‘The sport of the internet’ – Rivalry’s Britt Doll on Canada’s esports enthusiasm

‘The sport of the internet’ – Rivalry’s Britt Doll on Canada’s esports enthusiasm

Video games is a multi-billion dollar industry and the scenes surrounding it exert a huge influence on popular culture at large. This influence extends to the sports sphere through the widely followed, and lucrative, esports sector.

This is a space where Rivalry, an esports-focused betting and media group, has some unique insights. Britt Doll, Rivalry’s Global Marketing Director, explained esports’ significance in its native market of Canada and beyond, as well as how bridges can be built with the traditional sporting space.

Insider Sport: Why has esports taken off in Canada in such a huge way?

Britt Doll: Esports and gaming is the sport of the internet, and it has become the most popular form of entertainment for Millennials and Gen Z. It’s accessible, disregarding what gender someone is or how athletic they are, and there’s no shortage of ways to participate – from playing casually with friends, watching live streams on Twitch, and now betting on esports competitions.

There’s a meaningful segment of Canadians that love to play and watch video games, and the opportunity to now engage with esports through betting in Ontario is helping increase the viewership and attention around it, cultivating more passionate fans in the province.

IS: How has Toronto emerged as leading hubs for esports? Could you give us an overview of the esports landscape in the city?

BD: Gaming is recognised in Canada as a serious business entity, and not just from a purely entertainment standpoint, which has had a mark on rising employment within the games industry here.

Toronto is home to a handful of local organisations in the esports and gaming ecosystem, including Luminosity Gaming and OverActive Media, the latter fielding tentpole competitive teams such as Toronto Ultra and Toronto Defiant, connecting the city to the professional Call of Duty and Overwatch leagues.

We’ve also seen the growth and development of collegiate teams in Ontario, including St. Clair, Toronto Metropolitan University, University of Toronto, and more.

Rivalry has also been hard at work creating opportunities for the local gaming community to come together in-person and online. Whether that’s putting on hyper-local events for fans to watch tournaments together over a drink, or hosting fully fledged competitions with hundreds of players and spectators.

Esports is its own community and we’ve been turning a lot of our attention to nurturing that audience in Toronto and creating meaningful experiences for them.

IS: As the sector continues to grow what hurdles, if any, can we expect it to hit and how can these be overcome?

BD: Esports betting is still at the bottom of the first inning in Toronto when it comes to realising its full potential. Unlike other markets internationally, the betting culture around esports in Toronto is still in its early days. There’s a lot of work to be done creating that awareness for consumers that want to engage with esports in a more intimate way through betting.

We see the current challenges in front of us more as opportunities to grow this segment, build the betting culture around it, and serve an emerging audience with vastly different entertainment and consumption habits.

That isn’t just offering the most extensive range of esports to bet on either, it means creating a brand that resonates with digitally native customers and developing products that offer higher levels of entertainment value and engagement.

IS: In contrast, are there any trends or technologies which could drive esports further forward over the coming years?

BD: Mobile gaming is the fastest-growing segment of the games industry, which is being driven by enhancements in smartphone technology and 5G internet, allowing players to compete at the highest level from virtually anywhere in the world. This has been a driving force behind creating a whole new generation of players globally, and similarly, entirely new fanbases.

There’s also a lot to glean from esports broadly that can help regulated betting create a more compelling product for a generation that has grown up playing video games. From engagement loops, levelling up game design, and organised competitions – there’s a number of different strategies the betting industry can weave into its playbook to better resonate with the next generation of consumers.

IS: What bridges can be made between the esports space and traditional sports space?

BD: Even outside of traditional sports we’re seeing how the consumer behaviours of gamers are reshaping media and culture. Traditional sports are shifting from cable to streaming, influencers and creators are playing a larger role in the sports media landscape, and even the Olympics were broadcasted on Twitch.

Esports and gaming is playing a big role in shaping consumer behaviour, but the common denominator is embracing what has become a largely digital world where online streaming, interactive platforms, creators, and internet culture are driving the conversation and attention.

We believe that by pushing online betting in this direction you can create a more culturally relevant product and brand experiences that appeals to young Millennials and Gen Z.

IS: Has esports benefited from having a more digitally engaged fanbase than more traditional sports?

BD: One of the benefits of being a more digitally enabled activity is that there’s less barriers around esports, which has helped it have a more universal appeal, similar to soccer and basketball, cultivating fans around the world.

Gaming is a meaningful part of a larger set of changes in the way that people consume media, interact with friends, and engage with entertainment. From that standpoint, esports has benefitted from fitting well within that context, while adversely, we see that traditional sports and media that aren’t adapting to changes are becoming less relevant for younger consumers.

IS: Are demographics significant to esports also? How has Rivalry benefited from tapping into the sector’s younger audience?

The average age of an esports fan is around 29-years old, while the average age of a traditional sports fan is closer to 50.

By creating a product suite and brand that’s relevant for esports fans, we’ve been able to engage a unique customer segment relative to incumbents with an average user that is roughly 10 years younger than the traditional sports betting customer.

If you look at the sports betting industry broadly, you’ll see a lot of the same types of brands targeting the same customer cohort with the same types of marketing. Not only did we have to make sure to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace, but we knew we could strategically use esports and gaming as a top-of-funnel to build a rapport with the next generation at the start of their customer journey.

BD: How has Rivalry utilised esports media assets to establish its leading position in esports betting?

It really comes down to meeting digitally native consumers where they are and on their entertainment level. It’s not just about being on Twitch and YouTube, but also about partnering with creators, organisations, and adding value to the communities you’re trying to reach.

If you look at the current landscape of gambling brands, there are very few that can organically resonate with a digitally native generation that grew up on the internet and playing video games.

What Rivalry has done really well is repackaged a mature category in a novel way by wrapping its products, marketing, and brand around gaming and internet culture.

IS: What can Canadian Gaming Summit attendees expect to learn about the country’s growing esports space?

BD: Esports is shaping the future of live entertainment and behaviour for the consumer of tomorrow, and every company must know how to reach and engage with them.

Britt Doll will be speaking at the Canadian Gaming Summit between 18-20 June, 2024. Purchase your ticket HERE to gain access to all three days of the event and keep up to date with the latest news by subscribing to the bi-weekly Canadian Gaming Summit newsletter.

 

Source: Insider Sport

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