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E-SPORTS

Any Brand Can Do an Esport Event

When we think of esport tournaments, we tend to think of big, monolithic entities that sweep across the galaxy pulling gamers into their orbit and shutting down the internet. While that model still exists, the formats for esport tournaments have diversified greatly over the past few years. They can be any size, and any brand can do their own event. 

In fact, viewership of brand-hosted esport activations on Twitch has more than doubled in the past year alone, up from 700K hours watched in 2020 to 1.4M from Jan. through April of 2021. Today, we take a closer look at the sponsored tournament boom and the brands who are leading the way.

Brand-sponsored esports are having a moment

When Chipotle kicked off the Chipotle Challenger Series back in 2019, it was a tremendous undertaking. To orchestrate the IRL gaming event, they needed equipment. They needed infrastructure. They needed venues. And to get access to all these things, they needed a partnership with Intel Extreme Masters—a big, lumbering, 100 million dollar husk of an esport operation. In short, they had to make a huge commitment. 

These days it’s far easier for brands to create their own tournaments, either working alone or in collaboration with a publisher. Many have jumped at the opportunity, with brand-sponsored and brand-organized events up over 100 percent in 2021 in terms of viewership, according to the data

It’s easy to see why they are so popular among advertisers: 

  • They’re ad hoc, meaning they can align with a product launch or preexisting marketing campaign, as seen with the Toyota Sienna Dream Builds event in Minecraft a few months back.
  • They’re scalable in scope, from smaller events with $500 weekly prizes like the Tekken Bud Light Beer League, to mid-sized events such as Lamborghini’s Battle of the Bulls Rocket League competition with a $30K prize pool, to big tentpole events like the aforementioned Chipotle Challenger Series with $75K and yearlong supplies of burritos up for grabs. 
  • And they can be a lot more fun, with friendly competition between players as seen with UNO night on the Twitch Rivals program.

The result has felt like a breath of fresh air as brands bring in new ideas and experiment with established formulas. From Times Square chess matches to promoting period positivity through play, each brand approaches these types of activations a little bit differently. Let’s take a look at some examples and explore the possibilities.

Who’s trending? 

Tampax

Period stigma is a hot topic in women’s health, with nearly half of all women having experienced shame or embarrassment on account of their menstrual cycles in one poll. For the Tampax Gaming Fest, Tampax’s inaugural esport event, the menstrual product brand hosted a period positive event to change the conversation. The activation was one part moderated chat with prominent females streamers speaking openly about their experiences with menstruation, another part esport throwdown featuring four female Valorant teams. 

The event generated 110K hours watched and 11K brand mentions, so you can add Tampax to the club of female-first brands finding success on Twitch, along with Elf Cosmetics and ColourPop. 

NBC Olympics

NBC Olympics streamed 140+ hours of bonus Olympic coverage on Twitch, resulting in 33.2M+ hits. The best of their content was related to gaming. Popular streamers took on well-known athletes in casual contests at Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, everyone’s favorite game from the early aughts. 

They also hosted a daily tournament, the NBC Olympics Twitch Try-Athlon, in which streamers competed at Olympic trivia, Minecraft archery, and video game versions of Olympic sports. The games selected for the tournaments were not very complicated by esport standards, meaning anyone could pick them up and play. This allowed more casual streamers join in, promoting a spirit of inclusivity. 

Cash App

Riding out last year’s Queen’s Gambit chess trend, which saw a resurgence in public interest in chess, Cash App has been sponsoring Alexandra ”BotezLive” Botez as she runs her chess hustle. A former wunderkind turned Twitch streamer post-grad, Botez is best known for streaming pick-up games in NYC’s most notorious chess locales, including Times and Union Square. As you may imagine, these streams are quite popular, regularly attracting 100K to 300K viewers per stream. With the low production costs and high entertainment value, brands would be wise to look to produce more content in this direction.

Toyota

For their Drive Your Game campaign, Toyota came up with the idea for a “stream race” competition to increase viewer engagement. Twitch personalities played popular esport titles while their followers sent custom Toyota emotes in the chat to cheer them on. 

The key to victory? Inciting your audience to use more Corolla, Camry, or Supra emotes than the other teams. The action played out over the course of ten days, with Team Supra pulling away on a little graphical representation of a racetrack that appeared at the bottom of participating live-streams. The plan was “to promote friendly competition within the gaming community,” according to Tony Mueller, VP of integrated marketing at Toyota, and with over 400K emotes shared, we’d say mission accomplished.

Ready to play?

As you can see, the esport scene is expanding to include all kind of fun, quirky, innovative events. Tournaments don’t have to adhere to the traditional competitive gaming archetype. If you’re thinking about doing your own event, get in touch at  partner@sostandard.com. We can handle the logistics and help you choose the right influencers for maximum reach.

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