With COVID-19 hitting the world hard, imposing self-isolation measures and forcing us to surrender our everyday social activities, we feel there is no better time to celebrate the power of online communities. We’re all looking for ways to stay in touch with the world, whether that be sharing our WFH struggles on our Instagram Stories, FaceTiming our loved ones or bingeing ‘Better Call Saul’ together on Netflix Party. Some people have already got this down: gamers. Many of their best friendships were founded online, so what better time to put the spotlight on them?

The exponential growth of the gaming industry is not something we can avoid, particularly in the marketing world, a space in which content creators play a central role. The idea of sports stars and brands working together is nothing new, so why consider esports any differently? There’s a game being played, players taking part and millions of fans spectating – the shift in how games are played and promoted has opened up opportunities for influencer marketing in the gaming industry.

In 2019, Edelman UK’s Tech Team supported a number of gaming events, namely Gamescom and EGX – Europe and the UK’s largest gaming events respectively. Edelman worked with dozens of gaming content creators who were responsible for hosting, spectating and competing on the stages during each event. Being surrounded by those who have lived and breathed the gaming world for years can be intimidating and breaking into that world can appear even more so.

As a starting point for those who may be new to gaming influencer marketing, or see the exciting opportunities in the space, we have summarised five considerations to keep in mind.

  1. Understand the culture shift

'One Billion Female Gamers: How the Demographics of Play are Shifting'

Over the last couple of years, long-held descriptions of a “gamer” have drastically shifted: empirical research has challenged the negative assumptions held by those looking into the gaming world from the outside. Gamers no longer fit the male-dominated stereotype, although the tag of ‘it’s a guy-thing’ still lingers. Historically gaming has been dominated by males, but as the world of gaming grows at an exponential pace it is also undergoing an evolution despite having moved so far: over fifty per cent of all gamers are now female. Despite this, women are still largely absent as characters and creators, but there is considerable ‘push back’. Popular esports host, and OMEN ambassador, Frankie Ward commented on this:

 ‘… esports is still dominated by men, but it is open to change…there are more of us than you might expect - and we’re well- connected with each other because we’re pretty visible, thanks to word of mouth and social media. …It will take a while before we see the mixed rosters that could become the future of esports teams…we should do as much as we can to show them [women] that they are welcome and anything is possible -  it’s currently tough as a young female player and to put yourself out there when you don’t have many examples to look up to…I want to see more mixed rosters so that more women take a shot at playing the games they love at the highest level and that is going to take effort from men as well. Girls need to put themselves forward more, and boys need to make them feel welcome when they do.’ 

The gaming and streaming space provide a lucrative market primed for increased growth and success across all audiences so disregard any doubts you may have around engaging with female consumers. Brands that have serious intentions about entering this market and targeting gamers must not discount the power and influence of female gamers – the gaming industry is already open but is only moving further towards being more inclusive for all audiences.

  1.  Learn the best ways to outreach

Gaming as a career is time restrictive, allowing time for little else. In order to stay relevant with pro –gamers or other content creators, gamers cannot stop playing   They are busy, even when they are gaming: they set up their battle stations with multiple screens to display strategy guides, streaming videos, chat windows and more. When not streaming on their channels, gamers are training and when they are not training, they are editing videos. 

‘…your work and life tie into social interaction. Streamers attempt to cultivate a community and this is one of the more time-consuming parts of the job…content creation for eight to ten hours per day… administrative emails for two hours a day, social interaction with various communities and people online takes upwards of an hour to two every day. This ends up leaving me with being preoccupied for fourteen to fifteen hours every day.Cyanide

Development of an effective influencer/content creator strategy requires more than simply hitting send on a casual email. Gaming content creators are busy people who do not have the time to respond to every request that they receive. To effectively engage with them, communication bridges need to be built: get on their radar, join the Discord* servers, send them a tweet, slide into the DMs, get yourself noticed and show them that you are in for the long game. 

*What is Discord? Discord is a free digital platform designed for gaming communities to communicate via instant messages, audio and video. The app runs across platforms including Windows, macOS, android, iOS and web browsers. The app was founded in 2015 and has since gained over 250 million users which includes 56 million users per month. Gamers often create Discord servers as a way of interacting with fans and followers, which poses a great opportunity for marketers to infiltrate these channels as a way of direct communication to the talent.

