Sponsorship collective logo

Sponsorship Trends in eSports: Understanding the Horizon

by | March 1, 2024

Why you can trust Sponsorship Collective

  • The Sponsorship Collective has worked with over 1000 clients from every property type all over North America and Europe, working with properties at the $50,000 level to multi-million dollar campaigns, events and multi-year naming rights deals
  • We have published over 300 YouTube videos, written over 500,000 words on the topic and published dozens of research reports covering every topic in the world of sponsorship
  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

Before you dive in, if you are interested in sport sponsorship, check out these titles in our “sponsorship for sports” series:

eSports have been a rising trend since the 2010s, really coming into their own in the sponsorship world in the 2020s. Now is as excellent a time as ever for eSports leagues or solo stars to seek partners in a sponsorship capacity, as both sides have better expectations for what a working relationship can be. 

After my introductory post to eSports sponsorship, I figured why not follow it by examining what the industry currently looks like and what trends are driving it forward? This information will supplement my other article and put you on the path to finding the sponsorship your eSports team needs. 

eSports Sponsorship Trends – What Does the Landscape Look Like?

Sponsorship Spending Is Down

I know what you’re thinking. Uh-oh, right? If I look into eSports and gaming sponsorship, am I hopping on a sinking ship?

Not at all. Allow me to explain why eSports sponsorship spending has dropped in the 2020s.

When eSports sponsorship opportunities first arose, they were a hot novelty. There wasn’t anything else quite like them, and in many ways, there still isn’t. eSports have the appeal and accessibility of sports like football and basketball and fanbases that are just as avid. 

New call-to-action

Since eSports took the world by storm when they began rolling out more regularly between the 2010s and 2020s, companies signed on left and right for opportunities. However, they realized that, like some influencers have painfully discovered, exposure isn’t enough. 

Sponsors are always interested in ROI. Some eSports players and leagues delivered it in droves, and others not at all. 

As sponsors saw that the best they could get for some opportunities was exposure, they adjusted their spending accordingly. 

This is nothing against eSports players or teams. If sponsors felt like they weren’t getting the ROI they deserved, they’d scale back spending on any partner across industries. 

eSports Are Becoming Increasingly Popular in Spain

Despite diminishing sponsorship spending, eSports aren’t slowing down one iota. Almost nowhere is that truer than in Spain, where sponsorships have blossomed. One of the more trademark sponsorship deals that have gone down in this European country occurred in late 2023.

MediaMarkt Spain, a consumer electronics brand, partnered with DUX Gaming, a sports and eSports club. The deal entails joint content collaborations between both brands, activations, and MediaMarkt working as DUX’s technological partner. 

Some eSports Stars Are Simply Out of a Sponsor’s Price Range

In some cases, a sponsor wants to work with an eSports league or player, but they have to decline because the sponsor company can’t afford it.

This won’t be the case for most Fortune 500 companies, but SMBs, especially smaller businesses and startups, will really feel the pinch.

Sometimes, even bigger brands might decline. BMW was an eSports sponsor for years, working with Cloud9, G2, and Fnatic, but has since ducked out of the eSports game. Computer brand HP did the same. 

So, do eSports leagues really make that much money? They can, yes!

According to 2023 data from eSports Insider, players in the League of Legends tournament LCS made $410,000 in 2020, with their income rising in 2021 before plateauing in 2022. 

That’s not all. In 2020, eSports player Perkz, a League of Legends expert, penned a deal with Cloud9 for three years that’s worth $6 million. In China, the earnings for eSports stars can be even greater, with some raking in $6.73 billion USD a year. 

Smaller companies can often benefit the most from working with eSports teams or players because they’d get the most brand recognition, which is sorely needed. However, the high cost of eSports stars can price these smaller businesses out.

Now, please don’t assume every eSports star is making such serious cash. Those are the upper earners, and as with most creative jobs, the cashflow fluctuates. 

Job resource Glassdoor states that the average eSports player makes between $40,000 and $65,000 a year, which is a perfectly normal salary, all things considered. 

