports. The interest in the panel session was great to see and to be a part of, and the interest we are seeing in that sector is really pleasing. Just today NBC Sports has announced that it will broadcast a Rocket League event which is another positive step forwards.
I can understand why people are nervous and a little unsure on what to do in the space. But I like to think of it under the guise of ‘digital fan engagement’. When I worked at EA SPORTS, my strategy for club activation was simple: how can we embed FIFA in the fabric of the club, and how can we engage with a club’s fan base around our content. As FIFA grew in popularity, the desire for content became bigger and bigger, and the association with the brand from other companies and rights holders grew so extreme that brands would often use FIFA as a fan engagement tool of their own.
And over the past few years, I would argue that the majority of content that was pushed through club channels, was not so much a promotion for EA, but engaging content benfitting the club(s), as they were reaching a demographic that was always the hardest for them to engage with – 16-25s or younger.
For me, e-sports should be approached in the same way. How can your brand (or broadcast) leverage the e-Sport game title to associate with and engage with a younger demographic, a demographic that is extremely passionate, excitable and energetic, and who loves live, exciting content. As we've learnt, this e-Sport demographic is usually more affluent too and has a propensity to spend both attending events and engaging on digital channels.
Make no mistake, this is not a badge slap exercise. The brands that succeed will not do that. Brands who embed themselves into the fabric of e-sports, who become synonymous with the title will win. The key to that is content and it all starts with a clear vision and strategy.
Conversely, this is something that I believe Football Clubs should be approaching in a way that can help them grow their fan base. Growing their fan demographic more broadly and their exposure in key international markets. Again, using content as the primary driver. I don't believe this would be at odds with a traditional football club strategy, ultimately I believe Clubs can have an Entertainment strategy aimed at Youth, not just traditional season ticket holders.
At Digital Sports Mgmt, we are helping brands, rights holders and influencers navigate all of this. I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds in the years to come and being a part of such an exciting and blossoming space.
Tom Henderson is Director and Co-Founder of Digital Sports Mgmt. A boutique sports agency based in London. Find out more at www.digitalsportsmgmt.com and follow Tom on Twitter @hendo_007 and LinkedIn.