  1.  Do your homework      

Engaging in a smooth campaign with gamers comes from carrying out thorough research. It is essential you understand what games the content creator is currently playing and what they have played previously. Armed with this knowledge, you have a natural conversation starter, enabling better connection with whoever you are working with. Research might mean scrolling endlessly through Instagram posts, tuning in to hours of live streams on Twitch and watching old YouTube videos from 2010… however it will be worthwhile, the effort will pay off as content creators will appreciate the attention to detail and you will be more likely to lock them into a brand partnership for the long haul.

It is also vital to understand the basic rules and mechanics of the individual games played, thus avoiding any awkward situation when managing content creators at a gaming tournament and a guest asks if the tournament is 5v5 or a free for all…

  1.  Get creative in your partnerships

The gaming industry has exploded in recent years and is projected to be a $1.4 billion industry by the end of 2020. What does this mean for brand deals and partnerships?

If you follow gamers or esports in general, you’ll notice that most sponsorships can be fairly basic. Brands may sponsor an entire esports team with a logo on a t shirt or offer a fee to an individual for a simple Twitch overlay. However, this does not mean you can’t use your creativity and imagination to stand out from the crowd.

The level of fame of some games – League of Legends, Candy Crush and Pokémon – has promoted them from the status of game to an all-encompassing brand.  The fashion house Moschino created a Candy Crush capsule collection, Adidas partnered with the French gaming organisation, Team Vitality, to create a unique sneaker for the team members. These are just a few examples. The opportunities for brands to capitalise on gaming are nearly endless.

The above examples are a result of marketers who have a clear understanding of the influencer marketing space, as well has a high level of creativity.

  1. Know your platforms

Like with any content strategy, it is always best practise to have a strong understanding of what type of content works best on each platform, especially when looking at emerging social channels/platforms. This is particularly important when looking at activating across a variety of social channels.

  1. Twitch
    In the booming industry of livestream content, Twitch is the clear front runner in terms of popularity and usage. The success of Twitch is its unique and interactive user experience, allowing viewers to watch their favourite gamer or streamer in real time and to chat with them.  Since Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch in 2014, there are in excess of 15 million unique visitors per day, providing an invaluable resource. 
  2. How can we work with content creators on Twitch? 
    Partnerships between brands and streamers are not a new phenomenon. Gillette, for example, sponsored Dr Disrespect, realising that his trademark moustache and glasses chimed perfectly with their own brand profile. 
    Twitch offers a myriad of customisation for streamers, including overlays – a great way of promoting branding on-screen without putting together a creative strategy and art direction. 
  3. Additional platforms to consider
    When gamers have a significant online presence, it is usually due to the success of their video production on YouTube or their Twitch popularity. As a result of online fame, gaming content creators also often have a large following on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as a biproduct of their online popularity. 
    Projects typically vary in size; if your campaign does not require a hero piece of content, you will not necessarily require a 10-minute YouTube video or a sponsored stream for three hours. For smaller projects, Edelman has historically asked content creators to post about their experience on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, particularly when it comes to live event attendance.
  4. The ones to watch
    Though Twitch currently has the largest slice of the livestreaming platform pie, it is important to recognise opportunity in the competitor platforms. It is evident that this is an area to explore as Ninja recently migrated from Twitch to Mixer in an exclusive programming deal.
    Mixer owned by Microsoft, is a Seattle-based video game livestreaming platform. The service officially launched in 2016 and has a strong emphasis on interactivity between streamer and viewer. Mixer boasts the unique feature of low latency streaming, known as FTL (Faster Than Light). This means that there is less than a second of delay between the original broadcast and when it is received by the viewer.
    Facebook Gaming – in 2018, Facebook launched fb.gg to challenge Twitch and Mixer. What differentiates fb.gg from its competitors is the fact that they promise a reduced cut of transactions from viewer to streamer. This was potentially a way to attract well established streamers, as well as give budding content creators an incentive to start streaming.

How can Edelman help with your future gaming campaigns?

We’ll be pleased to discuss the world of gaming and the opportunities ahead – just get in touch via the email addresses below: 

Daisy Winston-Scott, Account Manager, Digital, London daisy.winstonscott@edelman.com

Zak Khdir, Digital Executive, London zak.khdir@edelman.com