Strategic Marketing Strategy Implementation at the Tactical Level in Esports


In an Esports Alliance’s earlier article we briefly touched on the concept of adapting an overall marketing strategy to the tactical implementation. All of us familiar with the marketing strategy of a brand know the numerous “links” in the chain from an overall marketing strategy developed off a targeted customer segment, to the normal process of outsourcing to third party advertisement agencies, to eventually the implementation of branding on medium spots such as video ads on Youtube to website advertisements to T.V. commercial purchases and then identifying the effectiveness of the overall campaign.

Last evening while playing a first person shooter game online, I saw an interesting form of advertisement. One brand (who shall rename nameless) that I imagine spent a large amount of money on hiring a third party advertising agency focused on the Esports demographic, in-turn purchased advertising space on actual game servers where the gamers are playing. The advertisement for this brand is a pop-up that displays upon joining a game server (replacing a feature that’s purpose is for server information & needed gameplay rules) and what’s worse is that every time a player died in this respective first-person shooter game, they were presented with an advertisement interruption during a short wait time until they were allowed to “respawn.” This happened every time a player died in this game until the round was over, so a total of anywhere between roughly 10–30 times in a matter of minutes.

There was a massive amount of brand advertising going on, in fact I think I saw the advertisement approximately 14 times in about 15 minutes. I was inundated with this brand placement and the agency hired to place the advertisement can happily report that they were able to get “XX number of views” of the advertisement. While accomplishing the “tactical” implementation of the ad placement, it failed to accomplish the strategic marketing goal.

Stepping back for a second, do you imagine that the leadership at the brand marketing strategy meeting went something similar to, “At the exact moment that a potential consumer is cursing and has a rush of adrenaline and sometimes anger run through their system and they just failed to achieve something [or in this case their avatar virtually dieing] we want them to see our brand over and over and over again?

The tactical implementation of an overall marketing strategy through advertisements in the Esports industry is currently chaotic as more and more agencies and industries look to Esports as another medium for reaching their targeted customer demographic. These new entrants into the Esports industry experiment and try new methods of marketing which have varying levels of effectiveness. There are multiple ways that these brands can spend money in Esports ranging from sponsoring a physical tournament at a massive venue to hiring an agency to place ads on community website. What then is the best way to implement a strategic marketing strategy at the tactical level for Esports?

The most important thing to remember is that the key to marketing in Esports is, Understanding the psychology of the consumer in that medium.

Speaking from the perspective of the consumer, we can break this down into two segments. Those who are playing the game and those who are viewing the game on a platform such as Twitch. For those consumers who are playing the game, advertisements should not interfere with the flow of the game or the “reality” of the gameplay. Any form of pop-up is an annoyance and often drives players to block the ads in various ways. Gamers want to PLAY THE GAME and therefore anything that interferes with that has a negative impact on the brand. Enabling gamers to play the game, rewarding them for their achievements, and engaging with them in this virtual world will be far more effective than trying to advertise them through traditional methods.

For those consumers who are viewing the game, then more traditional methods of advertising such as commercials or pop-ups can occur as they are not actively engaged in the gameplay of the virtual world. Enabling gamers to watch their favorite Esports team or post their own videos and accomplishments is key to establishing a relationship with that consumer.

Advertisements such as this Subway ad which are placed in the game, while innovative, are possibly counterproductive when players decide to “tag” an advertisement with in-game spray-paint. (“Tag” means to graffiti or otherwise deface something) Additionally there is no method to identify if the player who views this subway advertisement over and over again orders subway later once they leave the game.

Speaking from the perspective of the brand, we need to understand the psychology of the gamer and WHY they are there. For the same reason that understanding the psychology of consumers who go to or leads to an increase in car or hotel reservations, brands must respect WHY consumers are playing or watching Esports.

For brands, the ultimate objective of the marketing strategy is to see a direct correlation between money spent on marketing and an increase in sales. With Esports, this is possible in several ways.

Facilitate Gameplay: This can happen in two ways:

Host or sponsor tournaments and events that enable consumers to gather and do the thing they love. An example outside of Esports is Lululemon’s strategy of hosting the SeaWheeze Half-Marathon in Canada every year. (This half-marathon of over 10,000 spots sold out in under 30 minutes) Within Esports an example is Redbull. For those who say that their brand has nothing to do with Sports, I present the newest Dunkin Donuts advertisement on Youtube. For those interested in finding out more about running an Esports tournament, you can find a great amount of information here.

The other method to facilitating gameplay is to provide the venue for gamers to play. There are thousands of game servers in the world spread across the spectrum of Esports ranging across all forms of games. These servers and game communities are often operated on the thinnest of budgets and donations from gamers. A large brand could facilitate gameplay very easily and use the venue as a test platform for a large amount of consumer engagement strategies.

Encourage Engagement:

Every minute approximately 400 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube. Esports enables each individual gamer to be their own “Champion” and post their actions online. Imagine for a moment if every high school athlete in every sport had a drone following them around every practice, scrimmage, and game and afterward they could upload it to the internet. That is what is different about Esports….to each gamer they are the “star” and can be acknowledged as such. Additionally, there is the ability for a viewer to learn a new tactic, technique, or strategy from watching the video quickly and to adopt it as their own. No matter how much I watch Ronaldo play soccer, I will never be as good.

Brands can leverage this unique aspect of Esports in a variety of ways ranging from being a location where gamers can post their “triumphs” such asYougurtland & Nintendo’s current co-branding, and taking it a step further where users post their videos on a Yogurtland server media platform. Other methods could include commenting on videos posted to brand-external platforms, similar to Tacobell and its Twitter platform.

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