Verizon is joining other big brands like Coca-Cola and Red Bull in marketing to the massive eSports audience.
The communications giant has partnered with local gaming center and cafe Epic Gaming Lounge to host the EGL Dallas 10K video game tournament Aug. 7-9 at The Keller Pointe outside of Dallas, Texas.
According to Chris Melissinos, director of corporate strategy for Verizon, Verizon recognizes that video games are one of the most engaging and utilized forms of content in the world today.
“Part of the rise of video games in society is the spectator component of it, especially around eSports,” Melissinos says. “It’s increasingly becoming a growth space. It’s a new wave of entertainment that has tremendous legs in the market.”
Streaming eSports requires a strong network, so Verizon (VZ) is marketing its Fios broadband directly to gamers in Dallas. Melissinos says online gaming is a great way to demonstrate the strength of the Fios high speed network.
“Outside of Fios, we have a wireless connection nationwide and more people are consuming livestreaming on mobile today,” Melissinos says. “As we build on our media strategy with new types of services like the OTT mobile video platform that will launch at the end of summer, we can build on eSports there in the future.”
Melissinos expects a second eSports event to be held this fall in a different market. Fios currently has a strong base in the northeast U.S., including the Philadelphia, New York City, and New England metro areas, so those are prime targets.
Instead of throwing its name into a sponsorship with a large established eSports league, Verizon’s partnership with Epic Gaming Lounge allows the company to take its time in building something organically with the gaming audience, says Melissinos.
Peter Warman, CEO of research firm Newzoo, believes Verizon is smart to go this route.
“There have been some concerns of sponsors in the eSports space that their brand does not get enough exposure during events,” Warman says. “Most of the footage during eSports events is in-game, which generally does not showcase any of the sponsors—unlike, for example, traditional sports where sponsors have billboards in the stadium. While there are some ways to display sponsor brands in-game during eSports events, a lot of eSports organizers have not yet adapted this approach.”
Warman points to Red Bull as an example Verizon can follow. The energy drink company has staged its own eSports tournaments over the past few years with relatively small prize pools, but Warman believes it’s the high production values such as broadcasting quality, commentator talent, and story building around teams that’s most important to the eSports audience.
If Verizon can nail that, it can build its own eSports niche.
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