Esports has had a turbulent time due to COVID-19, the global pandemic spreading across the world. Several events, like in sport, have been forced to postpone activities until later in the year or be cancelled completely. Others, such as Riot’s leagues for League of Legends have moved from studio broadcasts to online matches in a bid to complete their seasons.

However, there have been some positives with brands and rights holders turning to esports as a solution. With no physical sporting activities taking place esports offers a way for brands to engage an audience and rights holders to build activations that support deliverables for sponsors.

Dubai Eye radio station recently interviewed several games industry execs about what impact COVID-19 is having on the industry. As part of the “Off Script, Extra Time” segment I gave some insight into what Formula 1 and NASCAR have done in recent weeks. You can listen to the full interview below.

Other examples include FIFA online tournaments being setup by some of the football clubs and the NBA2K league creating a digital activation for the general public.


Adding esports contingency plans

One of the points I made during the interview was that sports events may need to build in esports as part of contingency plans. While there may be insurance cover for event cancellations that doesn’t help maintain an engaged audience or cover sponsor obligations.

The viewing figures from the Formula1 and NASCAR online activations show that there is appetite for digital versions. People are willing to watch virtual alternatives if the main physical events cannot happen due to challenging circumstances.


Considerations for esports contingency plans

What considerations are there if an event wanted to have an esports contingency plan? There are several factors which we’ve detailed below.

  • Who are the intended participants?

Are you going to create a mass-participation activation or use existing assets such as players and teams? Creating a mass-participation activation will require a registration process, a mechanism for people to see their fixtures and results and an administration team to guide participants.


  • How can you broadcast your activations?

To meet sponsor obligations and keep an audience engaged there will need to be a broadcast element. This could be provided to traditional TV broadcast partners or there could be online broadcast on Youtube or Twitch. There will be some technical considerations for creating a broadcast such as equipment for taking video footage from the game and network considerations for streaming and upload.


  • What is the objective or desired outcome?

Online activations present a different set of opportunities. Capturing data or gaining an understanding of viewing behaviour could be new objectives. These are additional objectives that can be built into a plan alongside audience engagement and any sponsor obligations.

Philip Wride