Get skin in the game: How to innovate in esports

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

getty | gorodenkoff
getty | gorodenkoff

Related tags Synergy Flavors eSports Innovation

The gaming market is a diverse one, with a wide range of demands and need states for nutrition brands to tap into, meaning innovation opportunities going far beyond energy.

Synergy Flavours, the global manufacturer and supplier of flavourings, extracts, and essences, has published a report entitled 'Fuelling the future of esports' ​in which its industry experts discuss the fast growing and dynamic sports and video gaming markets and the opportunities therein.

According to the report, the global gaming market is now worth around $152bn and continues to register significant (9.6% y-o-y) growth. Not only that, but gaming has near global appeal, with large markets in most parts of the world.

Unsurprisingly, the largest share of that market is in Asia Pacific ($72.2Bn) but $34.7Bn of the market comes from Europe and Africa, with an impressive 11.5% YOY growth (Nutrition Integrated​). 

Despite a significant flurry of launches in this space, Synergy says innovation has been heavily weighted towards one product type - energy drinks - which accounted for 48% of these launches.

The firm therefore undertook its own research in an aim to understand the different cliques within the gaming community and how their needs differ from one another, with the aim to make suggestions for innovation which can drive the category to the next level.

A Motley Crew

“The first thing to understand is that gaming groups are far from homogenous, despite most media analysis often attempting to portray them as such," ​the report explains.

Gaming data analysis firm NewZoo broke the gaming market down into six broad demographics based primarily around frequency of gaming: The professional gamer (esports athlete), the mega-influencer (streamer), the micro-influencer (content creator), and the gaming enthusiast (gamer).

The spectrum between elite esports athlete and casual mobile phone gamer is wide, and there is a large market of consumers within this spectrum who may be open to investing in targeted food, beverage, and nutrition products.

What's more, the age of gamers varies greatly, Synergy's data shows 21% of gamers are under 18, 38% are between 18-34, and 26% are between 35-54. Perhaps most surprisingly, 15% are over 55s.

Looking at the average player age for each game, Synergy's data suggests Call of Duty players have a higher average age of 28, compared to an average of 19 for Fortnite players. 

The Aim of the Game

Synergy says brands who can find long-term success in this space will be the ones who "truly understand the diverse range of consumer groups within gaming and recognise their need states and unique requirements".

It adds that the need-state of the consumer will be influenced by the game they’re playing.

If they’re playing a first person shooter game like Call of Duty the typical game length is 10-20 minutes and it requires bursts of focus and fast reaction time. Whereas multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft can last for over an hour and require sustained concentration.

And with many players tending to focus on and become proficient at just one or two games, Chris Whiting, European business development manager at Synergy Flavours, suggests there is an opportunity for brands to target players of specific games either through product format, or overall branding and messaging.

“That’s quite a white space area that’s not something we see a huge amount of innovation within,” ​Whiting told NI, “We do see some brands doing collaborations with games but these are just general collaborations which allow them to leverage their separate audiences.”

To further help brands target the players of specific games, Synergy commissioned several reports utilising social listening tools to build average personality profiles for players of different games based on their social media activity.

The resulting data suggests that Fortnite and First Person Shooter game players are relatively similar, as demonstrated by a ‘fiery’ disposition. Whereas multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA, such as League of Legends) players were quite different, with many being less fiery and more susceptible to stress and self-consciousness, and comparatively more imaginative and appreciative of art.

The report explains this knowledge can help direct product health functions and branding: 

“If MOBA players are a target demographic, the comparatively high propensity to be imaginative and appreciative of art may give brands some leeway on design, perhaps going for bolder artwork and even leveraging the atmospheric and stylised graphics of some of the more popular MOBA titles.”

Power Up

Whiting adds that despite the well-catered category, there is still space for innovation within energy drinks.

“We are seeing a huge amount of interest in alternative flavours in the energy drinks sector.

"As is the case with whey proteins, because people are using these products so frequently people do like to try different flavours. But it is a balancing act between that and oversaturating your own portfolio!”

He added: “The new opportunity within energy drinks is in additional functions such as cognitive benefits.”

Power Down

The Synergy report notes a big opportunity for products which fulfill alternative health needs.

When they asked casual users what sort of attributes were desirable for a gaming targeted nutrition product, the most sought-after product types were more healthy snacking options (92.71%) and products offering improved energy and improved focus (both at 87.5%).

Further down the list (at 80.21% of respondents), but still of interest, is products that can help with postgame relaxation.

"Some game formats can be notoriously high stress and so products to help alleviate some of that may be beneficial,” ​the report notes.

Whiting further explains that snacking is a perfect category for offering these sorts of benefits.

“It's about building in some of those additional functional benefits, such as cognitive health, with ingredients like Ashwagandha and functional mushrooms such as Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane.”

He said these sorts of ingredients in convenient formats, like gummies, are a great route in.

“One of the handy things about having a handy snack [as opposed to drinks] is you are less likely to spill the product over expensive electronics!”


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