Esports March On: Nike Jumps In With Glitzy Ad While Forbes Ponders If Esports Will Be Our New Pastime

from the game-on dept

Esports continues to march down the path toward greater adoption. As we’ve detailed over many posts, esports had already become a cultural thing heading into 2020. But if anyone expected a regression back to IRL sports, the COVID-19 pandemic essentially cemented the cultural adoption of competitive video gaming. With even greater adoption by IRL professional sports leagues, and with many widely used social media platforms getting in the game and accelerating all of this, esports have continued to hit impressive milemarkers that showcase just how big this is all becoming.

It’s not slowing down. Signs of that acceleration can be seen first in a glitzy advertisement Nike has put out as it too jumps further into esports gaming.

The shoemaker has released its first-ever esports ad, coming out of Nike Greater China, showcasing how these esports athletes get their minds and bodies prepared for the challenge.

The ad shows gaming superstar Uzi – who was recently the first esports athlete to be signed by Nike – completely a rigorous (and highly entertaining) training camp. According to Nike, the ad is a reminder for these gamers to remain active and healthy in order to stay on top of the challenges of gaming – which can see top players putting in 16-hour days six days a week.

Nike jumping into this is no small thing. And, while this is an ad for the Chinese marketplace, it would be quite surprising given esports’ trajectory if we didn’t see this sort of thing in the West before long.

Along those lines, Forbes has also come out with an article asking if esports will soon be America’s chief pastime.

Compared to America’s most popular pro sports, football, basketball and baseball, Esports is small, but it now ranks with popular sports entertainment like wrestling. In 2019, according to esportsobserver.com, over $211M was awarded from over 4,000 Esports tournaments, an increase of 29% from 2018’s $163M prize pool.

Gaming is universal. The rules of the games are simple. It is simply the essence of competition. When produced for television, broadcasters can support the action with commentary, stating objectives for the game on-screen. Like golf, knowledge of the games might not be necessary at all as a games player base might be large enough to sustain eSports broadcasts, making non-player spectators a bonus, learning rules as they watch. Segments can support rules and strategies and highlights.

Will esports reach the vaunted levels for America’s attention that baseball, basketball, and football have achieved? It’s certainly on that trajectory. And the fact that publications like Forbes are even asking this question of a sport that has existed widely for less than two decades is telling. What esports really has to avoid is becoming the new World Series of Poker, where the fad fizzled out after a few years and is now relegated to niche status, albeit still popular.

But as the post points out, gaming is becoming universal. It’s already overtaken other forms of entertainment as the dominant force among young people. Why that wouldn’t translate into even further spectatorship of esports tournaments, now propelled by major brands and funding, is a question I cannot answer.

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Comments on “Esports March On: Nike Jumps In With Glitzy Ad While Forbes Ponders If Esports Will Be Our New Pastime”

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6 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

"Compared to America’s most popular pro sports, football, basketball and baseball, Esports is small, but it now ranks with popular sports entertainment like wrestling"

That’s probably the best comparison anyway. While there’s certainly athleticism and physical competition in wrestling, its appeal is as much the soap opera storylines and other things associated with it that have led the sport to position themselves as "sports entertainment" rather than a "real" sport. Esports essentially occupy a similar space, with the difference being that what they lack in athleticism they return in actual competition.

"Will esports reach the vaunted levels for America’s attention that baseball, basketball, and football have achieved?"

I personally doubt this, at least in the short to medium term. What I think will happen is that people have tired of the big money and anti-fan actions of the various leagues and they will have to change tactics to attract a new audience now that they can’t rely on cable subsidies and regional blackouts to attract viewers, and that the pandemic has exposed to many casual fans how little they were really invested.

"What esports really has to avoid is becoming the new World Series of Poker, where the fad fizzled out after a few years and is now relegated to niche status, albeit still popular."

I think that’s more of a case of the game settling into where it really belongs after a brief period of hype. With esports, it’s a much wider umbrella – people invested in games like Overwatch might not be the same audience as for DOTA or Starcraft clones, for example. I think each type of game will find its own niche, with the overall umbrella becoming bigger than the poker scene. But, we’ll see. how things really pan out.

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Anonymous Coward says:

I think a lot more people watch gaming on youtube and people streaming games on youtube, eg playing a game than ever watched an live esport event.
people still listen to radio .
it might be more accurate to say playing games online with friends is more popular and watching game streamers is more popular due to people having to stay at home due to covid 19.
and its safer than going to a a public event,
most sports games are now being played in closed stadiums with no fans present.
esports are popular with advertisers because they know only people under 30 watch them so its a good way to reach young people as a target audience .

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