Global ad spend for e-sports to rise to $844m in 2020

Thousands of fans packed a Paris arena for the final of an e-sports event, the League of Legends tournament, in November 2019. Photo: Thibault Camus/AP

Global advertising spend on e-sports is expected to rise this year despite global recession due to the coronavirus crisis, a new report has found.

Brand investment in advertising and sponsorship in e-sports is set to rise 9.9% worldwide to $844m (£657m) in 2020 and is forecast to top $1bn in 2022, according to new research from international marketing intelligence service WARC, with a focus on the application of advertising in mobile gaming, streaming and e-sports.

The research forecasts $615m is to be spent on the sponsorship of competitors or e-sport tournaments. A further $229m will be spent on spot ads during e-sport broadcasts, representing a 1.7% rise at a time when traditional television advertising is set to fall by 13.8%, according to WARC.

E-sports is a form of sport competition using video games, often taking the form of organised, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams.

Although the industry is set to grow with investment on the rise, the format has struggled to attract new audiences during the coronavirus lockdown. E-sports has not proven to be comparable with traditional sport, failing to win over fans — just 3% of adults watched e-sports content for the first time during the coronavirus lockdown.

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However, the platform is growing worldwide with e-sports drawing in 1 billion viewers worldwide. More than one in four (27%) males have watched an e-sports tournament in the last month, equivalent to 554 million people.

E-sports are most popular in Asia, with 30% of viewers, 20% of e-sports viewers are in Latin America, 14% in Europe and MEA, respectively, and 13% in North America.

Uptake is greatest among Gen Z at one in four (27%) and stands at one in five (20%) among millennials. Data from Limelight Networks show that Gen Z gamers watch over six hours of e-sports content a week on average, over an hour longer than they spend watching traditional sporting content.

Practitioners believe advertising spend will be the key driver of e-sports growth in coming years, and WARC forecasts investment will now top $1bn in 2022.