The role of gaming influencers in the esports industry

What a time to be alive — especially if you’re involved in any way with the esports industry. While so many other business categories went into a sharp decline at the start of the global pandemic, the online gaming industry is experiencing steady growth. Professional gamers everywhere are seeing a significant increase in viewership, and that means more revenue. With more people stuck at home and seeking to entertain themselves on more online platforms, it’s no surprise that esports streaming is on the rise.

This increased interest in esports means there are more marketing and product placement opportunities than ever before in the world of online gaming. Think about it this way: unlike traditional sports leagues where the barrier for entry is significant, and trusted mainstream channels are the primary source of information about teams and events — in the world of esports, there are tons of gaming influencers, teams, and online chat groups for spectators to follow and get the latest information. These influencers are basically a direct line of communication to niche gaming audiences. 

Marketers and brand experts are starting to see esports influencers for what they truly are — an excellent way to connect with a niche cultural community, in a manner that actually lends their brands credibility and clout in a dynamic space where they otherwise would not have the license to play. 

And the brand benefits of working with gaming influencers can go far beyond traditional gaming platforms — many brands are collaborating with professional gamers across all of their relevant social media platforms. 

All of this buzz around esports is creating a steady cycle of growth: the more that media outlets, advertising groups and brand sponsors continue to pour huge amounts of money into the esports industry, the more the online gaming industry will thrive. It’s safe to say that gaming influencers are taking esports marketing to the next level thanks to their trusted relationships with their fans. 

It’s clear that there are plenty of reasons you should look no further than gaming influencers if you’re hoping to make your esports marketing more effective. So, in this article we’ll unpack the important role they’re playing, beginning with:

  • Setting the scene with an overview of the esports industry and market size
  • The basics of why influencer marketing works in almost any industry
  • Why gaming influencers are particularly important when it comes to marketing esports events and teams
  • A breakdown of the most popular online communities with esports
  • And finally, how your esports organization can work with gaming influencers to grow your brand
pandemic-fueled growth in the esports industry

Pandemic-fueled growth in the video game and esports industry

As mentioned above, online gaming and esports leagues have been the breakout hit of COVID-19. Across the board, major video game industry fixtures like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Twitch have thrived in both sales and engagement numbers ever since the global pandemic came to town. 

In March, video game sales saw a 35% year over year increase at 1.6 billion dollars worth of games sold, while in April video game streaming platform Twitch saw a 50% increase in gaming hours watched compared to the month before.  

esports revenue growth as of 2019
2019 esports industry growth, image courtesy of Lightstream

While some market experts suspect that time spent on video games might level back out when the days of the COVID-19 crisis finally come to an end, the real benefit of this heightened interest in gaming is the acquisition of new fans and demographics to the consumer base of all things games. 

For the time being, consumer attention towards the online gaming industry remains rapt — and advertisers and sponsors are taking notice as we head into another long stretch of social distancing and isolation this winter. And the new Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 are truly fanning the fire. 

Why influencer marketing is so popular across industries

It’s no secret that almost any industry could considerably profit from a well-designed and targeted influencer marketing campaign. Some of the industries that have benefited significantly from influencer marketing are fashion, video gaming, and travel.

One of the main reasons why influencer marketing works in almost any industry is that consumers trust influencers more than they might trust an advertising claim from a brand. And at the end of the day, trust is one of the most important things to make any marketing campaign successful. 

The purchasing decision becomes way easier if you see that someone you trust has had a good experience with the brand or product. Studies show that 88% of consumers trust recommendations and suggestions from any peer online as much as personal ones. 

Another reason why influencer marketing works across business categories is because influencers are expert content creators, and appealing to a niche audience is second nature to them. So when brands tap an influencer to create promotional content, the influencers know exactly how to craft a message that will mean something to their audience. While a brand is certainly able to give some guidelines on the messaging of the campaign, the influencer is usually in charge of the final execution, including the tone of voice and format of the content.

gaming influencers are the most effective channel for esports marketing

Gaming influencers are the most effective channel for esports marketing

The growth in the video game and esports industry has led to a huge opportunity for sponsors and professional gamers alike. When audience size skyrockets like it has in the past few months, streaming hours and revenue potential go right along with it. It’s not everyday that advertisers and sponsors can unlock direct access to such an attentive audience of consumers. 

As is the case in any modern industry, the key to successful esports marketing is to meet the target audience where they are, and deliver your message in a way that will resonate with them. Since gamers can be a diverse, closed off, and passionate crowd, often gaming influencers are the most straightforward way to infiltrate their digital fortress. 

Unlike other esports marketing techniques, gaming influencers are able to start a two-way conversation when they promote a product or event via sponsored content. This can offer esports brands valuable learnings about their audience — on top of better traction with their marketing campaign. 

