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A Guide to Winning in the eSports Market in 2021

This is the year the global eSports market will surpass $1 billion in revenue.1 Prize money is high at the top eSports competitions, and so is viewership. Learn how manufacturers of foods, beverages, and nutritional supplements can tap into this fast-growing market. Here we cover the top eSports events, corporate sponsorship opportunities, and the kinds of products that can support gamers’ unique needs for sustained energy and focus.

Rapid Growth in eSports Market

According to eSports analytics company Newzoo, global eSports revenue will surpass $1 billion in 2021, on the back of a year where in-person eSports events were brought to a halt.  Some analysts predict this market to reach the $2.5 billion by 2025 driven by high investments, revenue source evolution & increasing viewership.2 Globally, Newzoo estimated that nearly half a billion viewers consumed eSports in 2020, a nearly 12% growth from the year before.3

Targeting Gamers

Creating products specific to gamers represents an attractive opportunity for manufacturers of foods, beverages, and nutritional supplements to engage with the eSports market in a way that provides real value and extends beyond event sponsorship. 

In addition, gamers are valuable as influencers on social media in a variety of categories, including foods and beverages. The eSports & gaming consumer is a high value target for brands looking to promote a premium food or beverage offering. According to Newzoo, 80% of gamers regularly eat or drink while playing.4 Additionally, North American eSports & gamer are also more likely to have a positive brand attitude towards beverage brands targeting the market including Monster, Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew.5 When it comes to energy drinks, India & China take the lead in consumption while gaming. The same research found 38% of Indian gamers and 26% of Chinese gamers consume energy drinks while playing.6

Gamer Demographics

While the “core gamer” is likely cast as young and male, the overall gamer category has grown quite diverse as video games have become a mainstream pastime. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age range of U.S. gamers is 35-44 years old.7 In a recent survey conducted by Glanbia Nutritionals, we found 49% of U.S. gamers are female.8 The vast majority, 65% of U.S. gamers, play with others and the average adult video game player (pre-pandemic) spent 6.6 hours a week playing with others online.9

The Top eSports Events You Should Know About

Over the past decade, a brand new type of sports event has emerged—the eSports tournament. Regional and international competitions exist for the most popular video games, complete with professional gamers, sponsors, merchandise, and audiences that fill stadiums to watch on the big screen as teams compete for big prize money. Some of the top eSports events to look forward to in 2021 are:10

Worlds 2021

Riot Games’ League of Legends World Championship (known as Worlds) is held in a different region each year. This year, information on the event is limited. However, Worlds moved online in 2020. Peak viewership hit 3.8 million people, with an average of 1.1 million viewers throughout the 126 hours of airtime. Even online, peak viewership of nearly 4 million and average viewership increased from the previous year. Live streaming by League of Legends players on Twitch was instrumental in expanding the game’s popularity. 

Fortnite World Cup 2021

Cancelled in 2020 after setting the bar for the largest prize pool ($30 million) of any eSport competition ever a year earlier, Epic Games, the game’s developer, is expected to re-introduce the tournament. Fortnite’s cross-region online structure makes it difficult to hold without an in-person event, but analysts hope the World Cup will return. Fortnite dominates live streaming platforms like Twitch. In May 2020 there were over 350 million users, up 100 million from the year before.11 

The International 2021

The International is the global eSports competition for DOTA 2, organized by its developer Valve Corporation. The 2020 event was delayed until August 2021 and is touting an over $40m prize pool, the largest ever, if the event goes ahead.

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Corporate Sponsorships in eSports

As big prize money drives viewership, companies of all kinds have become interested in eSports sponsorships. Sponsors of eSports teams have included tech companies Intel and Corsair, insurance companies GEICO and State Farm, and food and beverage brands such as Snickers, Red Bull, Monster Energy, Sprite, and Bud Light. 

Companies can choose to sponsor eSports teams competing in the events (like the Monster Energy sponsorship of Team Liquid), or they can partner with the game organizer to become an official sponsor of the game (such as Coca-Cola, an official partner of the Overwatch League). Brands can also sponsor individual players on Twitch. This typically includes a branded banner on the gamer’s Twitch page but can also include product placement while the gamer is playing.

A future of packed stadiums and the currently millions of online viewers make the eSports market a compelling opportunity for companies—especially for manufacturers of foods, beverages, and nutritional supplements that can support the unique needs of gamers. 

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What Gamers Expect from eSports Foods, Beverages, and Nutritional Supplements

Although gamers have long been a secondary market for energy drinks, an energy claim is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of gamers today. The emphasis should be on sustained energy, mental focus, optimal visual processing, nerve and muscle support, and of course, convenience. 

For sustained energy, caffeine and sugar levels should not be too high, since this could cause an eventual caffeine or sugar crash. In fact, low sugar and sugar-free are gaining traction. For mental focus, L-theanine has become the go-to ingredient in eSports products, while lutein and zeaxanthin are being added to support visual acuity and processing speed.

Other ingredients trending in eSports products are B vitamins, botanicals such as ginseng and bacopa leaf extract, medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil, lion’s mane mushroom, and the amino acids taurine, tyrosine, L-citrulline, and L-carnitine. Protein and fiber are featured in some eSports products to provide satiety over long gaming sessions.

Convenient formats, such as ready-to-drink beverages, powdered drink mixes, bars, and energy crystals, typically work the best for gamers.

Get in the Game

For food and beverage manufacturers who don’t want to wait on the sidelines while the eSports market hits rocket mode, now’s the time to get in the game. Consider if one of your brands might be a good fit for this market and whether eSports sponsorship could help grow the brand.

Better yet, tap into this rapidly growing market by transforming an existing beverage or snack into a functional eSports product or by developing something brand new. Be sure to add the right vitamins, carotenoids, amino acids, or proteins with a custom nutrient premix from Glanbia. Game on!

Download our latest eSports guide to advance to the next level of eSports knowledge or click to learn more about creating a Custom Nutrient Premix for your products.

Download Our eSports Guide for Food, Beverage & Supplement Manufacturers


References

1. Newzoo, 2020 Global Esports Market Report, October 2020
2. Foley & Lardner LLP & The eSports Observer, 2019 eSports Survey, 2019.
3. Newzoo, 2020 Global Esports Market Report, October 2020
4. Newzoo, Gamer Consumption Habits in North America, Western Europe & APAC, May 2020.
5. Newzoo, An Appetite for Beverage Brands, March 2020.
6. Newzoo, 2020 Consumer Insights for Games and Esports, May 2020.
7. Entertainment Software Association, Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, 2020. 
8. GN Proprietary Research, July 2020.
9. Entertainment Software Association, Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, 2020. 
10. eSportsGuide.com, op 5 Esports Events 2021 – Mark Your Calendars, December 2020.
11. Business of Apps online, Fortnite Usage and Revenue Statistics (2020), December 2020.