New Research: Esports Fans May Not Be Exactly Who You Think They Are

Written By Joss Wood on June 20, 2016 - Last Updated on January 22, 2018

[toc]A new report by Mindshare North America exposes the demographics of the esports fan base, and the results will be surprising to many.

Esports is at a stage where many different industry sectors are now looking for a piece of the action. Understanding the market is one of the highest hurdles to be overcome before making an investment, and for esports, the market demographics may not match preconceived ideas.

Mindshare is a subsidiary of marketing giant WPP. Known as the world’s largest advertising agency by revenue, the initials WPP actually stand for Wire and Plastic Products.

Mindshare’s explanation of the esports market strikes a similar level of dissonance.

Esports fans are high earners

It turns out that esports fans are not typically impoverished male students living in debt and on subsidies from their parents:

  • “Forty-three percent of eSports enthusiasts have an annual household income of $75,000 per year or higher — and nearly one third (31 percent) have an HHI2 of $90,000 or higher.”
  • There is a large proportion of millennials in the demographic. Sixty-five percent of fans are between the ages of 18-34, but 60 percent are between 25 and 39.
  • Women make up a significant proportion of the fan base, registering 38 percent.
  • Fifty-eight percent of fans over the age of 25 have children of their own.

Mark Potts, head of insights at Mindshare NA commented:

“Forget the stereotypes—your typical eSports fan isn’t just someone playing World of Warcraft in his mother’s basement. The eSports community is varied and evolving, ranging across audiences of working professionals, parents and more. It’s important for marketers to understand the nuances and differences in fans based on different eSports games, platforms and experiences.”

Esports fans are deeply engaged in their pastime

Not only are esports fans passionate about their hobby, the level of passion appears to increase with income, and they are happy to spend on their entertainment:

  • Forty-nine percent said that they spend most of their free time around esports.
  • That number is 56 percent for those with a household income of $50,000-$99,000.
  • And it’s 67 percent for those with earnings higher than $100,000.
  • Sixty percent are willing to travel to see their favourite games, tournaments and players.

Celebrity players and a desire to improve their own skills provide strong motivation to watch esports.

  • Seventy-one percent of esports fans say that “watching professionals play makes me a better player.” Sixty-four percent only watch videos of games that they personally play.
  • Fifty-three percent of fans say that esports athletes are on the same level as other professional athletes.
  • Sixty-one percent see esports players such as MarineKing or Ellohime, as “moderate” or “major” celebrities wielding influence.
  • Sixty-one percent think the same about esports teams, such as Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid or Newbee. Again, the numbers are higher as you go up the income scale.

The social experience is critical to fan engagement

More than two thirds of the survey respondents said they have made new friends or acquaintances through playing and watching esports. An impressive 79 percent of those earning over $100,000 have done so.

Of fans who enjoy watching esports via their video game console, 51 percent like to watch with friends/family physically in the same room; that number increases to 58 percent among female fans.

Those who watch on YouTube also enjoy doing so with other people, although the numbers are slightly lower at 45 percent overall and 49 percent for female fans.

Fans like free stuff, but are irritated by advertisements

Mindshare also asked a range of questions about “what they’d like to see brands do to help improve the gaming experience.” The results were instructive, if not terribly surprising: “57 percent of eSports fans are willing to pay money not to see ads while watching a game—and for those with an HHI of $100,000 or higher, that percentage jumps to 78 percent.”

While that piece of information is a useful guide to marketers, it doesn’t mean that advertisements should not be used at all. Mindshare suggests that a better way of reaching the customer is to integrate branding into the broadcasts so that it is more “authentic.”

While 42 percent said they liked “free stuff (ex: tournament tickets, computer hardware, t-shirts and hats),” marketers may have more success offering alternative benefits. Mindshare suggests:

  • Providing opportunities for fans to meet and socialize with one another, be it online or by helping them travel to tournaments.
  • Providing esports fans new ways to pick up pro tips from the games: “The value exchange here is key.”
  • Giving fans an opportunity to meet celebrity players or see them live.

The marketing opportunity is for low cost access to a difficult demographic

Joshua Spiegelman, managing director of Mindshare Spotlight, summarised the esports opportunity for marketers:

“This passion point has an audience of incredibly engaged fans, many of which (for millennials and gen Z in particular) can be challenging to reach through traditional media channels. In addition, given eSports is still in its infancy relative to more established ‘stick and ball’ sports, there’s a lower cost of entry to engage in meaningful partnerships, collaborate with talent to create contextually relevant campaigns, and dominate share of voice.”

For betting operators looking to attract business from esports fans, the fact that fans are so engaged in their sport is reassuring.

As Arthur N. Manteris, vice president of race and sports operations at Station Casinos, said at the recent Nevada Gaming Policy Meeting: “Gamblers make viewers, and viewers make gamblers.”

The fact that they have plenty of disposable income makes the market even more attractive.

Image credit: Adam Ziaja /

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Joss Wood

Joss Wood holds an English degree from the University of Birmingham and also earned a master’s degree in organizational development from the University of Manchester. Joss has a special focus on the international online gambling market, though he also writes extensively on US regulated markets, sports betting, and esports betting.

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