What makes a successful esports campaign? Is it the game? The players? Perhaps the venue? In reality, there are far too many factors to pin it on any one thing but there’s no doubt a huge part that success comes from behind the scenes. Over seventeen years working in the industry confirms that the success of an esports event lies in the format: building a campaign from multiple different components to create something larger than the sum of its parts. This guide will walk you through some of the many elements you need to take into consideration.
One of the first things to take into consideration when building an esports series from the ground up is how exactly you intend to run your tournaments. Do you want a set number of highly skilled players to compete in the finals or do you want one big event that’s open to all? Would it be better if you staggered tournaments throughout the year or closer together as part of a season? There are many different ways to structure a tournament but there are one or two basic models that serve as a starting point.
The most common esports format constitutes a series of interconnected tournaments held over a season with the objective of eliminating players until only the best remain to complete in the finals. This format, where tournaments are split into divisions such as qualifiers, regional finals, and finals, is often referred to as a “League”.
- Competitive element and ‘grand prize’ at the finals works as an incentive for player involvement.
- Set tournament schedule makes it easier for fans to follow the season.
- Players know what to expect season to season and can train accordingly.
- Smaller number of offline events make tournaments easier to promote and broadcast.
- Requirement for high skill level acts as a barrier to entry for casual, new, and/or disabled gamers.
- Hosting a small number of tournaments consecutively makes for a short season but spreading them out over a long period of time will cause the season to drag.
- Linear tournament structure means that potential fans are unlikely to invest interest if they’ve already missed a portion of the season.
Leagues are a tried and tested format but an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality can be more of a limitation than a revelation for those looking to break into the esports market. Depending on what you want to achieve from your esports endeavour, you may want to consider a Championship style format instead.
Championships share some of the qualities of Leagues in that they often consist of a number of tournaments leading up to a final event. However, the key difference between the two is that Leagues focus on player elimination whereas Championships accept new and recurring players throughout the season, hosting stand-alone tournaments before the finals.
- Non-linear format means new players can sign-up at any point.
- More casual than competitive. If players lose one tournament they can enter another.
- Accessible to players of all skill levels meaning potential for higher turnout at events.
- Low-stakes tournaments may be less interesting for spectators or those watching a broadcast.
- Absence of elimination mechanic removes an incentive for fans to follow the season closely.
- Players may avoid competing in other tournaments to save their time/money/energy for the finals.
Online vs Offline
Both Leagues and Championships can make use of online and offline tournaments at some point. Traditionally a League style season will start with online tournaments which boost engagement towards the start of the season and act as qualifiers for offline events. These help reduce the number of qualifying players to a manageable level but tend to stop once offline events are underway.
Championships give event managers a lot more scope to run online tournaments throughout the season because each individual tournament acts as a stand-alone event. These often run alongside offline tournaments making the season more accessible for those unable to attend offline events and serving to consistently increase overall community engagement with the Championship.
From live streams and highlight reels to promotional videos and player interviews, there are a wealth of broadcast options at your disposal when it comes to esports. Different tournament formats offer unique broadcast opportunities. For example, Leagues can take advantage of individual player focus due to the fact they will have an smaller number of competitors for fans to follow throughout the season. Watching your favourite player power their way through a League is akin to watching your favourite football team work its way to the Champions League Finals.
Championships can make use of a higher volume of competitors for fly-by interviews and promotional content to build hype for an event instead. The focus being on the overall atmosphere of the events rather than the competitive element of the tournament. We recommend broadcasting your esports event from the get-go, even if viewership seems low at first, having the video footage readily available to catch up on YouTube, Facebook, Twitch or any other platform can mitigate viewers’ unwillingness to tune in partway through the season.
Partners, Sponsors, and Influencers
Partnerships, sponsorship, and influencer endorsements can really maximise the reach of an esports series. The collaborative opportunities available may vary depending on the type of game and target audience. For example Jelly client Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer esports event, PES League, boasts successful partnerships with football clubs such as FC Barcelona and Liverpool FC. This works perfectly to expose each brand to the other’s respective audience, expanding the overall reach of the campaign. Partnerships and sponsorship such as this can offer an esports series anything from marketing and promotional materials to equipment and venue provision.
In addition it’s worth taking into account how you can work with any of the influencers that resonate with your existing audience. Streaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch have a wealth of influential content creators with an interest in video games. It’s more than likely that one will even have an active interest in the very game you’re working with.
Partnering with an influencer lends your series and events an extra element with a specific focus on audience engagement. From talking about your esports events social media to creating content that endorses your brand on their own channels, there are multiple different ways an influencer partnership can benefit a campaign.
As mentioned in Jelly’s Guide to Influencer Partnerships, these kinds of relationships should be mutually beneficial. By inviting an influencer along to an activation or tournament you do so with the intention of generating content for their brand just as much as your own. As the relationship grows you may even find an influencer keen to work as brand advocate throughout the campaign and on future projects.
Building and maintaining relationships such as these is never easy and it can be difficult to envision how each individual element mentioned above fits into the wider format of your campaign, that’s why it’s always worth bringing in a third party for partnership and talent management.
Putting it All Together
There are plenty of existing models to work off when it comes to creating a series of esports tournaments but in order to create a legacy you’re going to need more than that. Success lies in the format: creating a whole out of many individual but equally important components. Think of the tournament structure as the skeleton of your campaign. These act as the foundation but – without direction, organisation, competitors, and an audience to work as the muscles and sinew – it isn’t going to be able to stand up by itself.
Project managers, community managers, an events team, partner brands, and sponsors act as the organs; keeping things running behind the scenes. Then there’s things like broadcasts, marketing, social media, influencer endorsement, and promotional activations. These are the skin that holds everything together. They’re what the outside world sees when they think about your esports campaign, they represent your brand.
None of these components can exist on their own but when put together they create a living, breathing, organism that’s ready to leave an impact. Managing an esports campaign isn’t a one man job, 99% of the time it’s not even a one company job. Campaigns such as these are collaborative efforts and there’s no shame in outsourcing certain elements to a third party.
Jelly has been instrumental in the launch of numerous esports events from concept to creation. Our in-house team of multidisciplinary specialists are here to provide their skills and insights and help you make your mark on the esports scene. Whether you’re looking for a hands-on team of dedicated professionals to help you or just to pick our brains, give us a call on +44 (0) 1253 885581 or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.