Of course, there’s little data available about the average eSports star’s salary, so you can reasonably expect that some will earn under that threshold and others well over. The highest earners are inaccessible to all but the wealthiest sponsors. 

eSports Fans Believe Sponsors Are a Critical Part of Funding 

ROI resource Elevent did a survey with 2,000 participants, all Americans aged 18 or older, to determine the value and importance of eSports sponsorship. Some of the participants were avid eSports fans and others were members of the general public. 

According to the results, the consensus is that sponsorship funding is “essential” to eSports, with 69 percent of the general public agreeing with that and 85 percent of eSports fans feeling the same.

What surprises me more here is the 69 percent of the general public that has that sentiment. After all, eSports are a bit confusing to the uninitiated, let alone specific details about how eSports stars make money. 

Even the average person recognizes the value of sponsorship in eSports, especially when it comes to a league or star’s revenue. 

That said, the participants in the Elevent survey didn’t only believe that sponsors are like walking ATMs (which they certainly are not). More than 50 percent of the general public think that sponsors improve an eSports star’s image, while 78 percent of avid fans thought the same. 

Moreso, 46 percent of the surveyed general public think that sponsors “have a positive impact on the experience,” while 76 percent of eSports fans agree.

However, Most People Believe eSports Events Have Too Many Sponsors

Another interesting piece of data from the Elevent survey was in people’s perceptions of how many sponsors is too many at eSports events. The general public believe there are too many at a rate of 47 percent, while 67 percent of eSports fans believe the number is excessive.  

Again, you could expect avid fans to have a better understanding of what’s going on during an eSports event, so if they think there are too many sponsors, there probably are. You’re unlikely to hear the eSports leagues and gamers say the same, as they make money from sponsors, so to them, the more, the merrier. 

New call-to-action

This is something for companies sponsoring eSports teams or players to think carefully about. When there are too many sponsors at an event, it becomes oversaturated with brands. None make a strong impact because there are too many for the average consumer to pay attention to.

Ultimately, a sponsor’s ROI ends up being less than expected because they don’t receive outcomes at the same level the eSports star promised. This tarnishes the working relationship. 

Samples Are a Preferred Form of Engagement

Yet a third great insight courtesy of the Elevent survey revealed consumers’ favorite ways to interact with sponsors at eSports events. 

The top was receiving samples, with 80 percent of eSports fans preferring that method. A very close second was trying sponsor products, with 79 percent of fans liking this. 

The rest of the activations break down as follows: 

  • 78 percent like receiving information about the sponsor’s services and products.
  • 72 percent enjoy contests with prizes like celebrity or athlete meet-and-greets. 
  • 68 percent like participating in all contests regardless of the prize. 
  • 68 percent will prioritize purchasing a sponsor’s products.

However, 47 percent of eSports fans said they avoided onsite sponsors, which is telling. That’s almost half of eSports fans, while 34 percent of the general public said they dodged sponsors. 

That could be because there are too many sponsors, or perhaps attendees aren’t seeing the kinds of activations that speak to them. It’s hard to say because the reasons weren’t specified, so we can only guess. 

Now Is a Good Time for Sponsors to Invest in eSports, as the Market Will Only Grow

Sponsors waffling on whether they should get into eSports sponsorship should consider that it’s not going away. If anything, eSports will only become more prevalent, as Statista reports that the compound annual growth rate between 2024 and 2028 will be 7.10 percent globally.

By 2028, eSports will have a market volume of up to $5.7 billion. eSports betting will especially see a rise, with the market volume projected to reach $2.5 billion by 2024. 

Of all the countries earning for eSports, the US gets the lion’s share and is estimated to achieve $1,070 million by 2024. 

Bottom Line 

eSports remain a sponsorship staple, and with more revenue being attached to this industry year after year, that seems unlikely to change. However, before diving into sponsorship as an eSports player or as a company wishing to partner with a league, it’s important to weigh the trends and insights I presented to gauge how they will affect you. 

Do you need even more insights into eSports sponsorship because of a specific case? You can always set up a call with me to discuss your aspirations.