Much has been documented about esports’ rise in popularity, with many traditional sports fans turning to the sector, resulting in new competitions being created and certain titles, such as FIFA and F1, increasing in viewership.

However, according to a report by marketing intelligence service WARC , esports has also continued its growth in sponsorship and advertising despite the global health pandemic. The firm is predicting that in 2020, a total of $615m will be invested into the competitive gaming industry through sponsorship of competitors or tournaments alone.

Additionally, a further $229m is expected to be spent on spot ads during esport broadcasts, which has risen from 2019’s figures by 1.7 per cent. WARC highlighted the significance of this rise considering the firm is predicting that traditional TV advertising will fall by 13.8 per cent.

Overall advertising and sponsorship in the sector is expected to rise by 9.9 per cent worldwide in 2020. Despite the growth being a major positive compared to other industries, the sector has had its struggles due to the global health pandemic with the rise less than half the growth rate in 2019 (20.9 per cent).

Looking to the future, the report also highlighted that the sector is on track to total $1 billion in brand investment by 2022.

Other topics discussed in WARC’s report include the changes in viewership across the world, how many adults have tuned into esports for the first time and the rise of mobile gaming during lockdown.

Outside of sponsorship and branding, WARC also researched the growing popularity of streaming and the impact that has on linear TV. According to a study by the firm, 41 per cent of 16–24 year-olds watched at least one gaming stream in the last month with data showing that younger viewers consider streaming the ‘new prime time’. This is highlighted by streaming platform Twitch generating an average audience of 1.9m per day, with its demographic predominantly Gen Z.

On these findings James McDonald, Managing Editor, WARC Data, and author of the research stated: “The gaming content world is evolving quickly. Streaming is the new prime time for much of Gen Z, and Mixer’s shuttering this month served only to highlight the stranglehold Twitch has on the market. Tencent may yet prove a challenger in the US with Trovo this year, but it has a great deal of catching up to do along with Facebook and YouTube.

“Competitive gaming is big business in Asia – where Tencent is already king – though traditional sports fans in the West are yet to be wooed, with existing audiences instead consolidating during lockdown.

“A great deal of merger and acquisition activity, especially around media rights within esports, is expected in the short term as investors vie for control of potential windfalls.”

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