As the gaming and traditional sports content are increasingly bidding for the same audiences, athletes are becoming online creators, and streamers are aligning themselves with sports leagues like the NFL.
NFL draft themed event by streamer Esfand on Twitch shows how traditional athletes and gaming content creators are currently in the middle, to the benefit of both themselves and their brand partners.
Esfand, who spoke to Digiday using his streamer name to avoid real-life harassment from overzealous fans, is one of the most popular streamers on Twitch. His number of followers on the platform reached 1 million in early 2022, and he is the creator and owner of the prominent gaming organization One True King.
In recent years, Esfand has also become the unofficial face of American soccer on Twitchas a result of a gradual effort to broaden its appeal and invite sports fans into its audience. And as the streamer gravitated toward American soccer content, he found that his previously gaming-focused audience was willing to join him.
A lot of my audience was a mix of European and MMO gamers and titles like that. There was some overlap with the American soccer audience, but for the most part it was two different parts…. What happened was I started playing ‘Madden NFL,’ but playing it: I dressed up as a coach and said all the high school soccer nonsense, and a lot of these role-playing gamers started to realize that ‘Madden’ is a role-playing game.
Esfand, Twitch content creator specializing in American soccer.
To capitalize on its audience’s growing interest in American soccer, Esfand produced a live-streamed event, the Draft Day Extravaganza, to coincide with the first day of the NFL Draft. The five-hour broadcast featured a rotating cast of Twitch creators like Esfand and current and former NFL players, including Austin Ekeler, Micah Parsons and Kenny Vaccaro. The event was streamed from WePlay Esports’ Los Angeles studio in partnership with brands such as SimpliSafe and EA, whose partnership with Esfand includes early access to player ratings in the “Madden NFL” game.
We are excited to partner with Esfand for the Draft Day Extravaganza. Not only does Esfand reach and resonate with sports fans, who have proven to be a valuable audience for our brand, but there is a lot of potential on Twitch that we look forward to exploring.
Jonathan Chin-Shepard, vice president of U.S. customer acquisition at SimpliSafe.
Esfand’s NFL draft program, and the interest of brands in sponsoring it, provide the latest example of the growing convergence between sports and gaming fans.. The NFL has certainly taken note of this shift as well. This weekend, the league will be running a host of gaming activations, including custom branded slots in Roblox, Fortnite and Rec Room.
Marketers are eager to take advantage of the growing overlap between esports and gaming audiences, both through live-streamed events like Esfand’s Draft Day Extravaganza and beyond. Last week, for example, Lenovo partnered with the Dallas Cowboys and Gamesquare to launch Dallas Cowboys Game Time, a community platform for Cowboys video game fans.
If you look at the demographics of the gaming audience, it’s not just teenagers, right? It’s pretty broad. The average age of the gamer is younger than the average age of most professional sports fans. So we think this is an intersection point to really bridge that divide, and we want to be there.
Gerald Youngblood, CMO, Lenovo North America