Experts for Optimy: talking about eSports, YouTubers and influencer marketing

Today we hand it over to Natalia Grodecka, Key Account Manager at GetHero – also manager of ReZigiusz, one of the Polish most successful YouTubers – who will share her view about the growth of the eSport industry.

Now over to Natalia :

Did you know that today a major eSports event may attract 40,000 people watching live, and tens of millions watching online? And were you aware that, according to Deloitte Global, eSports are predicted to generate global revenues of $500 million in 2016, meaning +25% compared to 2015? Brands have noticed the lucrativeness of this industry and are, therefore, investing more than ever in sponsorships and events related to eSports and gamers.

Natalia, starting from the basics, what is eSport? Who are the eSport fans? Why is it growing so fast?

eSports are a form of competition in the field of computer games between professional players (or teams of players). Tournaments in Counter Strike, League of Legends or World of Tanks around the world are watched by tens of millions of fans, primarily generation Z and Y, for whom the virtual world is the natural environment of existence. On top of that, multiple events are organised for enthusiasts of eSport, willing to connect with their idols and also to support their favorite players and teams. The best players can earn serious money: the prize pool can reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

eSport is actually similar to any other sport discipline. Playing at the highest level is not lazing and relaxing your mind. On the contrary, electronic sports requires good physical condition and a great mental preparation. Also, the atmosphere created by fans during the eSport tournaments is comparable to the one prevailing in football stadiums during major events. eSport nowadays is a real rivalry with true fans and excitement, and that’s all what is needed for an industry to grow quickly.

There is only one fairly significant difference between eSports and ‘traditional’ sports that I can think of. This thing is also the one attracting a growing audience: anyone can experience eSports on their own skin. Practically, there is only one click needed to enter the virtual game and face your enemy. You don’t need to be a professional player to enjoy the world of games. To sum up, excitement, emotions and once again excitement is what eSports have to offer, not a specific player or tournament, but the fact that anyone can become a master!

What’s happening in Poland? How is the eSports industry growing and how is it affecting the sponsorship market?

The first championship in computer games was held in Poland in 2005. From this time on, we’ve observed the market growing more and more every year. The value of eSports in Poland is now estimated at over 40 million euro at it is expected to reach nearly 60 million euro in 2018. Our country became the host of one of the biggest events in the world: the annual finals of the Intel Extreme Masters.

Since eSports are trendy in Poland, a growing number of companies is investing on influencer marketing, eSport tournaments and events. Professional players are authorities for their fans, if they recommend a brand or an equipment provider, it has a significant impact on consumer decisions and behavior. Additionally, events in expo halls are the perfect place where a sponsor can showcase their services and products. It’s an opportunity to build brand awareness or share the latest news.

Brands like Coca-Cola, Red Bull and others, are investing huge amounts of money in eSports players and events. Do you think that sponsoring the eSports industry is any different than the traditional one? If yes, then how and by what means?

It is hard to give a clear answer to this question. It all depends on the type and the character of the promotion.   No matter if it’s an online game competition or football game in the stadium, we have sponsors of the event and branding on t-shirts. In both cases you can become a naming rights sponsor soin this sense, there is not much difference.

The difference arises when communicating. The fans of eSports are our main target. We can talk with them through a fanpage or in the comments below a post, we can respond to their requests and engage them in activities that we organise, as long as they are consistent with gaming and fans’ interests. They are almost always online, watching videos, competitions or playing games, we catch their attention there.

With fans in the stadium we no longer have this interaction on a high level. Of course we can offer them free beverages or a product sample, but once the game starts, all the attention is focused on the game and players and you no longer engage with the fans. In eSports fans often identify themselves with professional players and they spend a lot of time training their skills often with the picture of their idol in mind. With football or volleyball it’s similar, but not that easy. It is difficult to become the next Lewandowski, not everyone has the competency. No surprise that more and more people prefer the virtual reality, take their computers, showcase their ability and become idols.

More than in traditional sports, eSport fans follow their idols not only during the tournaments. They observe their idols’ everyday life (you can find a lot of young gamers on YouTube). That’s how professional gamers become brand ambassadors, not only for software, computers or games, but also for soft drinks, sweets, cars, whatever you can think of. We all know that we rather take the recommendations coming from people around us, especially from someone we admire.

