Branding Challenges for Sponsors in Esports

Dennis Wettergren

Student thesis: Master thesis


In recent years, esports has become a rapidly growing global industry, with a young and technology interested audience that is appealing for marketers. Brands worldwide are seizing the opportunity to become part of the esports ecosystem by sponsoring esports partners, making sponsorship the most significant contributor of revenue for the entire industry. Brands who wish to sponsor esports partners have to overcome specific branding challenges related to esports. These branding challenges involve the lack of mainstream media coverage, the trouble for brands to make clear associations to esports, and the prejudices and negative associations concerning gaming and gamers. This thesis investigated how sponsoring brands in esports overcome these branding challenges. Since sponsorships in esports or esports marketing is a rather new phenomenon, theoretical and academic literature on the topic is still limited. This thesis applied traditional sports sponsorship theory to multiple cases of esports sponsorships in order to identify any variances, gaps, or similarities between sports sponsorship literature and the practice of sponsorship in esports. This approach allowed for the development of theoretical contributions specific to esports sponsorships. This thesis explored the Danish esports market in a multiple case study with six cases of Danish esports sponsorships. In the multiple case study, semi-structured interviews and questionnaires were conducted with a total of 12 participants. Analysis of the responses showed how different types of sponsorship properties, like individuals, teams, or events, provide different opportunities for brand exposure. The analysis also revealed how customized sponsorship activation programs could be used to associate different types of brands to the world of esports, as well as to tackle some of the negative associations in esports and reduce prejudices about gamers' health or behaviors. Moreover, the results showed how brands use their sponsorships to support and develop the esports industry. Based on the results, it was concluded that by integrating the goal of contributing to the esports industry into the brand's sponsorship strategy, selecting the right property for the brand's exposure ambitions, customizing activation programs to associate the brand to esports and to counter negative associations, sponsoring brands in esports can overcome the branding challenges.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages152