In the last couple of years, e-sports has become one of the fastest growing industries, combining both gaming and sports. It was estimated to reach $493 million in revenue over the past year and to surpass $1 billion by 2019. The games range from multiplayer football and basketball to fantasy and shooting games (FIFA, League of Legends, Counter Strike etc). It’s become a massive industry, creating numerous pro-gaming teams and personalities, catering to millions of viewers that watch them compete in tournaments and engage with e-sports across the globe.
Naturally, this has caught the attention of many household brands from publishers, sports clubs to consumer electronics and drink manufacturers. Coca Cola now sponsors the League of Legends World Championships and Comcast Xfinity jumped on the bandwagon to not only include its branding and advertising, but partnering with one of the teams to provide equipment and internet connection to help them compete. There are numerous crossovers for brands, much like in traditional sports, and e-sports is a brand new avenue for reaching very targeted audiences.
E-sports still being a competitive activity lends itself to betting as well. We’ve seen many leading bookmakers join in to provide betting odds. This offers huge opportunities for them to capitalise on this emerging industry. Including e-sports in their betting options allows operators to reposition sports to attract new fans and even reach audiences that wouldn’t normally bet on traditional sports.
The e-sports audience is very engaged and tech-savvy. The age of this demographic ranges between 18 and 39, so they are relatively young, yet have plenty of disposable income. It’s also interesting that women make up 38% of the fanbase. So operators should really consider how they need to approach this audience.
E-sports fans are not likely to be used to traditional sports betting, they might not even like sports that much. So, the existing format of a betting website or app won’t really appeal to them as it’s tailored to a significantly different punter. It would be best to create a bespoke platform, dedicated to e-sports, reflecting the most popular games and having an simple way of placing bets, for example like Salty Bet. It’s important to consider API integrations with streaming providers, like Twitch, to offer bets while watching live tournaments. Another way of integrating betting could be directly building this functionality into the game. For example adding a betting feature to Clash Royale tournaments that users can watch.
While traditional sports still remains the main avenue for betting operators, e-sports has already demonstrated its value and how brands could reach its audiences. Bookmakers will need to find a different approach to be able to win over e-sports enthusiasts. It’s important to consider some innovative tactics and be more daring, using the technologies and platforms familiar to them, as well as reflecting their passion for these games.