Esports is expected to bring in up to $1.1 billion of revenue in 2019 according to Newzoo, so it’s no surprise that brands are getting on board. A common trend has emerged that goes beyond sponsorships to become strategic, long-term partnerships—sharing audiences for a match made in marketing heaven.
On May 21, WWE Backlash will be presented by Rocket League, the breakout hit from Psyonix—a competitive video game with over 31 million players. Rocket League will be a presenting partner of two upcoming WWE pay-per-view events—Backlash and Great Balls of Fire—then continue with SummerSlam and the newly-announced WWE Women’s Tournament. Rocket League creative will air across WWE Network, WWE’s digital and social channels and on WWE’s flagship TV programs Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live on USA Network. Fans in attendance will have the opportunity to experience and play Rocket League at arenas across the US.
“The integrated partnership with Psyonix will provide Rocket League with an opportunity to utilize WWE’s global platforms and reach our passionate fan base, many of whom are avid gamers,” John Brody, WWE executive vice president of global sales & partnerships said in a statement.
Sharing audiences is a wise move, especially when there is a significant overlap in fans. Of the 80 million American basketball fans, 9.6 million are also into esports, according to Newzoo. In February, the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software announced plans to launch a new, professional competitive gaming league that would “bring together the best basketball gamers in the world.” Since then, 17 NBA teams have agreed to participate in NBA 2K League’s inaugural season, set to debut in 2018.
“In only a few months we’ve created strong relationships with game developers, come to a better understanding of the training and development needs of the esports athletes today, and generated corporate partnerships that give brands a direct portal into this burgeoning market,” said Chad Biggs, Philadelphia 76ers’ senior vice president of corporate partnership and activation.
Participating organizations include:
- Boston Celtics
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Dallas Mavericks
- Detroit Pistons
- Golden State Warriors
- Indiana Pacers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Miami Heat
- Milwaukee Bucks
- New York Knicks
- Orlando Magic
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Sacramento Kings
- Toronto Raptors
- Utah Jazz
- Washington Wizards
— NBA 2K 2K17 (@NBA2K) May 4, 2017
In addition to streaming live tournaments into the indefinite future, Esports League (ESL) will produce Twitter-exclusive highlights for a weekly, half-hour show that will cover esports events and behind-the-scenes footage. For ESL—the largest esports organization in the world—not just any social media partnership would do.
“A lot of [information about esports] is in the social digital space, and the conversation around esports is particularly heavy on Twitter,” Johannes Schiefer, vice president of social media and editorial at ESL told AListDaily. “All the big players are on Twitter. Every team is on Twitter. The amount of interaction, engagement and story development that takes place on Twitter is disproportionately large in esports when compared to [traditional] sports. Bringing the actual content to Twitter so that you can watch it where that conversation is taking place only makes sense.”
Social media has indeed become a strong ally in the world of esports, as proven by the recent partnership between Facebook and Activision Blizzard. Ahead of its successful World of Warcraft: Legion expansion, Blizzard made it possible for fans to log into the game launcher with a Facebook account and stream directly onto the social feed.
On a global scale, 191 million consumers will watch esports frequently in 2017, Newzoo reported, with another 194 million tuning in occasionally. If brand partnerships like these continue to grow in popularity, that number could increase dramatically.