Esports and gaming have burst into the mainstream in recent years, transforming the industry from a niche audience to a worldwide phenomenon that gained more than £1 billion in revenue last year. The following is already bigger than American Football and Rugby combined and will continue to grow rapidly into 2020, with the numbers suggesting esports is on it’s way to becoming the most financially lucrative market on the planet.
With the huge growth of this market, it is inevitable that brands would start to increase their interest and collaborate with teams, events and the games themselves. In the first quarter of 2019 there were over 76 non-endemic sponsorship deals, which was an increase of 145% on the last quarter. The industry is catching the eye of big-spending marketers including Arby's, Audi, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Gillette, Nike, Adidas and Bud Light. And in an unprecedented move, Louis Vuitton have also now gotten in on the action by partnering with video game developer Riot Games for the 2019 League of Legends (LoL) World Championship.
Riot Games have described the partnership as the first-ever collaboration between a global esport and a luxury fashion house, with LV creating a custom trophy case for the World Championships alongside a selection of online skins and a capsule collection.
Interestingly, the way that Louis Vuitton activated this sponsorship was completely in line with other sports sponsorships they have done in the past. LV have a history of creating bespoke trunks for the worlds most prestigious sporting trophies spanning across football, tennis, rugby and sailing. Authenticity really is the key for partnerships like this, especially when a brand is entering new territory, so the fact that LV stuck to their roots and created something they have been doing for other high profile events really helps to make the partnership feel seamless.
The tie-up between one of the world’s most recognizable luxury brands and the most played PC game on the planet is no coincidence. The geographic focus of esports and luxury brands overlap nicely, with Asia being the biggest market for both of these industries (China, Japan, and Korea making up the largest current base of esports consumers). The age demographic is spot on for both brands, with the luxury market wanting to target a younger, millennial audience and 21 - 30 year olds contributing to 85% of esports audience growth. Esports fans also have a higher than average income with established careers, making it the perfect target audience for a luxury brand.
With Louis Vuitton taking the first step, the floodgates are now open for other luxury brands to step in and take a slice of the largest growing market in the world. The key to partnering with the esports market, as Louis Vuitton have shown, is to stay true to what the brand represents and it’s philosophy. Brands need to treat esports as a fertile market to gain a new generation of ambassadors and fans by bring creative and working with the experts within the industry to guarantee that you are being authentic . Just like any industry, brands need to bring value and invest in the industry the right way if they want to have respect and guarantee they are remembered.