When luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton announced in September it would be partnering with Riot Games’ League of Legends World Championship to design in-game outfits and a trophy carrying case, many people were left scratching their heads. On the surface, high fashion and video games seem an unlikely pairing. But as esports continues to shift from subculture to mainstream, I predict this is only the beginning of fashion-focused sponsorship deals in the esports world.
As marketers better understand the esports audience and their lifestyle, more brand collaborations not directly tied to the playing or production of esports are sure to follow suit. In fact, The Esports Observer reported that in the first quarter of 2019, there were 76 non-endemic sponsorship deals in esports (an increase of 145% from the previous quarter), including fashion brands like Champion, Puma, and New Era.
Esports influencers offer opportunity for fashion brands;
The widespread influence of esport players cannot be underestimated. They are spending significant amounts of time engaging with their fans well beyond gameplay. In 2017, Twitch, the leading esports platform, saw influencer streamer accounts drive more Internet traffic than anyone except Google, Netflix, and Apple. Twitch users watch an average of 421 minutes per month, about 44 percent more than those who watch YouTube.
Fashion works best when the integration is subtle
When taking a closer look at non-endemic brand partnerships, especially among fashion brands, they are more authentic when the branding is not as overt. When the branding is gently part of the activation, esports fans are more likely to buy into their relevance.
Esports fans and games are diverse
There are a variety of misconceptions about the esports audience, with many people envisioning them as solely as gamers, usually young and male. Research from Mindshare NA shows that while over half of esports fans are millennials, 60 percent are between the ages of 25 and 39; many are parents; and 38 percent are women. And many of these fans are quite fashion conscious. While esports fans may have different passion points, they are the same kind of people fashion and other mainstream brands have been targeting for years. Once marketers understand this, a much broader world opens up to non-endemic brands looking to connect.
It’s important to point out that esports is not a “one size fits all” industry so digging deeper into the demographics and nuances associated with each game and league is necessary. For example, Fortnite reaches far and wide among ages and, increasingly, gender, while a game like Dota 2 has a smaller, more male audience. But with Newzoo forecasting that the global esports business will grow beyond $1.4 billion in 2020, more marketers should be willing to attempt the learning curve to determine which titles offer the most value for their brand.