Esports Marketing Trends in Southeast Asia

Picture of a game controller on pink background
Picture of a game controller on pink background

What started out as a form of home entertainment, the electronic gaming industry has evolved in leaps and bounds. From playing Pong on the Atari to destroying beasts in Doom or even spinning Sonic down green hilly slopes, the gaming industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. 

Building upon that, with the advent of the high-speed internet, major players such as Sony and Microsoft began investing heavily into the gaming industry, this has seen an exponential jump in the quality and choices of gaming. This progress in the industry precipitated the development of mobile games, with more gaming-related companies taking advantage of high-spec phones to continue their digital entertainment.

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Playing in the $160 Billion Gaming Industry

All these developments built the foundation for the esports industry which we see now today. Thousands of gamers are professionally competing across the world in their respective games and platforms to be crowned its new champions. Organisers now hold massive online competitions and the top prizes amount to millions of dollars. The prize money for the 2019 DOTA 2 International competition held in Shanghai, China stood at US$34 million!

All these conditions point towards a healthy and growing industry. With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people vested more time and money in gaming whilst Esports competitions were generally unaffected as professionals could continue competing with their counterparts overseas.

According to a report by esports market research company NewZoo the industry has exponentially grown in the past year and forecasts future expansion. In 2020, the total audience viewership globally surpassed 495 million people. This represented an 11.5 percent increase from the previous year and it is estimated to reach 650 million by 2023. With such healthy numbers of people tuning into esports, the growth bodes well for potential collaborations with brands and companies to further boost its industry.

NewZoo graph on esports revenue growth

Source: NewZoo

Another remarkable statistic from NewZoo’s report is that there are more than 2.7 billion gamers worldwide. To put that in perspective, the number shows that one-third of the world’s population are gamers or have some interest in gaming. What makes it even more interesting is that the Asia Pacific region represented more than half of the people involved in gaming. With a huge fanbase and enthusiasts in one region, more people will continue to join the ranks and participate in the burgeoning industry.

Here in Southeast Asia, the esports scene is fast gaining momentum and popularity. Various platforms such as Twitch and YouTube provide influencers with the channels that makes it more accessible for new enthusiasts to explore their esports journeys. With social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to amplify their presence, esports professionals as well as gaming influencers continue to promote the esports scene. Naturally, fanbases are created and these figures in the esports arena become as big as sporting heroes such as Cristiano Ronaldo or LeBron James.

Esports in the Media & What People are Saying

Graph showing esports mentions in 2020

Source: Meltwater Explore

In 2020, the term "esports" was mentioned 199,000 times in regional mainstream outlets and social media. The region's news sources covered stories on esports and mentioned the term almost 37,000 times. Such high coverage reflects the growing popularity of the sport as well as gaining new audiences keen on learning more. 

Twitter was the weapon of choice for social media engagement. More than 156,000 mentions of esports flooded social conversations on topics ranging from new upgrades, upcoming competitions, team updates and of course in-game strategies. With most fans concentrating on the action on screen, the social media platform provides the quickest way to connect fans with their esports heroes. 

Child playing a game on mobile phone

The presence of celebrities and high-profile names also gives a boost to esports coverage in the mainstream and social media. Spikes in the mentions of esports usually highlight increased chatter and interest in relation to the celebrities’ participation. Last year, Korean pop idols who were also avid gamers and esports enthusiasts contributed to the sustained coverage in social media. The popularity of celebrities highlights the importance of influencer marketing in esports.

An interesting aspect of esports in Southeast Asia is the widely popular mode of mobile gaming. In contrast to their counterparts in Europe and the Americas, mobile gaming has gained a foothold in regional esports competitions. This is reflected in the conversations in social media. Mentions of games such as Mobile Legends and PUBG echo the fiercely competitive esports scene in Southeast Asia. Gamers and fans from Indonesia and the Philippines contributed to many of these esports conversations in social media. 

Notable Esports Influencers in Southeast Asia

With the increasing viewership and a highly-engaged audience, brands are gradually investing more focus in giving their support to the esports industry. Using Meltwater’s Social Influencer Tool, here are some of the most sought-after esports and gaming figures in Southeast Asia.

Esports influencer scorecard Een Mercado
Esports influencer scorecard Mushi Chai
Esports influencer scorecard Tammy Tang
Esports influencer scorecard Pinda Dorji
Esports influencer scorecard Daryl Koh

How Brands are Venturing Into The Esports Industry

ONE Championship

The organisation which is more closely related to the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) recently embarked into the esports arena by launching the largest championship for the region’s best gamers. Called the ONE Esports Championship Series, the event is being promoted by global advertising agency Dentsu. Renowned brands such as Razer and Singtel have partnered with the sporting organisation to boost the industry and accelerate its progress.

Louis Vuitton x League of Legends

Louis Vuitton and League of Legends trophy case

Source: Louis Vuitton Twitter image

The French luxury brand made its foray into the esports industry in 2019 when it designed and produced a carrying case for the game’s championship trophy. The brand had previously supplied these cases for major trophies such as the FIFA World Cup and the NBA Championship. Louis Vuitton also partnered with the game developer to introduce unique merchandise available in the game’s inventory. This allowed gamers to deck their avatars with Louis Vuitton products and foster a new audience for their brand.

VISA x Gazprombank

These financial institutions launched a new esports card product exclusively for gamers in Russia. The card incentivised gamers who are actively participating in Counter Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA2 and offered instant cash rewards for winners of tournaments. This partnership introduced an online programme where gamers could convene in exclusive tournaments and earn prizes from their wins. The gamers competed in different formats of play and competed for the prize pool of a half million dollars. 

Lazada x EVOS Sports

In 2020, e-commerce giant Lazada partnered with EVOS Esports to further boost the growth of the esports industry in Indonesia. The partnership would oversee the development of mobile gaming and esports communities in Indonesia. Through various programmes, the collaboration aimed to encourage more active participation from the youths of Indonesia to pick up mobile gaming as well as develop upcoming talents to compete in the esports arena.

How Brands can Leverage on Influencer Marketing in Esports

Running an esports team is tough work. Like any other teams, managing the talent as well as the rigours of competitive sport involves a complex system of logistical challenges and personal supervision. Esports talents have huge armies of followers and they hold sway the opinions of their fans. Audience engagement is an important aspect of esports marketing and brands definitely can tap into this new market. 

Philippines-based agency Bren Esports recently scored a brand partnership with one of the region’s leading food and beverage concierge service company FoodPanda by leveraging the popularity of their talents. Using Meltwater’s social media analytics platform Explore, the esports agency substantiated their talents’ popular presence on social media. 

The agency created a benchmarking table using Meltwater’s proprietary measurements of Social Reach and Media Exposure to compare with other esports players in the Southeast Asian region. Their markedly more popular talents persuaded FoodPanda to commit a branding sponsorship with Bren Esports to reach out to the wider gaming community.

Soccer game in mobile phone

With gaming becoming less of a pastime and more of a career option, more people will start to gravitate towards the lucrative industry. Gamers are not the only pathway into the industry. The esports ecosystem is growing with various options for people to participate in - from performance analysts to video game developers to team managers to content creators - the choices are endless.

Traditional sports teams like Manchester United have established their player rosters to compete while celebrities such as Mandopop singer JJ Lin are also running their own esports teams. Makers of popular mobile games such as Roblox have listed on the stock market, reflecting its resounding success. The growth of the industry cannot be ignored. And it is time for brands to have a good game in the world of esports marketing.