Activision Blizzard conducts research, finds esports fans more receptive to advertising

Activision Blizzard Media, in collaboration with market research consultancy Alter Agents and software-as-a-service neuroscience company Immersion, has conducted research on the emotional impact of advertising and sponsorship on esports viewers compared with audiences of traditional sports.

Alter Agents
Credit: Alter Agents

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The study found that during sponsorship ads, the immersion (measured as the attention and emotional response of the viewer) was more sustained for esports viewers. 

The study has not yet been released in its entirety. 

The research, which was conducted in late 2020, consisted of a survey of esports and traditional-sports viewers from 16-40 years old. A series of interviews were conducted to provide context to the findings. Emotional-response sessions were conducted using Immersion’s neuroscience platform to reveal advertising’s emotional impact at a physiological level.

Some key findings from the study, according to the release:

  • Esports is better at keeping viewer attention during sponsorship ads, resulting in higher performance on critical brand metrics.
  • Esports viewers are more accepting of advertisements than traditional-sports fans, showing a higher immersion score, defined as “attention plus emotional response”.
  • Brand favourability and brand perception are higher for esports experiences compared to traditional sports.

It is unclear whether factors such as gender or age were included as variables that might affect responsiveness to advertising. 

Intuitively, esports advertisers are presumably able to focus their ads more precisely than traditional-sports advertisers, given that in the former case it is clear the audience are fans of at least two things — technology and gaming — which might lead to greater ad responsiveness and engagement. In the case of traditional-sports fans, advertisers know that fans like sport and do not know much else, meaning it may be difficult for them to know what to advertise to that audience.

It is therefore important to discern whether these findings suggest differences between esports fans and sports fans per se, or whether they simply reflect age, gender, and ad-specificity differences, among others. Without scrutinising the full study it is difficult to draw solid conclusions, particularly regarding whether it reflects what the release suggests it does — that esports fans respond to ads more favourably than sports fans do. There may be some variables unaccounted for. 

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“Savvy marketers are learning that esports is a substantial conduit to a young, affluent and valuable audience,” said Jonathan Stringfield, VP, Global Business Marketing, Measurement and Insights, Activision Blizzard Media. “To match this savvy, esports platforms need to recognise that the onus is on us to empirically demonstrate the power of this platform and these audiences. The findings from our immersive biometric study with Alter Agents and Immersion show that ads during esports keep viewer attention, perform higher and boost positive brand perception.”

Esports Insider says: Without reading the study in its entirety it’s tough to draw any meaningful conclusions. Were age and gender factored in as causal variables? What about focused ads (tech or gaming ads during esports broadcasts = greater responsiveness)? And might it be in Activision Blizzard’s interests to angle these findings as representative of esports fans — rather than simply reflecting the responsiveness of technology fans, Gen Z’ers, or males versus females?

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