Sports marketing

Why is esports becoming an important part of sports marketing in India?

In fiscal year 2021, there were around 17 million esports viewers in India. Image: Shutterstock

OWith an ever-growing community on its back, esports platforms are aggressively attracting brand partners with the promise of better reach, better access, and better engagement. Brands are also increasing their spending, which has already doubled in the past two years, according to experts. The category is therefore a new favorite among marketers.

Speaking of reach, business intelligence firm Statista states that in fiscal year 2021, there were around 17 million esports viewers in India. The number was almost double that of 2019. It is also estimated that in 2025 there will be around 85 million viewers of esports events across 20 different platforms, making India one of the markets fastest growing audience for esports. In a way, it has reached mainstream status with OTT players such as Voot, SonyLiv, JioTV, MX Player and Hotstar broadcasting some of the biggest tournaments in esports. More platforms means more content and more advertising time.

No wonder esports is now a big part of the sports marketing landscape in India.

Brands such as Pepsi, Airtel, Flipkart, BookMyShow, Red Bull, Mercedes-Benz, Yes Bank and many more are already collaborating with esports platforms and tournaments to make the most of this growing space.

While these brands are early adopters of the segment, other players and industries are also following suit as the reach and growth of esports increases and they become more convinced of the benefits and viability of this sport. category.

However, it is not only about the reach, it is also about the category of audience offered by the segment.

“Esports is where millennial and Gen Z audiences are and that’s what marketers are looking for. This is the audience group that no longer watches television or reads the newspaper. They are online and they are playing games and watching esports tournaments. That aside, esports as a category is community-driven, which makes targeting easier for marketers,” says Rajan Navani, VC and MD, JetSynthesys.

Navani’s estimates indicate that brands have increased their ad spend in the segment by 30-50% over the past two years, given the huge growth in traffic from the stay-at-home crowd.

“Some brands that were already invested in the segment even doubled their esports spending to unlock the true potential of its offerings,” he added.

Esports is now, as EY calls it in its recent report, an “attractive option for brands to connect with a young, empowered audience.”

The report states that the industry market size in India is expected to touch Rs 11 billion by FY 2025 and will be collectively defined by 1.5 million gamers, 85 million viewers, over 20 broadcasters and several brands, organizers and publishers.

The expected economic value generated by the segment is estimated at Rs 100 billion by fiscal year 2025. Overall, the industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 46% over the next four years, where platforms streaming services are expected to generate most of the revenue.

According to the same report, tournament sponsorship and syndication revenue is also expected to hit Rs 3.5 billion, with a CAGR of 45%.

Brands just have to get creative, says Skandaram Vasudevan, strategic partner at Mudramax.

One of the ways to innovate could be to use the platforms to reach Bharat audience through these platforms.

The ability to reach a broad and broad audience, including audiences consuming regional content, is an added benefit, he explained.

PUBG Mobile World League East, for example, had 12 times more Hindi consumption compared to English. The tournaments broadcast on Loco were broadcast in six languages: Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu and English. “This presents a very exciting way for brands to reach the audience, which is about to reach viewer fatigue with the regular ads and commercials. It’s a unique opportunity to reach the audience and influence branding the same way,” he said.

Expanding the opportunities, Vasudevan says there are also brands that end up having their own gaming platforms, like PayTM, who sponsor and host other events to raise awareness of their own platform.

Lokesh Suji, Director of the Indian Esports Federation and Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation, points to the only deterrent in the industry at the moment.

“In India, esports is still not recognized by the government as a sport, even though it is included in this year’s Asian Games as a medal-worthy event and pilot event in the Commonwealth Games, Birmingham 2022. Native brands include esports in their marketing budgets but non-native brands still invest from time to time so once we get recognition for sports it will open up a lot of barriers from the point of view of the brand,” he said.

However, Suji still believes that the number of brands taking on the genre will only increase from now on. Figures from the FICCI-EY M&E 2022 report also say the same thing. It says brand interest in this segment is growing, with 72 brands investing in 2021 (up from 45 in 2020). The count is expected to reach 100 brands in 2022.

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