eSports opportunities for African brands

Posted on October 7, 2017 12:01 am

eSports competitive tournaments for professional video gamers is now a serious business in Africa and companies and media agencies are appreciating the value of advertising to the gaming community and the recent evolution has opened a new chapter of opportunity to brands. Playing computer games competitively can gain players celebrity status and fortune, just like other professional sports.eSports in Africa has developed its own culture and is on the rise.Far from the traditional model of sitting at home alone playing computer games, gamers can now immerse themselves in the gaming attending eSports events, watching eSports media on streaming platforms, Pay TV service providers like South Africas DSTV, Kenya’s ZUKU and Kwese Sports or visiting Internet cafes to connect with other gamers.To gain a competitive edge, gaming companies are tapping into the eSports, involving their consumers in creating experiences that will keep them hooked.No doubt the ongoing talks between gamer developers and publishers of games would be a great entertainment collaboration with the eSports governing bodies, broadcasting stations and consumer communities across Africa. This will involve publishers engaging end users from the beginning, inviting African players to pre-test new games prior to their official releases which will be essential to engage with marketers, brands and understand the value consumers are getting out of the experience. Days when marketers in Africa looked at their games purely as escapist activity in Africa are long gone.Although the eSports phenomenon appears to be in its infancy, a good number of Internet cafes in Africa have their own gaming teams and participate in tournaments. eSports has particularly taken off in South Africa, which has several dedicated television channels that broadcast computer-game events.Playing computer games is not just about leisure any more in Africa, it’s a way to find friends, community, and maybe even a profession.Although in-game advertising has rapidly grown, the smarter money for brands is on out of game sponsorship eSports, tapping into a thriving and highly-engaged community of 20 million fans across Africa.There are advanced plans to have a comprehensive calendar of professional video game tournaments across the African continent.More than 5 million people in Africa game regularly, and a fraction turn it into a career, with South Africa the leading nation.The tournaments are regularly watched by fans numbering in the millions on online channels, pay TV and the popular gaming social network Twitch. The most prestigious eSports tournaments have larger viewing audiences than traditional sports.

At present, eSports has a growing number of sponsors especially outside of those that are endemic to the category. eSports now provide the strongest platform for brands in Africa to market their wares to millennial males despite Africa being much later to the eSports party than Europe, East Asia and the US. Organizations are creating leagues and taking what is a global phenomenon and localizing it really well.Brands chasing a young male demo with high disposable income would be well advised to consider backing eSports as it is developing in Africa.This is particularly for those who move early and take advantage of being one of the first brands to genuinely get involved. They will get brand credit and additional advocacy for taking a leap of faith.The cost of entry will probably depend on the quality of asset brand want to buy, but it will be a far more cost-effective and efficient exercise in terms of cost per thousand than most traditional sports.The next few months will see many brands jostle for a piece of the eSports pie. In future years, it is conceivable that instead of sponsoring Bafana Bafana, South African brands could put their money behind electronic superstars or instead of brands sponsoring Kenyan athletics star like David Rudisha, as eSports popularity sits alongside its more traditional counterparts.eSports clubs in countries like Egypt and South Africa have traditional business partners and are attracting serious investment groups to improve and grow their clubs, and they even have bigger management teams. eSports is a serious proposition, so sponsorship opportunities are becoming more structured and stable. Brands now know exactly what they are generating in a highly measurable digital environment.A predominantly male audience of 15 – 24 is a notorious media blackspot. An involvement in eSports at this stage creates tremendous goodwill for any African brand that’s seen as validating the sport. When South Africa’s most loved and supported club Kaizer Chiefs recently announced their foray into eSports team, it must have been a wake up call for all mainstream sports clubs in the country. Not only must South Africa and African clubs attempt to create sporting franchises and grow their brand and fan base, they must also recognize their current sponsors will soon begin to redirect budget away from mainstream sports and into eSports. In Europe, the trend has already been established with soccer clubs like Paris St Germain and Manchester City creating eSports teams as a brand extension.Increasing accessibility to eSports makes it less jarring. Brands should work with traditional partners to grow the sport and generate public relations opportunities. African brands not only have the live captive audience in eSports venues, but the broadcast audience on channels that drive audience numbers like DSTV, ZUKU and Kwese. Being part of the broadcast could open up awareness of African brands creating new opportunities for in stream advertising and sponsorships like sponsor analytics segments.

Contador Harrison