Esports, understood as multiplayer video games played competitively for spectators, have been generating substantial interest from international observers over the past couple of years. The sport’s growth trajectory, combined with its highly-desired viewer profile and impressive engagement levels, has attracted the attention of non-endemic global advertisers including Audi, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Gillette.
Esports have not however made as tangible an impact on advertiser strategising in Australia. In this issue of The Seed, we ask whether Australian advertisers are missing a trick and what to do about it.
Global esport revenues are tipped to soar.
According to a report by Goldman Sachs, in 2018 esports attracted nearly 400 million viewers worldwide. PwC estimated 2018 esports revenues at US $805m, of which 55% was attributed to streaming advertising and sponsorship deals. The remaining 45% was a combination of media rights deals ($181m), consumer contributions ($129m) and ticket sales ($55m). 1
Depending on who you talk to, esports revenues are set to reach between $1.58 billion (PwC) and $2.96 billion (Goldman Sachs) by the year 2022, with global viewership on course to reach 557m by 2021 (Newzoo).
Such is its presence in the global media landscape that it was specifically called out in Netflix’s Q4 2018 shareholder letter, which stated that “we complete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO”.2
Esports is an appealing prospect for global advertisers, though it comes with some inherent challenges.
Besides its rate of growth, one of the most appealing aspects of the esports proposition is the nature of its audience. Like traditional sports fans, esports enthusiasts are loyal and engaged. Furthermore, they are statistically younger and more affluent than the average consumer, and 71% of them are men.3
Esports viewers are difficult to connect to via traditional media. They are even supposedly shifting away from conventional social platforms like Facebook, overwhelmingly engaging with content via Twitch and YouTube.4 The scope for incrementality is therefore self-evident.
However, one of the inherent difficulties in targeting esports fans is that the vast majority (85% in Q4 2018) are likely to use private browsing, delete their cookies and use ad-blockers. Reaching this community requires marketers to think outside the box, finding non-traditional ways of overcoming access limitations. 5
How is the esports landscape developing in Australia and what opportunities does this present for advertisers?
PwC has forecast esports ad revenue growth of +140% over the next five years in Australia.6 Tellingly, the firm then put its money where its mouth is, sponsoring the Australian Esports League.7
In a similar vein, two teams in the Oceanic Pro League were each acquired by AFL teams the Adelaide Crows and the Essendon Bombers, while a dedicated esports performance centre has recently opened at the SCG. 8
Though Australia’s global esports ranking has suffered due to a poor national network infrastructure, which increases latency and thus reduces competitiveness during global tournaments, all signs point towards substantial growth in the market. Perhaps surprisingly then, very few non-endemic advertisers have engaged with the sport. So far, only JB Hi-Fi, Telstra, Dare Iced Coffee and McDonald’s have made real in-roads.
According to experts, esports viewers are very open to marketing messages, particularly those that are non-traditionally and skilfully embedded within the experience – think sponsorships, partnerships, branded videos, in-game integrations and influencer endorsements. The latter is deemed particularly valuable due to the close relationship esports celebrities are known to develop with their fans. Using this connection allows for a level of authenticity not always achievable via traditional means.9
While the consensus appears to be that esports provide a unique opportunity to reach a lucrative and engaged audience, marketers must endeavour to understand the world, fans and language of esports before diving headfirst into a non-tailored marketing strategy.
References and further reading:
1 Koch, L., eMarketer, ‘Esports Playing in the Big Leagues Now ‘, February 2019, available at:
2 Verna, P., eMarketer, ‘Esports 2019: eMarketer’s Forecast for US Audience, US Ad Revenue Growth’, March 2019.
3 As above.
4 Sam Asfahani, CEO of OS Studios, quoted in publication as above.
5 GWI, quoted in publication as above.
6 PwC, ‘2018 Media Outlook: Interactive Games’, July 2018, available at: https://www.pwc.com.au/industry/entertainment-and-media-trends-analysis/outlook/interactive-games.html
7 Fitch, A., Esports Insider, ‘Australian Esports League receives sponsorship from PwC Australia’, October 2018, available at:
8 Howell, N. Nine.com.au, ‘Esports high-performance centre established at Sydney Cricket Ground’, March 2019, available at:
9 Verna, P., eMarketer, ‘Esports 2019: eMarketer’s Forecast for US Audience, US Ad Revenue Growth’, March 2019.