In the second part of our Esports Q&A with SQN CEO Claire Ritchie-Tomkins, we gain insight into the ever-increasing role that brands are playing in the industry, and how the best of these are activating their partnerships.
How do you see esports differentiating itself from traditional sports in the future, and what strategies do you believe the industry will apply to separate itself from traditional sports?
“I think that there are two aspects to that. I think that the recent developments we have seen in sim racing need to be maintained and expanded upon. People need to be clever about how they are engaging with the fans on that side, to keep them engaged and doing invitational races as well as bringing in celebrities. Those sorts of aspects will maintain the interest. I think the other aspect of it is about the audience. The esports audience is an audience that brands want to get a hold of and that will continue to be the case post Covid-19. I believe that’s the jewel in the crown for esports and one they can most definitely leverage.”
How are the brands and sponsors latching onto the esports audience?
“You’ve got the endemic brands that would have always been involved with esports. Intel was involved with esports 20 years ago, so for technology companies it’s made sense. Both gaming accessories and computer power companies which are associated with those areas have been involved from fairly early on. What we are seeing now is this transition from non-endemic brands. BMW has recently been announced as a partner of Cloud9, which Microsoft partnered with too last Autumn. There are big brands that want to be associated with the sport. We are now getting mainstream sponsors coming into esports just as they would in anything else.”
Have you seen any specific sponsorships or brand activations that have really stood out to you and been successful?
“Yes, DHL is one that comes to mind. If you look at last year’s ESL One Birmingham event, DHL really hooked into the audience there. People at the event were clapping and cheering to DHL every time they were announced. Could you ever imagine 20 to 30 year olds cheering to DHL? It’s amazing how all of a sudden, you’ve got DHL appearing as very cool. Another one that comes to mind is Louis Vuitton partnering with Riot Games’ League of Legends. All of the gamers were dressed in Louis Vuitton suits and following on from that, they brought out a licensed range of products which sold out within hours. I think that brands who are using it cleverly are going to see a great deal of success.”
Would you say that now is a great time for brands and sponsors to get involved with esports?
“Yes, absolutely. I think it’s always been on the rise, but with the current absence of other sports and live sports, I think sponsors need to be creative in their thinking and pivot to what is available. I think brands need to come in for the right reasons and they need to have thought about it properly. But there are ways of doing it and working with agencies like us, establishing what the opportunities are is a key thing to do right now. It’s essential to assess the landscape and work out where the best places are to get involved.”
What do you believe the future brings for esports?
“With the projections we have seen, it’s phenomenal with the size of the industry and the leverage of media rights and sponsorship making up a significant part of the industry. I believe that will continue and it will only grow.”