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Global Assembly Marketing eSports (GAMeS) and rAge have announced the continent’s inaugural eSports Branding Summit, a half-day event showcasing potential local business investment opportunities in the scene, to be held at the rAge Expo in Joburg on Friday 7 October. At the same time, the expo is also hosting the Telkom DGL Masters finals, with South Africa’s biggest ever cash prize of R1 million. Double whammy!

The event will feature talks by representatives from local eSports organisations, broadcasters, and digital agencies, with an emphasis on competitive gaming as a serious entertainment phenomenon, and how to engage with those audiences.

“With the kinds of numbers of people watching, participating and emotionally investing in competitive video games, we partnered up with GAMeS, to bring more awareness and focus on the business of eSports, by explaining  in a bit more detail what eSports is and what opportunities exist for brands to get involved in the industry,” says rAge project manager Michael James.

“If you look at the gaming market it mostly comprises of young people engaging with a fantastical digital world. From a company branding point of view these young people have disposable income and are looking to buy homes, cars and get their lives setup. The big difference with the market we speak to is that they don’t watch television or read magazines, they play games and get their entertainment through online channels. Many of these channels are exclusively based on eSports – a good example of this would be Twitch. Companies already put their branding on the clothing worn by these eSports teams but this is currently very gaming specific brands. One of the goals of the Summit is to start looking at alternative ways to communicate with this very engaged audience.”

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According to GAMeS Branding Summit programme coordinator Mlondi Mashinini, the South African gaming industry is estimated at over R2.6 billion, and is projected to become an almost US$1 billion global industry this year. But somehow, it’s almost entirely unrecognised by investors.

“While millions of gamers across the country buy games every month and fill up local servers every night competing against their online adversaries, for the most part, they have remained a market segment which is largely unidentified nor targeted by South African business,” he explains.

“For many, eSports remains the biggest thing most people have never heard of. The goal of the Summit will be to unpack the trends which are happening internationally as well as locally and expand brands’ horizons around the potential of eSports in an African context.”

“Lack of understanding is probably the biggest challenge in the local market at the moment. The marketing people that make the decisions on where to put their brands have no understanding of eSports and what niche it occupies,” adds Michael. “So instead of experimenting with something they’re not familiar with, or even understand, they keep steering towards the things they feel more comfortable with. The opportunities in this market sector are endless. From the teams that play, to the organisations that host eSports events, getting sponsors and exposure will help to  develop new and existing skills to enable us to better compete at an international level. In other countries there are teams that play games as a full-time paid job, so it’s harder for SA teams to compete with an international team that basically spends their lives together playing and practicing. For the brands that get involved it will means speaking to this audience in the places they go for entertainment and getting in on the ground level now will ensure the brands growth with the industry.”

Discussions at the eSports Branding Summit include:

  • eSports as a Global Movement
  • The South African eSports Landscape
  • Brands and Audience: Reaching a Millennial Generation
  • Media and eSports: Freemium Models of Reaching Audience

Seat booking is available here and the full press release can be viewed here.