Maximising Sport in Pubs

Can pubs cash in on esports?

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Get in the game: Whyte outlined an opportunity for pubs to take advantage of esports.
Get in the game: Whyte outlined an opportunity for pubs to take advantage of esports.
The fourth speaker at The Morning Advertiser’s 2018 Maximising Sport in Pubs conference – head of esports and gaming at Goat agency and CEO of Edge esports, Adam Whyte – looked at how pubs can embrace gaming and e-sports and tap into the Millennial market.

Fastest growing consumer industry in the world

Whyte highlighted that not only are esports events attracting live audiences of 90,000, the level of audience interaction is unprecedented for crowds of that scale. “You haven’t seen audience interaction like this.”

Attracting around 400m viewers a year, esports is the fastest growing consumer industry in the world.

Moreover, Whtye set out that the scale of grassroots gaming is enormous. It’s estimated that 2.3bn people are gamers, ranging from friends playing on their couch, venturing into the world of online gaming and then competitive esports events.

The best gamers in the world are gaining traction akin to the biggest stars in sport with Whyte giving the example of Reckless, who he calls the “Lebron James of esports”, winning hordes of fans and sponsorship.

What is a gamer?

While it might be hard to believe that a quarter of the world’s population are classed as gamers, Whyte explained that the proliferation of mobile apps and gamers causes the numbers to swell.

Interestingly, Whyte explained that the number-one gaming demographic in the world is 42-year-old women – “mum’s playing Candy Crush”.

However in terms of the gamers engaging in esports on a grander scale and engaging with esports at ticketed events, it’s very much a Millennial phenomenon.

Attracting Millennial footfall

With operators facing an increasing challenge in attract Millennials, Whyte outlined esports as a potentially key point of engagement.

He explains that potential pubgoers aged between 18 and 25 are turning to esports in the place of traditional sports as, according to Whyte, “they just don’t have the attention span” for the real thing.

Esports, Whyte explained, is a very age-specific phenomenon. If you’re running a “spit and sawdust” style pub attracting older footfall, it’s not going to be a sound fit.

Famous faces

Esports videos such as ‘shoutcasting’ – commentating on esport videos – are regular chart toppers on Youtube.

What’s more a video featuring rap artist Drake gaming with esport star Ninja, attracted 15m viewers – 600,000 at its peak viewing time. Such figures dwarf Premier League audiences.

Whyte also highlights that videos of people playing the digital game Fortnite Battle Royale, are among Ladbible’s top five videos every day – showing sustained demand for watching a game that Whyte described as “digital hunger games”.

More recently, Tottenham Hotspur and England star Dele Alli recenetly live streamed himself playing Fortnite during Bayern Munich and Real Madrid’s Champions League semi-final, with 10,000 fans choosing to watch him gaming over the penultimate stage of the world’s biggest club competition.

Why now?

Whyte explained that there’s no time like the present for pub operators to tap into esports, highlighting that while live coverage is free to broadcast on Youtube, Twitch and Facebook – it’s only a matter of time before major broadcasters jump on the bandwagon and start charging subscription fees.

Moreover, with a franchise league of esport staple Fortnite recently announced, the infrastructure around the phenomenon’s competitive element continues to go from strength to strength.

Working with non-endemic brands

It’s not just endemic gaming brands that are cashing in on, and sponsoring, esports events, with Whyte highlighting that Gillette and Bud Light have got involved in sponsoring huge scale esport events already.

What’s more with revenue from esports increasing roughly 40% year on year, it’s an industry awash with cash.

Lack of a 'proper home'

However, despite the hype, esports still lacks a “proper home” in the UK according to Whyte, who describes the UK as “definitely behind” in the digital game.

While there are venues in Dalston and Fulham that are dipping a toe in the digital waters, and an increasing number of retailer Game stores converting to community gaming areas, there’s a huge opportunity for pubs to get involved.

Given the lack of a destination site, Whyte explained that there’s a huge opportunity to engage with gamers currently with no option besides sitting at home watching broadcasts on their own, looking for someone to share and discuss it with. If a pub can provide a place for them to get together, they could be on to a winner.

However, Whyte warned that authenticity is key in engaging a gaming audience. Anyone looking to work with the industry needs to learn the lingo and speak to gamers in their own language.

Yet Whyte explained that with the right audience in a venue, sampling esports could be as cost-free as loading up a Twitch broadcast and streaming.

Do gamers get drunk?

“These kids are getting messed up”.

Whyte highlighted the growing genre of drunk streaming in esports - whereby a player drinks a shot every time they lose a life, or concedes a goal in sports simulators such as the FIFA Football series, for example - as evidence that alcohol brands and gaming can coexist in the name of entertainment.

Moreover, he cites the example of Insomnia gaming festival in Birmingham as another example, with attendees seeming perfectly happy to enjoy a drink while watching, or participating in, competitive esports.  

Opportunity for pubs

Whyte pointed out that combining a social viewing experience, big screens and broadcast facilities, with the ready availability of alcohol means that pubs have a huge opportunity to capitalise on esports’ growing popularity.

Moreover, he felt that pubs were well placed to cash in on offering promotions to reflect trends and unfolding action – “free pints for headshots” for example.

Read The Morning Advertiser’s​ guide to e-sports and pubs here​.

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