Brands Investing In eSports On Pace To Double 2016


TNL Infographic 032: 2016 eSports Brand Investment (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Infographic 032: 2016 eSports Brand Investment (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Take: 2017 has seen an increase in eSports investment continue across the board: Pro Sports teams, Media deals, TV content and startups.

What's been the most surprising to me - in a good way - are brands continuing to investigate and increase their investment in the space with 50+ brands last year.

Through the first half of 2017, 60+ brands have jumped in and at current pace should double 2016's total.

The biggest category increases?

Auto, Alcohol and Beverage, some of the top overall brand spenders. This is fantastic to see and more news on the horizon should help spur more brands sitting on the sidelines to get in the game.


[Edit: This list will be formatted by category and brand shortly]

Exclusive: TNL and Wunderman eSports and March Madness Brand Study


2017 NCAA Champions UNC Tar Heels (Photo: Bob Donnon)

2017 NCAA Champions UNC Tar Heels (Photo: Bob Donnon)

TNL Take: Last year, Wunderman analyzed the March Madness fan during the tournament and what Brands they engaged with and purchased

With the explosion of eSports investment from Pro Sports teams, dozens of colleges providing scholarships and 30+ Brands investing in Q1 2017 alone; what does the eSports fan look like, what does the combined March Madness and eSports fan look like and how can Brands take advantage of this unique marketing opportunity?

The Next Level and Wunderman partnered on the first research study to find out who exactly was this March Madness and eSports audience, the overlap of this audience and how Brands could best benefit from investing in both the NCAA Tournament and eSports content.

The research study combined Wunderman’s audience research data, along with what these audiences were talking about on Social platforms and layered on top of their purchase behavior.

Here’s what we found:


The 2016 study showed that the average March Madness fan is primarily a 35-39 year old male, married with children and an income between $75K-$100K

The current study showed that the combined March Madness and eSports audience was even younger, had a higher annual income, but the most unique data point was that it wasn’t just the expected young males -  but young families as well.     

Young Families had a 201 index and having 3+ children in the Household also over indexed at 172.

Looking at the combined audience’s top 5 Brands buying preferences – Matchbox, Jiffy, Kodak, Dirt Devil and Magic Chef - essentially family based products, supports using both March Madness and eSports combined to reach this audience.



As the average eSports fan is typically a young male between 18-34, not surprisingly, Alcohol greatly over indexes for this category.

The eSports Audience is 3x more likely to purchase Jack Daniels (174 Index) vs. just the March Madness Audience (60 Index).

Budweiser is twice as likely to be bought by the eSports audience (123 Index) than the March Madness audience (63 Index), however by advertising to both audiences at the same time, it would increase Budweiser’s overall purchase intent by 12%.

“The brands that have bought into eSports are amazed not only at the ROI but that it's with the audience that’s just not consuming media in the ‘traditional’ manner.  What was amazing about the research was that when you combine eSports with your March Madness investment, not only do you get the eSports audience, but it actually influences overall purchase intent when combined with the March Madness fan” - Manny Anekal



According to Kantar Media, in 2016 the Auto Industry spent over $250M on March Madness representing the top Brand category with 18% of total Ad spend.

Auto Brands have finally realized the value of the eSports audience and the past year has seen deals with Audi and Subaru and a renewal between Turtle Wax and top team OpTic Gaming. Now car companies can use eSports to leverage their NCAA sponsorship and media investment.

Mini Cooper has double the purchase intent (260 Index) for the eSports audience vs. the March Madness audience alone (119 Index); however by including an eSports buy during the same time, Mini Cooper increases it’s overall purchase intent for the combined audience by 38%.

Buick, which is one of the biggest Auto ad spenders during March Madness, would increase reaching previous Buick buyers by 26% by also including eSports during tournament time.

“eSports is unique in that it offers brands an opportunity to connect with an increasingly hard-to-reach audience. When done right, the paybacks can be enormous but the trick is relevance. This is a community of very savvy gamers and they don’t want any distractions. The brands who succeed are those that truly understand this audience, how to reach them and can prove their commitment to the community.” - Jamie Gutfreund, Global CMO, Wunderman


TL/DR: Leverage eSports to augment your March Madness spend, target your exact audience, increase overall purchase intent, and greater ROI per overall investment compared with TV alone.

Q1 2017: The Brands That Invested In eSports


Intel Extreme Masters Katowice 

Intel Extreme Masters Katowice 

TNL Take: In 2016, we saw over 50+ Brands (FYI: Ending the term “Non-Endemic”, we are well past that) invest in the industry.

In the first quarter of 2017, we’ve already seen 30+ Brands make the move. When Brands re-invest in a platform, that shows belief in the ROI and returning companies like Coca-Cola, Gillette, Pepsi, Geico and others have done that.