Natalia, what you exactly do for reZigiusz as a sponsorship manager and what do you go through before choosing the right sponsor? (reZigiusz is a polish gamer and YouTuber. Natalia is his manager)

This part of my work starts when I receive a request from a company aiming at sponsoring reZigiusz. Sometimes we receive two sentences with the description of the product, sometimes we get a complete brief. Then I usually call the company to get more details. I need to remember that we are cooperating with several brands exclusively and if I receive an offer from their competitors, I can’t agree on the cooperation. In that case I usually recommend them to another YouTuber or a gamer associated with our agency GetHero. If the product passes the initial selection, we consider whether we are sure to promote this particular product with the image of reZigiusz in mind. For example, sometimes we get a request coming from the alcohol industry and even though Rezi is already an adult, they never get approved because we know that his followers are mostly aged 13 – 18 years old. The same applies to products which are not used by Rezi on a daily basis, eg. he has no vision defects so we don’t want to cheat on his audience and all of a sudden promote contact lenses, even if the company has a big budget for it.

In Rezi’s case, he is already considered as a ‘celebrity’ in Poland so we are receiving a lot of requests and we can afford being ‘picky’. If we like the product and the campaign we shore up the details with our customer: activities, pricing, scheduling and all of the paperwork. Then we implement everything. It is on my side to make sure that Rezi sticks to the plan and does everything according to the plan agreed with the client. Of course we consult everything with him and we work together on a solution beneficial and for him and for the customer. When it comes to the ‘creative part’ (eg. concept for the YouTube video or content of social media posts) it is mostly Rezi taking care of that, although it happens that I help him to create a scenario and guide him on an interesting idea. I also try to maintain and manage his endorsements: we don’t want him to be like a Christmas tree decorated with different brands, endorsed in every possible field, which, unfortunately, has recently been increasingly observed on the YouTube scene. If he feels that he has enough activities in a certain month, I don’t accept any other actions for that period. The whole process ends after the completion of all activities, then I prepare a report for the customer with results and send them an invoice.

Once signed, how do you measure the performance of the sponsorship/partnership? Do you use any tool to help you and save time on management activities?

Talking about influencers, measuring results is always on my side. Our customers don’t have access to the statistics of influencer’s social media channels which are our main measurement tools. All channels that we use in communication (YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram) have their own internal statistics. On this basis, we calculate the total number of views or audiences. Since campaigns with influencers do not always have a dedicated hashtag, the use of social media monitoring tools, e.g. Brand24, Brandmention or Hootsuite, don’t really make sense. But for example when we organise MeetUps (the biggest meetings of influencers and YouTube fans), we use social media monitoring tools where you can follow the hashtags associated with the event. It is not possible to count it manually, generation Z publish so many pictures, tweets and snapchats during one event.


In a nutshell: Our Takeaways

#1 eSports are growing faster than ‘traditional’ sports due to availability in participation no matter the gender, age and level of experience.

#2 Today a growing number of companies are investing on influencer marketing, eSports tournaments and events in order to connect with customers.

#3 eSports fans tend to spend lots of time online which is why professional gamers can become brand ambassadors through communication channels like YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

#4 The exact performance figures cannot always be measured accurately, however, social media monitoring tools are often used to get an overview of statistics.  

About Natalia Grodecka  

Natalia Grodecka.jpgFor the last few years Natalia had the opportunity to gain experience at various levels related to performance, PR, communication and content. As a result, she is currently leading a team of Account Managers and is a personal talent manager of ReZigiusz (number 3 on the Polish YouTube scene). In the creative agency GetHero, she has a lot of special assignments: she is responsible for campaigns for major brands, such as Coca-Cola, mBank, HP, EA, x-kom or PLAY. She has also participated in different events like the last MeetUp in Wroclaw that was visited by almost 10,000 participants and more than 100 influencers. She is a graduate of Journalism and Social Communication and Communication Management at the University of Wroclaw. In her experience she appreciates the charity actions she co-organised such as  ‘Rezimy Dobrem’ with ReZigiusz and ‘Po psu ta moda’ – charity towards raising awareness about dog shelters.

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