Something to keep in mind about influencer marketing in the video game industry is that esports influencers and gaming influencers don’t have to belong to one specific category. You can find valuable opportunities to collaborate with influencers ranging from professional gamers, to gaming industry writers — and even presenter personalities. 

Finding the best type of gaming influencer for your brand to work with comes down to understanding the online communities associated with your target audience.

the most popular esports audiences and online gaming communities

Understanding the online gaming community: The most popular esports audiences

By now it’s clear that there’s a huge opportunity to work with influencers in the esports industry, but doing so successfully requires a solid understanding of your audience and where they fall across the different online gaming communities out there — and keeping in mind that your target audience could actually be spread across a few different gaming camps.  

Player vs. Player (PVP)

Player(s) versus player(s), also called PvP, is a kind of multiplayer interactive conflict within any game between one player versus another, rather than against the video game’s artificial intelligence. 

Depending on the nature of the game, gaming influencers can play either the entirety of the gameplay or just a fraction of it in PvP format — and interact directly with other influencers or even their fans through gameplay.  

First-person Shooter (FPS)

We can define a first-person shooter (FPS) as a genre of action video games that gaming influencers and gamers alike play from the perspective of the protagonist of the gaming narrative. 

Many FPS games also feature a multiplayer mode, which takes place on several specialized levels, and also provides an opportunity for influencers to play directly with fans — or against other influencers in publicized esports events. 

Real-time Strategy (RTS) 

Real-time strategy (RTS) is a time-based game centered on using resources in order to build units as well as defeat opponents. 

Real-time strategy video games also allow all game players to simultaneously play the video game in “real-time”, but do tend to be a bit more solitary than multiplayer games. Even so, there are many RTS cult classic games that the online gaming community loves to watch professional gamers stream live. 

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) 

MOBA is a newer esports gaming genre that has become increasingly popular in recent years. These are mostly team-based, and the high stakes energy of the reigning champions creates a great environment for streaming engagement.  

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games (MMORPG) 

An MMORPG is a game that usually takes place in a PSW (persistent state world) with thousands, or sometimes even millions, of players who develop their character in a role-playing gaming environment. 

The immersive nature of these role-playing games means that the gamer fandom for the games themselves — as well as gaming influencers — will be intense, creating another great opportunity for advertisers and sponsors. 

How esports organizations can work with influencers to grow their brand

Every esports organization would benefit from getting more exposure in key gaming communities. But how can your brand get started? 

The first step is figuring out which online gaming communities your target audience is spending time in. From there, you can build up a better sense of which content platforms make the most sense for your audience — a good place to start your research would be Twitch and YouTube, where many gaming influencers have built meaningful relationships with gaming fans.

With your target audience and platform of choice in mind, you can start figuring out which gaming influencers to work with to promote your team, event, contest, or whatever else you’re up to. 

Whatever you do, make sure you leave plenty of space for the influencer you work with to put their own spin on the collaboration with your brand. Despite all of the advertisers and sponsors flocking to the world of online gaming, remember that influencer marketing runs on authenticity. So when you set out to work with a gaming influencer, make sure to choose a partner you’re comfortable actively collaborating with, and aim to build a creative and innovative partnership that will last over time. 

Chances are, if you find a gaming influencer who seems to align with your vision and mission, you’ll be able to build an authentic relationship with them — and that authenticity will trickle down to your target audience. Today’s online audiences have seen it all, and they can tell if an influencer isn’t totally sold on the sponsorship. For all parties involved, it’s important that you find the right fit for your partnership. 

At the end of the day, gaming influencers are experts at running their own brand, and there are a lot of lessons that esports organizations can learn from working with them. Don’t be afraid to let them take the lead, especially on the creative side of the collaboration. Also, remember that they know and understand their audience best. Of course your goals are important, but the gaming influencers you work with will know how to make the execution and overall partnership successful. 

Final thoughts

There’s no doubt that the esports industry is growing rapidly, but that doesn’t mean that esports organizations should rush their approach to working with gaming influencers. When initiating an influencer campaign,  always respect gaming influencers and what they mean to their followers and fans. At the end of the day, esports marketing — like any other flavor of marketing — also has to be authentic and trustworthy in order to be successful.  

If you’re not sure how to go about it, you can use a video game PR agency to do the hard work. The experts at Loopr are plugged into a strong network of popular gaming influencers, and can help you out with a foolproof and budget-friendly marketing strategy for your esports organization or video game. Get in touch today! 

Can’t get enough of this stuff? Check out our video game PR case studies to learn how we’ve helped indie game developers and esports brands just like you.

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