ESports is a hot field right now that continues to grow rapidly. However, entering into the arena with the right tone and commitment might not be something that every brand is ready for.
John Newlin, custom solutions director at Twitch, talked with [a]listdaily and laid out the main problem with reaching the coveted millennial audience.
“Video game livestreaming opens the door for brands to connect with one of the most fickle audiences in the market,” said Newlin. “Because they’re dominantly cord-cutters and even cord-nevers who consume their entertainment online, the 18-34-year-old demographic is almost impossible to effectively reach via traditional means. Streamers also build their own unique audiences, so brands have the ability to drill down and speak to very specific groups of consumers.”
So, what opportunities are there for brands that want to develop a strong livestreaming presence, but don’t necessarily want to get into eSports?
“When it comes to Twitch, brands that have the right custom campaign and the right broadcaster, have the opportunity to interact with their potential customers in real-time,” said Newlin. “In this sense, brands naturally become part of the experience. For example, Totino’s sponsored a program where Twitch chat controlled a couch mounted on a bucking mechanical bull. When enough people entered the spin command into chat, the couch would react accordingly and sent the broadcaster flying. The viewers enjoyed interacting with the streamer in this whimsical manner, while the brand was literally along for the ride.”
Newlin then detailed a global Twitch campaign to promote the movie Star Trek: Beyond. The campaign involved top streamers from Germany (P4wnyhof), Austria (Miss Rage), and the UK (onscreenlol), who were all broadcasting their livestreaming shows as usual on July 20. Then they were suddenly “beamed up,” leaving viewers staring at empty chairs and clues across their rooms and social media directing them to a special branded Twitch channel. A day later, the streamers were on the starship Enterprise for a live broadcast, where they squared off against Star Trek villains in a game of Rocket League to win their way back home.
“The two-hour special was hosted by a Vulcan, showed movie trailers and featured actual props from the movie with a huge prize giveaway,” said Newlin, describing the event. “At the end of the broadcast, the influencers beamed out of the Enterprise and viewers saw them rematerialize safely back at their homes. Not only does this illustrate a unique way to have streamers take part in a campaign, it’s the type of activation that could only be successfully deployed on Twitch.”
Beyond creative activations such as the Star Trek one, Newlin stated that brands can also sponsor individual broadcaster streams, coordinate product giveaways, create stream teams or integrate their products at events that streamers are covering.
“Twitch, for example, does partner lounges and community parties at many events that have been sponsored by both endemic and non-endemic brands. Of course, the epicenter of connecting with streamers is having a presence at TwitchCon 2017, which is on October 20-22 at the Long Beach Convention Center,” said Newlin. “Brands should also be aware that the core appeal of Twitch is the live social video element combined with an engaged community. This is why non-gaming categories like Twitch Creative and the newly launched IRL vlogging category are flourishing.”
Roker Media co-founder and managing partner, Ronald Pruett believes in a more foundational approach when creating livestreaming content, starting with picking the right platform. He told [a]listdaily that Roker Media specializes in connecting brands with its shows, such as Mario Armstrong’s Never Settle (Facebook’s first fully interactive live talk show), which has FedEx and Sony as sponsors and has Entrepreneur Magazine as a distribution partner. Never Settle will be shown on Entrepreneur.com (with a viewing audience of 40 million) in addition to Facebook Live, and almost as a demonstration of the company’s commitment to live broadcasts, the meeting with Entrepreneur to discuss the details of the deal was livestreamed.
With this in mind, Pruett emphasizes the importance of picking the right talent to keep shows entertaining and engaging. “Talent is critical when it’s live. They have to be able to carry the show.” said Pruett, who then cited Chef Justin Warner’s cooking show on Twitch, ChefShock, as a prime example.
“This guy did the show live for two hours a night, five days a week,” Pruett continued. “It worked because not only was he authentic as a gamer, and he was on the right platform (Twitch), but Justin was such a talent that he could keep you interested for two hours, which is hard to do.”
Pruett also discussed how livestreaming will develop differently than traditional influencer campaigns on YouTube. “We really think it will be more program driven than individually driven by an influencer,” he said. “In other words, we think that brands should look at creating their own unique content or programming on a continuous basis, versus traditional one-off influencer campaigns.”
So, instead of leveraging existing influencers, Pruett believes that brands should try to grow an influencer or program from the ground up. “Over time, I think that’s where brands benefit,” explained Pruett. “If they build their own programs, they become influencers themselves. I think a lot of brands have been able to do that. You can build your own community if you create your own content. I call it programming because it’s appointment viewing. It’s not just like a pop-up show. It’s something the shows every week or every day, and it could be a mystery or trivia show. We think that over time, that’s where livestreaming will look more like television than what we’ve seen on digital platforms.”
Chris Carley, TriplePoint PR’s influencer relations specialist, has organized events such as the Bay Area Live streamer meetup, and he told [a]listdaily about competitive gaming opportunities that don’t necessarily involve eSports.
“ESports is great for streaming, but at the same time, there is a level of engagement that happens between a content creator and his or her audience that isn’t possible with a giant, televised eSports competition,” Carley explains. “I think that people tune in to streams for much more than competitive gaming. For instance, an area that has massively expanded on Twitch in the last two years is the speedrunning (playing games in the shortest time) community. Awesome Games Done Quick even raised a record $2.2 million dollars for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. This wouldn’t be technically categorized as ‘eSports,’ but it has incredibly high engagement from a competitive standpoint.”
Carley continued by saying, “there are a multitude of untapped segments and sub-communities in gaming very similar to both of these. Wherever there is a shared interest—from specific genres to speedrunning—there is an audience out there and content creators reaching that audience.”
Sean Fee, chief product officer for the video game discovery and social platform, Player.me, agrees. He told [a]listdaily that, “the opportunities are in finding gaming niches. We all know that gaming is almost always broken into different sectors. There are segments for PC players and console players. Then there are the hardcore, the casuals and the eSports crowd. I think the main thing is to identify which kind of group you’re trying to target and then find the people who would represent your brand best in that grouping.”
Fee also suggests researching content creators and who they’re engaging with to make sure that there’s an authentic connection between them and the potential brand partners.
Steven Lai, group talent director at ION, offers this advice for brands that want to develop a stronger livestreaming audience: “Engaging with a live audience provides unique opportunities that brands need to leverage. Treat live as a dynamic, living, breathing machine instead of just slapping on a banner that could be run across any media vehicle. Build programs that lean into the immediate engagement and feedback.”
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