As eSports moves into the mainstream, popular video game brands are rushing to make their live events the gold standard. They are using a traditional sports event plan that any brainy planner would implement – the chance to add experiential value at big events, as well as provide special VIP access to events.

eSports tournament prize pots are now worth millions of dollars. Tens of thousands of fans gather at arenas to watch gamers compete and millions more tune in live online. Gamers are hungry for live interaction. The nature of live gaming makes it much more of a social experience than traditional video sources. According to Newzoo, an eSports research house, eSports revenues are projected to be $1.1 billion by 2019.

On average, gamers are 31 years old. As a group, they’re 148 million strong, and Newzoo expects this number to rise to 215 million by 2019. Gamers are tech savvy and leverage ad blockers, making them a difficult demographic to reach through traditional advertising and marketing. This is why events will always have the leg up.

Through these live events, tournaments and sponsorships, video game brands are helping to elevate their industry. “It feels natural to bring people together in real life and create these opportunities for people and make it a live one,” says Nathan Lindberg, Director-eSports at streaming platform Twitch.

Five years ago, Activision’s first-ever Call of Duty XP Convention was a game changer for the eSports event world with its live strategy and experience that physically let gamers immerse themselves in the titles they loved from the franchise. “It always comes down to how we tie event experiences into the games,” says Jonathan Murnane, Senior Director-Global Experiential Marketing at Activision. “There are people that play online every night and use these events as an opportunity to finally meet in person, so there’s a lot of different ways that we bring this community together.”

Once the event content is established, how did planners bring these video game titles to life? Planners and video game companies focused on these three live event areas for their attendees.

Physical Engagements 

Demos on the arena floor; Activated virtual reality experiences Paintball course; Zombie laser tag; Zip line; Hands-on gameplay; New product reveal.

Live Performances

Exhibition gaming by famous international gamers; Live music (typically featuring current A-list talent. Activision booked rap stars Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa.)

Broadcast Opportunities

Attendees are able to view the live tournaments on TV (DirecTV has a partnership with the Championship Gaming Series); Live event online streams with digital models (much like viewing a mainstream sport); Broadcast online to special 360-degree viewers and VR headsets.

So once you’ve created the unique venue experience, how do you get global reach and longevity with an event? Bring in established sponsors while attracting non-endemic sponsors that add on-site value. Here are some recent sponsor gaming activations that helped the client and the game brand achieve mutual success.

Sponsor Activations

  • Totinos – product samples and activated two “bucking bull”-style couches that challenged gamers to remain on the spinning couches while playing a video game.
  • Comcast Xfinity – set-up live Skype chats between top gamers and fans.
  • Gillette – offered grooming services to competitors and gave fans the chance to customize their own 3D printed razor.
  • Coca-Cola – hosted live gaming viewing parties at movie theatres.
  • Bud Light – erected a beer garden with character themed souvenir pints.