The future of entertainment
When embedding ads and sponsor integrations in video games, “You’ve got to be respectful towards the gamer,” says James Draper, the founder and CEO of Bidstack, a U.K.-based platform that allows brands to programmatically buy in-game ad space.
He is keen to emphasize the importance of “natural” placement; putting a sportswear brand’s logo on the sidelines of a Madden or FIFA game, where it wouldn’t look out of place in the real world, for example. But given the breadth of popular titles, that organic placement isn’t always possible.
“Take League of Legends; you’re in a completely medieval, potion-driven, village-style warfare RPG,” he says, using a common acronym for role-playing game. “Sometimes you could argue it’s a bit odd to see a Mastercard advert in that environment.”
On the surface, League of Legends is not an esport that easily lends itself to native branding opportunities, but Draper notes that Riot Games is “sitting on a gold mine” with its most popular title. “They’re got to maximize the golden goose.” But LoL is not alone in its value to brands.
According to data analysis firm Statista, citing information from Comscore, IFPI and Newzoo, gaming was the most lucrative entertainment sector in 2019 hands-down. With a combined revenue of $145.7 billion, which encompasses PC, mobile and console gaming, it blew box office and music revenues out of the water, which stood at $42.5 and $20.2 billion, respectively.
“I think there’s this idea that the [esports] base doesn’t have to compete with each other. The big thing is gaining credibility for esports in general, and that is something we have to be united on,” Manarino says, calling the uplifting of competitors in the esports realm an “all boats rise” situation.
“We want to push our peers in esports. We think they’re going to be the next big thing for generations.”