Homing in on the millennial market

It's game on

May 24th 2017

Millennials - that elusive generation of tech-savvy youngsters, to whom television is old hat and “dual screening” has nothing to do with a comprehensive medical exam.


Turns out they’re keen on eSports too, which - for readers unfortunate enough to be born prior to 1980 - are competitively contested multiplayer video games, including League of Legends, Dota 2 and FIFA. As well as filling stadiums all over the world, eSports recently drew a ballroom-full of delegates to London’s Le Méridien Piccadilly hotel for eSCon europe, a conference focussing on the phenomenon’s growth here in the UK. 

Marketing's Lost Generation 

During the two-day event, much was made of eSports’ popularity among millennials, who have been fiendishly difficult to reach via traditional advertising. Pieter van den Heuvel, Newzoo’s Head of Product Development - Esports & Trends, shared some eye-opening statistics. There are 191 million eSports enthusiasts worldwide, 81% of whom are between 18 and 24 years old. It’s little wonder brands like Audi, Vodafone and Red Bull are vying for a piece of the action.

Pieter’s employer is a leading provider of market intelligence covering the global games, eSports, and mobile markets. He says, “For the younger generation, TV is no longer their first screen. They watch content on devices. It’s significant that on YouTube, gaming is the biggest source of viewership after music. That’s why a brand like Audi is moving into gaming sponsorship. Among US men aged 21 to 35, eSports are as popular as basketball and ice hockey. They offer a way to connect with a generation previously lost to marketing experts.”

“People are starting to see that this is a space with lots of potential. There is a lack of eSports infrastructure in the UK, but that is changing” 


Growing UK ecosystem

Yvonne Hobden is Consumer Marketing Lead for HP UK, which recently pledged sponsorship of the Gfinity Elite Series, an eSports league, via OMEN by HP. HP UK sees eSports here as ripe for development and they are keen to support its growth.

“For us it feels like a whole new world,” says Yvonne. “It gets us access to an audience we want to reach, even though it also feels like a natural step. That is why we are one of the first there. It’s definitely more exciting than scary. You have to go where the audience is and we want to sell products to millennials.”

Compared to the USA and Asia, eSports is still in its infancy in the UK. Yvonne and others at the conference have watched with interest as a growing ecosystem springs up around the burgeoning industry here.

Yvonne says, “It’s been really interesting for us to work with eSports partners. In some respects there is a lot of corporate business either in the area or interested in getting involved. However, there isn’t much structure as yet.”

Grassroots support

British eSports expert Ollie Ring writes for Esports Insider, an industry-focused media platform. He too has noticed growing business interest in the field.

“Gfinity is a good example. They are based in Central London and have an online hub, plus they put on tournaments and are really keen to support the grassroots of eSports. There is also Fnatic, which opened a pop-up eSports store on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch last year. That got massive coverage and proved there is a demand for something so niche.”

Dr Jamie Woodcock is a Fellow of the LSE Department of Management who has researched the eSports community in the UK. He agrees the scene is in its infancy here, but recognises the massive business potential of a pastime that has exploded beyond expectation in other parts of the world.

Dr Woodcock says, “People are starting to see that this is a space with lots of potential. There is a lack of eSports infrastructure in the UK, but that is changing. For example, there are a number of gaming pubs in London and there are various tournaments, plus the ESL Gaming Network has a world class studio in Leicestershire. I would say we are on the cusp of something.”

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An unseized opportunity 

While 22 countries worldwide recognise eSports as a branch of conventional sport, this isn’t the case in the UK. It’s a good thing, according to Daniel Wood, COO at Ukie - The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment. The irony is that while UK eSports can operate without the bureaucratic burden of regulation, more official support could be the making of the fledgling industry.

“We need to see more support of the grassroots,” says Daniel. “The preconceptions of eSports need to be addressed to let people realise that eSports aren’t just a bit of fun. Schools should be telling pupils about the leadership and event management skills to be gained from a career in eSports. By and large the picture is one of opportunity, albeit an opportunity that has yet to be seized.”

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