Why aren’t brands launching their own e-sports FIFA tournaments?

13th October 2017 by Adam Wright

Gaming is set to become a $100 billion industry this year, and e-sports make up an increasingly significant part of that industry. With such eye-watering numbers, why don’t I see more brand e-sports campaigns with sports titles given the popularity of titles like FIFA?

E-sports is still very much in its cultural infancy, historically it’s been monopolised by shooters such as Call of Duty and Counter Strike, non-sports games are the key commercial drivers. Some e-sports veterans question the legitimacy of FIFA being a true e-sport as the player doesn’t have control of all eleven players, unlike solitary first-person shooter titles.

In the UK, FIFA is the only sports offering in the top 10 most played games by e-sports fans (with 44% of gamers playing it), the title comes in 3rd behind Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Football clubs are now signing FIFA e-sports players as brand representatives, not just for major tournaments, but on season-long deals.

FIFA, football’s world governing body, has itself also seen a chance to engage the gamer demographic, launching the ‘Interactive World Cup’, and other rights holders including Formula 1 have followed suit by running gaming competitions in tandem with their regular season events.

With influencers like Spencer FC creating hours and hours of original content, most brands surely want a slice of the action? One of the reasons that brands are often hesitant to get involved in e-sports is the area of licensing. E-sports IP involves content, characters (club crests, players, stadiums etc), and gameplay which is ultimately owned by the developer of the game.

Brands looking to launch new e-gaming propositions are therefore understandably careful and often unsure of the process, however, the e-sports proposition offers brands the chance to access a new kind of fan if brands can pair themselves in a credible way with popular publishers and influential gaming talent.

One brand that is leading from the front is Coca-Cola. As a FIFA partner, the drinks giant penned the first ever ‘Virtual Sponsorship Deal’ through a unique integration with EA SPORTS FIFA 18, which saw in game star Alex Hunter signing an endorsement deal as a brand ambassador for the new Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. In terms of non-FIFA partners, brands like Red Bull have also made initial moves in this space.

With audience insights shared by media agencies supporting the popularity of gaming amongst millennials, brands can’t deny the data. With some brands still assuming gaming is a solitary activity for teenagers, specialist agencies like ourselves can help brands navigate this journey to deliver campaigns that align with their core commercial and marketing objectives.

With a World Cup around the corner, 2018 is going to be another exciting year for e-sports and whether you’re looking to build your own property in this space or partner with an influential e-sports team like Hashtag United (we recently negotiated a commercial partnership with Pitchero for them), we’d love to help you navigate this space and #betheconversation.