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Level Up: Esports + Experiential

The fan insight that brands are missing

By now, we know that the ‘loner gamer’ stereotype is wrong. The strong sense of community among gamers is no secret, from early LAN parties to today’s near constant interaction on Twitch and Discord. But if you think that community in modern gaming begins and ends online—well, that’s wrong too.

Need proof? ESL’s 2018 Katowice competitions welcomed upwards of 169,000 live spectators into a packed arena, with all of the energy, drama and emotion you’d expect at a college football championship.

Brands may understand the importance of engaging with this ever-growing audience, but misunderstanding why fans continue to break attendance records at live esports events is a major lost opportunity.

The live esports experience

As part of our Experiential EQ research, we talked to fans at ESL One New York to better understand why they attend live esports events.

The stories we heard went beyond the excitement of competition and celebrity all-stars—they were personal. Friends introducing friends to their first ESL event. Meeting friends made online in person for the first time. Family members of all ages sharing the excitement together. One fan even told us that his frequently-worn Team Liquid jersey usually goes unnoticed—but at a live competition, it’s a conversation starter.

Shared passions rule at esports events, where connecting live and in person is a rare opportunity for fans of a sport that much of the world still doesn’t understand.

Brands are failing to take a community approach

Esports fans crave community from live events. This knowledge is a powerful emotional tool for brand marketers—but few, if any, have leveraged it in their esports marketing.

By tapping into fans’ underlying need to belong, a community-rooted esports sponsorship strategy could make a lasting impact on consumer perceptions and behavior. A few examples of how this could come to life:

"Misunderstanding why fans continue to break attendance records at live esports events is a major lost opportunity."
  • Fan Hangout Zones: Develop a branded space onsite where fans can relax in between pro matches, meet other like-minded fans, and potentially play a round or two of their favorite video game.
  • Community Networking: Host a pre-party or after party for the event so fans can meet and mingle, expanding their personal networks.
  • Viewing Parties: Extend the live event experience to fans who couldn’t make it to the live event and create a sense of community away from the arena through branded viewing parties.

Brands: taking the time to understand fans on a deeper level when designing esports experiences will help you maximize your investment and position your brand for future success. Find ways to cultivate community and bring esports fans closer to one another—and you’ll be rewarded for it.

Deeper fan insights = better brand experiences.

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