Then there are brand new entrants like Dollar Shave Club, Aviasales - the largest Russian travel search engine - and Gerolsteiner, a German beverage Brand and more movie studios. 

As soon as there are 40 hours in the day, all of these deals with additional details will be in the TNL Brand Tracker.

Will we see 100 Brands invest in eSports in 2017?

At this trajectory, we very well could be. I present to you the 2017 Q1 eSports Brand list.

TNL Infographic 032: Q1 2017: The Brands That Invested In eSports (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Infographic 032: Q1 2017: The Brands That Invested In eSports (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

I'll post a high-res image shortly. As always, feel free to use this in presentations, pitch decks, chats with your boss, hang on your fridge – just please give attribution to The Next Level. And if you see 1 Brand missing - please email me.

Thank You.

Exclusive: Chat With Andy Miller About eSports First City Sponsorship


Washington DC's Convention and Sports Authority Sponsors NRG (Graphic: The Next Level)

TNL Take: We still have a few weeks left in the 1st quarter of 2017 and eSports has already seen 25 brands invest in the space - for all of 2016 there was just over 50.

2016: 50+ Brands Invested In eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

While it's great to see blue chip brands renew like Coca-Cola, GEICO, Audi, Pepsi and Gillette; we've also seen new entrants like McDonalds, Dollar Shave Club, Samsung and Old Spice.

The brands come from across the usual spectrum - Auto, QSR, Beverage, Entertainment, CPG - however on Friday, eSports broke an entirely new category.

Events DC, the convention and sports authority for Washington DC, announced an exclusive partnership with NRG eSports.

Although the sponsorship is with Events DC, it's essentially with Washington DC.  While Vegas has seen many eSports events, tournaments and gambling legislation; Events DC wants to make the city an eSports destination as well.

Why would a city sponsor an eSports team?

Here are the reasons that Events DC mentioned with my added translation:

  • eSports Tourism: More tourists obviously equal more revenue
  • Industry Infrastructure: More jobs and more events
  • eSports Relevance: eSports is the hot new industry, platform and opportunity.   Aligning with eSports changes DC's brand from just a political city to becoming a tech city and becoming "cool" - same reason brands invest as well.

While I think this is fantastic for the industry, I wanted to know a bit more about the partnership. 

So I went straight to the source.

Andy Miller, co-founder of NRG eSports, gave me some further insight.

Andy Miller, co-founder of NRG eSports (Photo: Jay Watson)

TNL: Andy, congrats on the deal and thanks for taking the time to speak with me.  Over 50 brands invested in eSports in 2016. We’ve already seen 25 so far this year. However, this type of partnership with Events DC has never been done before. How did this happen?

AM: We met the Events DC folks at the White House when our Rocket League team was invited to play at the first eSports event ever held there. One of our investors, Justin Siegel, has a relationship with the DC team and we all sat down and started brainstorming on what a relationship might look like for 2017.


TNL: That's amazing. How will Events DC and NRG eSports work together to drive this sponsorship outside of the usual jersey logo?

AM: We are working through our plans now, but the idea is to use the NRG platform to introduce eSports fans to our nation's capital from a millennial perspective. DC has so much to offer and is an exciting place to live these days. NRG will bootcamp in DC as well as do events and local activations. 


TNL: Vegas has seen many eSports events, tournaments, and casinos getting involved.  eSports team Rogue is based there as well. Why do you think DC was the first city to work directly with an eSports team?

AM: The Events DC crew is a very forward-thinking group. They see the power of eSports and the mass engaged audience that is attached to it. They want DC to be viewed as progressive, tech savvy and a fun place to live and play. There has not been any major eSports events in DC and they want this to change. Sponsoring NRG is an authentic way to learn and become a part of the esports community.


TNL: You’re co-owner of the Kings which is based in Sacramento. NRG also has a house in LA. Any chance of DC NRG?

AM: We have a CSGO house in LA, but we have players all over. Our executive office is technically in NYC. No plans to be the DC NRG at this time. 


TNL: During our podcast, we talked about how your new Golden1 Center was technically designed to be a world class leader to host eSports events. Vegas recently opened a 200 seat dedicated eSports arena.  DC is going much bigger – a $65M 4,200 seat arena.  Are these new, dedicated smaller arenas a new trend?

AM: Yes. Makes sense. You need big arenas for championships, but eSports is 24/7 and fans want to watch their favorite players and teams where they live which means more frequent, but smaller events.


TNL: So which city do you think will follow DC next?

AM: We will see a bunch of announcements with Blizzard's Overwatch League I imagine. Should be some exciting news there in the next few months. 

TNL: Thanks for your time Andy.


ICYMI, here's the previous podcast with Andy Miller.



TNL eSports Guest Podcast 001: Andy Miller (Photo: The Next Level)