11 Nov

Can esports take over the world?

Written by Hugo Bennett, Partnerships Director at Ingenuity. 

Can esports take over the world?

Legitimate question, do you not think?

Well, why couldn’t it?


Just to start, let’s look at the comparison of people taking part in sports in real life compared to gaming. There were 45 million unique FIFA 19 players. And according to FIFA’s most recent Big Count survey, there are 265 million active football players in the world.


So, about 17% of the number of people playing football are playing FIFA. While this may not seem too tight, these numbers are only going to get closer and closer with EA estimating that year-on-year sales of the game will grow 15% or more.


So that’s specifically football-on-football. But what if we looked at the most popular in both sports and esports? If we put the biggest game in the world (Fortnite) and its supposed 250 million players against the largest game in sports (football), we’re almost fighting on an even playing field. But not for long…


Epic Games revealed that it had 125 million players registered for Fortnite in June 2018. A 100% increase in a year! If they were to continue growing at the same rate for six years, they would have one billion active users or 12.2% of the estimated world population by 2025.


Now obviously I’m jumping the gun here, I’m well aware that people are going to tell me the year-on-year growth can’t continue at such a rapid rate. Or that gamers won’t continue to play Fortnite into their 30s, 40s or 50s. But that’s exactly my point, we actually have no idea. No-one does! We are standing at the precipice of a chasm of uncertainty. And sponsors and partners are increasingly taking a huge leap into the unknown.


It’s not to say that there aren’t incredible brand moments born out of esports already, the kind of indicators which make any Head of Sponsorship pause for thought. When else has the brand affinity been so deep that the crowded audience of 70,000 chanted the name of a brand?


Spectators at Birmingham Arena chanting ‘DHL, DHL, DHL’.


‘’Such brand affinity is almost non-existent in traditional sponsorship within sport. Big brands are seeing this and are queueing up for a slice of the pie. A quick look at the major sponsors of esports at the moment reads like a who’s who of the biggest brands in the world; DHL, Vodafone and Coca Cola are all getting involved in the $906 million e-sports industry.’’


But the esports world does not come without certain pitfalls. One of the main stumbling blocks for brands is that there is no clear and defined schedule. Event pop-ups, sell out and disband at a frightening pace, so it is up to the brand to react and keep up with the movement.


The world is changing rapidly, and with it, the gaming landscape. Commercial Directors and Heads of Sponsorship are increasingly looking at their traditional portfolio and comparing it to this new breed of sports properties.


If your role is to engage and secure new partners and you are looking at ways in which to develop and diversify your portfolio, Ingenuity can strategically consult and help you engage with new brands whilst helping you maximise targets.


Drop me a line on hugo.bennett@ingenuitylondon.com. Before it is too late. The end is nigh. E-sports is coming. The matrix is here.


At Ingenuity we understand the wider agency and brand relationship. With insights gained from years of experience and having worked with the best-of-the-best on both sides of the brand-agency relationship, we can help facilitate viable partnerships that last. If you’d like to learn more from our insights or want to gain a clearer view of the agency-brand ecosystem, contact Duncan on newbusiness@ingenuitylondon.com for more information.