|From left to right: Dave McKenzie, Colin Webster, and Richard van der Schyff.|
With the explosion of eSport onto the mainstream global gaming arena, local governing body Mind Sports South Africa (MSSA) has chosen a recently launched division within the BOO! Surprising Media Solutions stable, BOO! Sports Marketing to launch a commercial strategy promoting gaming and maximising sponsorship and branding opportunities within the industry.
Gaming – a R1.3-trillion industry globally drawing together nearly two billion players – leapt in SA from a R29.7 million industry two years ago, to an industry worth R100-million today. Once a sub-culture, eSport is drawing huge audiences, both online and to stadiums, and now rivals mainstream sports.
‘eSport is a new frontier,’ says Richard van der Schyff managing director of BOO! Sports Marketing - who brings many years as a sponsorship guru in the sports marketing field to eSport. ‘It’s a dynamic and exciting multi-billion dollar industry that is developing a new consumer and spectator interaction. Brands are finding this mix irresistible.’
‘MSSA provides a full year-round calendar of eSport championships and leagues from Premier and Student, to Schools, and with the likes of SuperSport providing a dedicated channel to eSport and the Tuluntulu app live streaming MSSA content, eSport is being exposed to a broader consumer audience and brands are enjoying significant exposure as a result,’ says van der Schyff.
eSport and digital gaming were recently cited by Richard Scuadmore, chief executive of English football’s lucrative Premier League as the biggest danger to football’s long-term popularity on BBC Radio Five Live. In a bid to keep young fans on board, Premier League clubs such as West Ham United and Manchester City have signed on eSport Fifa players who play e-gaming, drawing huge crowds to eSport arenas.
eSport is also under consideration as a medal event for the 2024 Olympic Games.
‘When the SA Proteas played Thailand at the last eSport World Cup, almost a million people watched the game online,’ says Colin Webster, General Secretary, MSSA, who currently has his sights on the participation of the 11-member national eSport team in the International e-Sports Federations (IeSF) ninth World Championships in Busan, South Korea from 8 to 12 November 2017.‘eSport receives the same coverage as any other sporting event, but they are growing bigger and more dynamic by the day,’ says Webster. The MSSA is also responsible as a governing body for eSports which encompasses school and university teams and private clubs. To date 60 schools, mostly in A/B income groups, are members, although there is huge potential for gaming in developing communities too.
‘eSport represents the future interests of the youth,’ says Webster. ‘It is the fastest-growing sport in the world, and it’s destined to become one of the largest. It is already knocking at the door of the IOC, requesting recognition and entry into such events.’
‘The exploding worldwide popularity has proved that there is a massive appetite for gaming as a spectator sport,’ says Dave McKenzie, media and marketing expert and chief executive officer of BOO!. ‘BOO! has been tasked with taking MSSA into the professional era by implementing a commercial strategy for the federation, followed by a sponsorship programme designed to attract and retain prospective sponsors.’
‘We will look to leverage our relationships across other divisions in our company, specifically our media opportunities and relationships in malls, airports and university campuses. Our aim is to work with our long-standing advertising clients, to professionalise and grow eSports, while strengthening the national team.’
BOO! is sponsoring the eSport Proteas for the World Championships 2017 to leverage the online marketing opportunity.
‘eSport is big and it is here to stay,’ says van der Schyff. ‘With MSSA providing the necessary structure for eSport and BOO! providing the commercial expertise, we can guide corporate South Africa on how best to invest in eSport in order to achieve maximum return.
'We also have great insight into the gaming community, who the gamers are and what games they play, and this allows us to assist brands in segmenting the market and targeting their approach to fit their objectives,’ says van der Schyff.