eSports becomes a major contender

Stadia may be opening up and tournaments tentatively taking place but the rise in eSports seems undiminished.

With sporting venues and fixtures completely closed down in the early weeks of the global pandemic, eSports viewing figures began to accelerate dramatically. Already a growing trend, the lack of live action drove viewers to find new, virtual teams to support and celebrate.

Stadia may be opening up and tournaments tentatively taking place but the rise in eSports seems undiminished. According to latest research data analysed by, the number of viewers worldwide looks set to reach 495m by the end of 2020.

Of those, nearly half would already consider themselves enthusiasts or frequent viewers (222.9m), which is an increase of 25m year-on-year, according to eSports market researchers, Newzoo. That number is growing at a CAGR of 11.3% and is expected to reach 295.4m by 2023. Awareness of eSports overall is expected to reach 351.1m by 2023.

Newzoo has also found that the biggest viewer cohort is in China which is also expected to be the global leader in terms of revenue share from eSports activity, contributing $385.1m to global revenues, compared to $252.5m from the US and $201.2m from Western Europe.

In the UK, viewers tend to skew to the younger age range and remain predominantly male although the number of female followers is growing at 31% of the fanbase, and aged between 21-35 years old.

With huge audience and revenue-generating potential, it’s unsurprising to see major brands looking to exploit the eSports opportunity. PepsiCo, Mastercard, Intel and Mercedes-Benz are just four blue chip companies investing in the space, sponsoring popular gaming brands such as Rocket League and Overwatch.

The latter was the top eSports league in 2019 with a 104.1 million live viewership hours across Twitch and YouTube. However, offline sports brands are also taking advantage of the online audiences, with Formula One and Nascar just two major global sporting brands involved in virtual events. Sponsorship remains the largest slice of revenue for eSports teams however it’s clear that fans are looking for a more joined-up involvement from participating brand. Louis Vuitton created a look for a League of Legends heroine and created a complimentary real-life collection which sold out within hours.

Featured image: Gorodenkoff /