Keeping up with the eSports opportunity  

Konstantinos Maragkakis, CEO at Paysafe Prepaid Services and eSports Representative for paysafecard, says that in-game advertising is exploding and brands must stay relevant.

There is both an art and a science to in-game advertising – and the possibilities are infinite. But as the field grows, so does competition. With mobile games revenue soaring worldwide, advertisers have increased their advertising efforts. Today it takes more than a winning piece of content to create cut-through. It’s about seamlessly integrating tailored ads, for the audience that needs them the most.

The pandemic has only accelerated the shift towards gaming, with audiences expanding and ultimately diversifying the chance for brands to connect. With 3bn people playing online games worldwide according to Newzoo data – and 2.8bn of those playing on mobile devices – that opportunity is both immense and seemingly endless. paysafecard is one of the original brands to capture the powerful intimacy of in-game advertising, having evolved with its audience over the last 20 years in the eCash business. Gaming is in our DNA.

Natural synergy
There is a natural synergy between gamers’ needs and paysafecard’s prepaid eCash solution, which has enabled its ease of integration within gaming ecosystems. As gaming has matured with the provision of a professionalised eSports industry, the opportunity to connect directly with players has become more powerful. Working with ESL Gaming has helped to craft this intimacy, growing our audience and building trust in our product. 

The closer a brand gets to its audience, the greater the responsibility to deliver and cater to their needs. Brands inhabit their audiences’ space in the world of eSports and in-game advertising, which is a privilege, and rewarding their trust is an important part of that relationship. For example, paysafecard’s Super Fan initiative that rewards fans with a goodie package presented by their favourite player.

It is this direct appeal that really differentiates in-game advertising from traditional advertising. The relevance, shared experiences within games and eSports events, and the level of interactivity. Unlike a billboard, there’s a constant flow of relevant interaction with a very targeted audience. It enables brands to build consistent, longer-term relationships with their audiences while truly satisfying their needs.

There are two key elements that enable this ideal positioning in in-game advertising. First and foremost, there has to be synergy between the brand and the audience. paysafecard is the perfect fit, offering accessible payment services in-game – where there is a genuine need. While there are brands that fit seamlessly into this space, the possibilities are seemingly endless once non-endemic brands get creative. But they must demonstrate authentic, bespoke targeting. 

Trusted stakeholders
The second element is working with trusted stakeholders to really nourish those audiences and nurture new opportunities – ensuring a synergistic evolution. ESL has been an integral part of our continued growth in this area, keeping us on our toes, extending our reach, and enhancing our ambition. This type of stakeholder relationship is quite unique compared to traditional advertising; it brings brands along this exciting journey of incredible growth in esports.

The reality is that as major global acquisitions make headlines in mainstream news, the perception of gaming and the professional eSports industry is transforming. Paired with the progress made in mobile eSports, cloud gaming, and gaming-as-a-service, there is a lot to unpack for brands looking to get in on this flourishing opportunity. Right now, the sky is the limit.

Rather than hinder, the pandemic has enabled the eSports industry to demonstrate its resilience and reinforce its global appeal with hybrid events. But with live events now on the horizon and anticipation growing for the roaring crowds and buzzy tournaments, we are entering a new era. Superbrands are elbowing their way into the advertising space, looking for sponsorship deals and new ways to increase their brand’s visibility.

Moving forward, the real challenge for brands looking to capture the in-game opportunity is going to be maintaining relevancy and a unique brand position as more get involved. Working with the right esports stakeholders will ensure they stay ahead of the curve, ready to adapt to maintain the brand advantage. A tight relationship will help to navigate these challenges.

Looking ahead, we expect a greater combination of offline and online activities. For example, car companies building in-car gaming experiences into new models – as Mercedes has done with Mario Kart. Meanwhile, as mobile eSports grows, there will be plenty of opportunities to unlock. For paysafecard, this means even greater integration of payment services right through mobiles or hand-held devices. We’re not there yet – but with ESL we are within reach.