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Fortnite vs Wimbledon: how sports marketing has changed

Fortnite is redefining the playing field, writes MATT ARNOLD, chief engagement officer of VMLY&R South Africa



The meteoric rise of eSports and professional gaming is nothing new, but as the industry starts to mature, we are seeing a dramatic shift in the tried and tested global sports formula. This shift affects multiple areas of sports including arguably the two biggest areas; viewership and sponsorship. As marketers, we are all very familiar with the shift from static broadcast channels to more dynamic and fragmented viewership, but you need go no further than eSports to see the pace of change and the impact this will have on the sports marketing industry.

We have recently watched two dramatically contrasting sports events unfold at different ends of the sporting spectrum; The Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament, and the Fortnite World Cup. These two unlikely tournaments have a lot in common despite their differing background and audiences, let’s look at some data:

WimbledonFortnite World Cup
Tournament heritage (years)1332
Winners Prize$2,864,000$3,000,000
Total Prize Pool$46,312,000$30,000,000
Spectator capacity39 00023 000
Participants (incl qualifying)79040 000 000
Online Mentions*164 991276 527
Final Viewership**9 600 0001 300 000
Primary PlatformTelevision BroadcastTwitch Streaming

*Mentions on twitter using related hashtags, sourced by Crimson Hexagon

**Wimbledon TV viewership calculated as total viewers, Fortnite Online viewers calculated as total concurrent viewers (CCV)

Despite the similarities in scale, the format of these events could not be more different. Tennis follows the traditional sporting mould, primarily focused on television broadcasting, while eSports makes use of online streaming platforms like Twitch. These streaming platforms provide their own fair share of problems, similar to the early days of internet advertising where everyone has different measurement parameters and tracking, making it difficult to compare viewership. This fragmented viewership makes it harder for brands to buy exclusive broadcast rights without angering fans, who are accustomed to the ease and availability of their favourite gaming streams.

The key difference with eSports is the accessibility, while I can easily count the number of times I have stepped onto a tennis court in the last year, I have played a significant amount of competitive games. We have a generation of players now who have grown up with gaming. They watch people play and they think they can get to that point when they play professionally themselves. If you watch a Wimbledon game, there are very few sane people who believe they can beat Novak Djokovic, but when you are at home and watching pros playing Fortnite or FIFA, a lot of people think, “I could beat that guy.” We can see this reflected in the 40 million players that tried out for the Fortnite World Cup qualifiers.

Of course, there are plenty of commercial sponsors and a never-ending array of opportunities, but the sports sponsorship takes on a different shape here. eSports fame is ephemeral. Players can be good one year and completely irrelevant the next due to gameplay changes, coaches leave to attend college and team names and ownership shift dramatically and often. All of this makes traditional sponsorship and team management difficult.

The players have grown up through internet fame and have tens of millions of subscribers before even reaching the heights of winning a big tournament. This results in a strong loyalty to those followers driving a stronger focus on authenticity, intimacy and content than in any other traditional sports setting. Brands that are wanting to wade into this world of endorsements need to be wary and ensure they do so in an authentic manner or risk alienating their prospective audiences.

As with all sports, commercial success is what drives the sport forward. Fortnite has a distinct advantage here with the underlying game (Fortnite) being owned entirely by a single entity, Epic Games. With over 250 million players globally, the game is an entertainment behemoth in its own right without the need for sponsors or broadcast partners. Epic Games have committed to investing over $100 million in prize money for Fortnite competitions this year alone.

With the world of eSports continuing to grow and the global scale and impact matching or even surpassing more traditional sporting activities, it’s important as marketers to keep abreast of these changes. The shift in broadcast channels, viewership patterns and mass participation lie at the core of the blossoming eSports industry, directly contradicting many of the established sporting monopolies. Grab your strawberries, cream and maybe a Red Bull to settle in to watch this fascinating era in sports viewership.


Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA



Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit

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