The Acquisition Stream

The Acquisition Stream

With a lack of traditional search volume around eSports, the ability to engage with active communities on streaming platforms will become a key part in the development of this market, says Brendan Ashe.

Published 25th July 2015

Online Sportsbook has exploded in the past 15 years, having grown by an estimated 5.4% average compound interest growth rate between 2001 and 20131 . One contributing factor to this growth has been the rising popularity of nontraditional sportsbook markets. Our client Coral has seen huge success this year running targeted PPC campaigns around the recent UK General Election, and other non-traditional markets, such as the “Who killed Lucy Beale?” storyline in the popular BBC soap opera Eastenders. The reason markets like these see success is because there is a supporting infrastructure around them, due to their being ingrained in common culture. Opportunities like these are not restricted to politics or soap operas, however, and one of the fastest growing markets is eSports gambling. In the UK, this market has been largely ignored – a simple search around “eSports gambling” reveals that some of the biggest names in the gambling industry are only matching to this term because they run the keyword “gambling” on broad match, and not because of any coherent strategy to cater to this market. While UK gambling clients have not recognised the opportunity in this niche yet, the US market is adapting quickly to the shift. Evidence of this shift being underway is provided by former NBA commissioner David Stern recently joining a $5 million financing round for a fantasy eSports model website called AlphaDraft2 . The premise is exactly the same as fantasy football style websites, whereby depositing players select their team of eSports superstars and enter into daily or weekly competitions for cash prizes. Initial projections provided by AlphaDraft estimate they will pay out $5 million in cash prizes to one million depositing players before the end of the year. These are ambitious targets, and a willingness to lose $5 million on one million players shows there is a lot of confidence in this market. The question that has to be answered, however, is – where are they going to get these players? Twitch has become a buzz word amongst marketers of late, the unexpected growth and success of the platform putting them on the radar of many of the larger agencies and brands globally. It is their audience culture, however, that has truly captured everyone’s attention. The premise is simple – players live stream themselves playing games, while commentating on the actual game play in real-time. Viewers are able to live chat and interact with the gamer, and others who are viewing at that time. Over the years, certain gamers have gained notability in this space and, as a result, have amassed huge followings. Aside from the traditional pre-roll video ads and display banner advertising, sponsorship of these Twitch celebrities is also available. This is an online community in the truest sense of the word, and affiliation with it, rather than traditional advertising models, will yield the greatest return. Globally, Twitch has 125 million unique users per month, seven million of which are in the UK. An incredible 95% of their audience are male, and 90% of those are aged between 16-34. More significant, however, is how engaged these users are – 85% of twitch users visit the site at multiple times throughout the day and the average user will stream 90+ minutes a day. Harnessing the power of this channel will undoubtedly go a long way to delivering on the ambitious target David Stern and other investors have set themselves for AlphaBet. It is, however, only one piece of the puzzle. Looking at the search trends around eSports, there is a massive difference between what Google estimates are the average monthly search volumes around these keywords, against the large user base we see on Twitch. In the US alone, Google estimates just 40,000 average monthly searches around eSports, and while this can only grow in the coming years, it’s clear that even the best PPC and SEO strategy will not drive one million depositing players before the end of the year. The success of eSports, and therefore eSports gambling, will ultimately depend on how companies can not only engage with prospective customers on platforms like Twitch, but also at the events which have been attracting thousands of fans on a yearly basis. The statistics back up the need for a coherent strategy between these two platforms, with 24% of those in attendance at eSports events generally watching between five and nine hours of streaming per week, while a full 38% watch more than 10 hours a week3 . This is clearly not a traditional market, and as such, traditional digital strategies will not give the same return we have seen them deliver in the online gambling space. This market is extremely educated, and engaged in their product – the lack of search volume around eSports shows that they do not need to search out information, but rather they know where to go to get it. Platforms like Twitch will obviously be increasingly popular in the development of this market, but success will all depend on how brands interact. For gambling companies, there may even be a need to move away from the brands they have established in the sports market, and create separate new ones specifically for the eSports market. Only time will tell which strategies will ultimately drive success. One thing is clear, however, investments such as those made by David Stern are going to continue, and only increase.

“Former NBA commissioner David Stern recently joined a $5 million fi nancing round for a fantasy eSports model website called AlphaDraft.” 

“Google estimates only 40,000 average monthly searches around eSports, and while this can only grow in the coming years, it’s clear that even the best PPC and SEO strategy will not drive one million depositing players before the end of the year.”