When Ryan Dow started as an executive assistant to IMG in their fashion department, he didn’t imagine that in 2020, he’d have a career in gaming and esports. Now, as Wasserman’s Senior Manager of Brands, it’s all part of the job.
“It’s an incredible industry,” he says, “I don’t really foresee a new sport breaking into the top five for viewership within the next five to ten years, whereas in about two months, we may see three games that break Twitch viewership records.”
The industry is booming and lucrative, and for brands looking to enter the world, Dow has advice and guidance for them. The three biggest tips these brands need to keep in mind to ensure growth are as follows:
- The industry is LARGE and FAST GROWING
“We’re talking rivaling the music and film industries,” he said. “Because of that, there are so many different ways that [brands] can play in this space.”
This lends itself to a wide variety of avenues for brands to enter the virtual world. While it may seem overwhelming due to the sheer size of the industry, Dow said it’s actually a good thing because brands can be “flexible on how [they] want to enter.”
Why is it important to know this? It’s important because it not only allows for such things as trial and error, it also means there’s no surefire path every company or brand can take to secure success in the gaming industry. This allows Wasserman to tailor campaigns to brands based on their specific needs and goals.
The size of the industry is also based on its accessibility. Not only does gaming have an international presence that many sports do not— i.e., over 70 percent of all Super Bowl viewership in 2019 was U.S. based— but anyone can break into it.
“It’s an even playing field,” said Dow. “You can be as good as the person next to you if you put in the time and effort.”
The other half of this advice is that the industry is fast growing. There are always new games coming out, new streamers joining the ranks, and new communities forming.
“Three months in this industry is like five years everywhere else,” Dow said.
The major takeaway here is there will always be a new market to enter into because nothing ever stays the same. Baseball is America’s pastime, and with new rule changes, the MLB has tried to make things more exciting, but in the world of advertising and branding, companies know the types of people who watch baseball and who they can market to. New people watch it, yes, but there are clear-cut demographics to market to, and they’ve proven successful. This isn’t the case with gaming’s massive audience and ever-evolving communities.
- Asking about esports is like asking about sports in general
“There are so many different genres, so many different game titles, and every single one of them has its own audience and its own community,” said Dow.
This expands on the ideas already discussed, adding that just because there will always be a new market, doesn’t mean a brand can market a product the same way.
“You wouldn’t treat a volleyball partnership the same way you’d treat an NFL partnership, but at the end of the day they’re both sports,” he said. “We wouldn’t treat the FGC community the same way we treat the League of Legends community.”
What this boils down to is that as brands enter the world of gaming and esports, the ways they integrate and present themselves needs to differ. Not only does this mean different strategies, but clear differentiations in what and how brands are marketing. This not only yields better results, it also demonstrates that a brand took the time to genuinely view each of these communities as individual entities rather than just one group.
Understanding this is key, as it opens up the ability to enter the gaming industry using different avenues. Due to the vastness of the gaming industry, different brands with different goals can find their audience without need for bidding and competition. While, yes, it’s great to have your name associated with people like Ninja, there are thousands of streamers and millions of fans for brands to market to. While not exclusive to the gaming industry, a luxury other industries don’t have is the ability to cherry pick your demographics.
However, Dow advises that when brands enter this market, they should be absolutely sure they’re bringing something to the table gamers and the community would enjoy.
“[Communities know] they’re being marketed to, so make sure you’re giving them something of value,” he said. “Make sure you’re resonating with them through the tactics you employ”
- Don’t overthink it
“Fandom is Fandom.” Dow continued. “Being a fan of something is innate to all of us. You’re a fan of that because it’s something that you’re passionate about, it’s something you care about.”
This is immensely important, because it ties in the other two pieces of advice. While understanding the scope of the industry and the differences between communities yields the best chance of success, at the end of the day, people watch streamers because they enjoy them.
This means there’s no need for brands to act as if they’re an expert on the subject matter; gamers won’t vilify a brand because they didn’t mention a specific rare skin that was only available in Fortnite during Travis Scott’s virtual concert. Brands who try and quote every meme, do a callback to every stream, and make every reference can end up presenting themselves like this:
“You’ve got to understand that anything you do for this community, because it is so new, is seen as a benefit. [However] they are [also] the kinds of individuals and fans who will call you out for trying too hard,” said Dow. “So just go in, and know who you are as a brand, and that’s going to be the best way to relate.”
All of this is to say: don’t be afraid. It’s a new industry, with many things still evolving, and new ones happening every day. Dow’s best advice to start marketing in the industry?
“Just get out there. Take that step in.”