The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Gamers and Esports Fans

The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Gamers and Esports Fans

By Graham Hardock, Account Supervisor, Edelman


For people all over the world, playing video games is an important aspect of their everyday life.  For many it’s a passion, for some it’s a job, and for others gaming is an activity to unwind.  For brands, video game culture is another potential touchpoint and an incredible opportunity to reach a specific targeted audience through multiple digital touch points – be it on their smartphones, tablets, PCs or video game consoles.

Esports, and the gaming culture that surrounds it, represents a slice of this gaming audience and its popularity is rapidly expanding. The breakneck expansion associated with gaming has occurred in part because: 1) Esports presents fans with the chance to watch the games they love played at the highest level 2) Provides them insight into how to improve their own play 3) Allows gamers the opportunity to participate in a community that shares their passions and interests.

In part, esports has gained traction with brands because it feels familiar. Esports has a similar structure to traditional sports in that there are teams, tournaments, and star players that all feel familiar to brands who have historically used traditional sports to reach their target audiences. Today, these brands see a clear overlap between who they are trying to reach and the makeup of esports fans.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and capitalize on this incredible momentum, here are five do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when marketing to gamers and esports fans:

Don’t Presume The Gamer Stereotype – Today an incredible number of people play video games, 2.3 Billion[1] individuals around the globe, to be exact. In the US, the average video game player is 34 years old and 45% of players are women[2].  Video game players make up a diverse spectrum that ranges from those who play Candy Crush on their commute to work to those who build and design custom PCs on which they game. One of the first distinctions marketers should make is where on this spectrum their target audience lies. Are they the more casual video game playing audience, those true enthusiasts often referred to as hardcore gamers, or somewhere in between? Either way, don’t fall for the tired Hollywood portrayal of the stereotypical asocial gamer.

[1] New Zoo Global Games Market Report

[2] ESA Essential Facts 2018

Don’t Assume Gamers Are One Segment – If your goal is to target enthusiasts, it’s important to recognize that gamers have a wide range of interests and preferences and are fiercely loyal to the specific games they play.  Esports fans on average are invested in 5 different games and two different genres[1]. Individual games have their own audience demographics.  For example, the popular game Dota 2’s player base is 84% male and 16% female, whereas the soccer simulation, FIFA’s player base is 68% men and 32% female[2]. Marketers should assume and conduct research into the specific games their target audience plays as they each have their own lexicon, culture, history and subreddit.

[1] Nielsen eSports Playbook 2017

[2] Nielsen eSports Playbook 2017

Do Make A Long-Term Commitment – Endemic brands dominate the gaming and esports marketing landscapes; however, non-endemic brands are welcomed. In the US, only 15% of eSports fans view non-endemic brand involvement as not at all appropriate[1]. What allows brands to garner fan approval is a willingness to make a long-term commitment and strict adherence to the final two do’s and don’ts, listed below.

[1] Nielsen eSports Playbook 2017

Don’t Force It – If your brand has an established tone and voice that it uses to communicate with your target audiences, don’t lose sight of this just because you’re targeting gamers. Assuming your natural voice and being honest about your brand’s ties (or lack thereof) to the esports community positions your brand as transparent and self-aware. If your brand isn’t willing or able to recognize its standing in the gaming community, gamers are most certainly going to remind you.

Do Prop Up Their HeroesFinally, and when in doubt, influencer sponsorship on Twitch and YouTube present great ways to integrate your brand with a specific gamer or esports audience. Many of the 2.3 million average daily US users of Twitch tune in to live vicariously through their gaming heroes[1]. They want these surrogates to succeed, they want them to be able to keep creating the content they enjoy, and they are pragmatic enough to recognize that the only way this is possible is through advertisement support.

[1] MixPanel, March 2015; Nielsen National TV Toolbox, Reach and Frequency Report, February 2015, Live+7

At Edelman, we’re uniquely positioned to help brands navigate the esports space while implementing best practices like those outline above (do’s) and avoiding the pitfalls that can quickly alienate gamers from a brand (don’ts). Our mix of expert content strategist, influencer specialists and performance marketers ensure that any brand that wants to execute a campaign targeted towards gamers can do so effectively and in a measurable way.

About Edelman Digital

Edelman Digital is the digital advisory and integrated marketing arm of the world’s largest communications marketing firm. Our global staff, in over 65 offices worldwide, is built to manage the complexity of modern marketing and online reputation, using a data-driven social-first storytelling approach designed to deliver real-time business results. We believe in exploring future-forward technology to advance the stories we tell. The output of our work delivers experiences that transform culture, reputation and relationships to inspire real-world action between brands and consumers.

Interested in learning more about Edelman Digital’s esports marketing capabilities?