One of the biggest issues facing in the sports industry over the last 18 months has been the discussion around esports and how it is disrupting the traditional sports market. For years sponsors and sports properties were familiar with how to market sporting events, even during a period of digitisation. But the very nature of esports is making properties think outside the box more than ever.
It is important to emphasize that esports is not a trend, and that has long been the case. As mainstream media start to look more at DOTA2 rather than dugouts at the side of a pitch, the more it is being seen as simply another hype machine that audiences will lose interest in after a year or so.
The difference however is a niche community that has been following esports for over 20 years. It is only in modern times, when the bulk of this audience has matured into today's decision makers, that this continuous growth has manifested itself into what is the early stages of a new sporting phenomenon.
In addition to that, the more shrewd organisations have recognised that esports can complement classic sport in a variety of ways. PSG, Manchester City and many American franchises have all seen what attaching their brand to an esports team can do, and have tapped into a lucrative market. Likewise, the NBA and NFL have also recognised the relevance of this global phenomenon and started their own initiatives.
But what is that lucrative market?
Being an area borne on modern gaming machines, it is easy to connect the dots from esports to a young, digitally-native target group. It becomes lucrative when you understand that this group, which has huge influence and spending power, has proved difficult to engage with for many companies.
A commitment in esports means companies can zone in on that target group - and not only for the traditional reasons such as coverage and positive brand exposure, but also for recruiting aspects, to place their brand or product alongside a modern event for their customers.
It also provides a ripe testing ground for creative campaigns and digital activation.
With the rising popularity of FIFA18 (which featured in a Nike advert for the first time last week) esports is a logical building block for football clubs, and you will see more and more associate themselves with top players.
So what are we doing?
Infront made it clear with the launch of its new diversification strategy at the end of 2017 that esports is a direction we want to move in.
In fact, we recognised the potential for growth in the area two years ago and began dialogue with partners from both esports and potential customers and companies who were keen to enter the space. Essentially, like esports has manifested itself and boomed over time, Infront spent a lot of time doing the legwork and are now seeing dividends.
We are now spending a lot of time consulting on how partners can launch their own esport marketing strategy. Of course, we also use and integrate our core services such as marketing, sales, brand management and digital solutions in order to approach the market in the best possible way.
That includes developing campaigns for esports teams, associations and brands, take on marketing for a variety of properties, and coordinate and engage with partners on the progress of esports on a political, structural, and media level. This is part of our role with FOKUS CLAN.
And it is not just in Germany that we are making strides. France's Team Vitality, a top European brand within the esports world, has put its faith in Infront. And we also have ongoing dialogue with a number of potential partners within this space at a number of subsidiaries.
In a nutshell, esports are the sports and entertainment product 2.0 and has huge growth potential and Infront knows that pretty well.