“The South African gaming market is young and still emerging — and many of the growth factors for corporations to market in relies on brands in South Africa actively becoming participants within the ecosystem,” says Massmann.

Massmann adds, “The gaming ecosystem is dynamic and it is essential that brands are able to connect with gamers where they currently are, as well as where they will be.”

Ready to enter the world of gaming? Let’s go:

Why do you think that more brands are getting into the gaming industry? And in your opinion, should more brands be looking to move into this space?

Globally, we are seeing a steady increase of brands exploring or getting into the gaming industry. South Africa is still emerging to that level of brand involvement, as seen in the international ecosystem — but we are definitely seeing growth.

I think this is because more brands are very quickly learning that the “gamer” is everywhere and in everyone. Gaming is not just that typical teenager at home playing in his room; it is in our everyday life and we are engaging in some form of gaming in everything we do.

Gamification is at everyone’s fingertips at some point in their day.
I think that if any brand is not looking into moving into this emerging gaming space, then they will be left behind. In South Africa, as the gaming industry develops, [now] is the perfect time to enter the space and start aligning your brand.

In my opinion, I think the first step for brands would be to start engaging with the gaming community. [They need to understand] that it is made up of many different areas with various approaches — with a much more diverse audience than previously speculated.

Influencer marketing is not what it was before; now, we find more people engaging with YouTubers and streamers on Twitch. It is important to understand this vast community and what its touchpoints are, as well as where their current audience is already engaging in the gaming ecosystem.

How can South African brands partner up with this upcoming industry to get their company name out there?

Looking to the future in South Africa — once the industry has developed more, brands will be able to partake in ‘advergaming’ (having a brand presence in games), or even sponsoring cosmetic items in games-as-a-service titles.

For now, and as the SA gaming industry develops more, South African brands can start with getting their brand in front of the gaming audience. Brands can start by featuring at gaming festivals such as Comic-Con Africa to engage with members of the community directly and more intimately. [This is so that they can] focus on creating a video game culture that welcomes their current audience.

Another option is to align with local South African game developers. When you start to look locally, you [will] find that we have amazing talent in the country. Brands can align with developers and work to either have a game developed from scratch with their brand included or associated with the project. Or, brands can inject their brand into already locally developed games.

We have already seen brands do this successfully with the likes of Capitec working with Sea Monster Entertainment, and KFC featuring in the locally developed title “Boet Fighter”.

Brands could even enter the esports space and orchestrate esports tournaments as a sponsor to the tournament or team. Options for this include either hosting their own tournament or, they can back existing tournaments.

How do VR and AR influence the way in which marketers could potentially advertise their brands going forward?

VR and AR are allowing brands to build a new-age relationship with their audience and customers.

The current hot topic is the metaverse, and contributing to it is part of the next massive shift. The metaverse is the new generation of the Internet, which allows users to fully immerse themselves and interact digitally. Within this world, users are also set to be able to engage with products and brands.

It completely changes the way brands interact with their audience; it becomes more “personal” and one-on-one in a way.

South African brands can investigate entering the cryptocurrency world through NFT’s and have their products in this Virtual Reality world.

How else has the esports industry been impacting marketing and South African audiences’ buying behaviour? And what does this mean for marketers going forward?

Esports has allowed brands to create niche-specific celebrities and brands. These new influencers and sporting stars have given brands more sponsorship opportunities with personalities that speak directly to the gaming audience and the aspiring competitive gamer.

With the rise of celebrity, comes the aspirational desire to associate with them. Esports merch also holds revenue opportunities to be created.

Traditional sports branding sees brand placement on a motorbike, race car, or jersey. With the rise of esports — that has expanded to headphones, keyboards and even screen retail.

Brands can partner with local esports teams or even align themselves with the highly competitive tournaments. This allows them to open up their brand awareness to viewers online or to the spectators at festivals like Comic-Con Africa, which hosts an array of tournaments.

Has your brand started looking to expand into the esports industry? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to read more about the esports industry? Then check out Women in gaming: A Q&A with ‘Tech Girl’ Sam Wright.