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Unlocking a pandemic opportunity with China’s gaming and esports | CHINA CONNECT

As the esports and gaming industries get a boost from COVID-19, China has been at the frontline of new marketing, partnership, and business models.

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China Connect is the leading European organization that connects the Chinese internet and China based digital marketing experts with their pairs across Europe through online and offline events, training, and consulting. The ReStart Live Series launched this Spring as the pandemic raged, and is hosted by Laure de Carayon, founder & CEO of China Connect.

In this episode, Laure speaks with Peter Warman, CEO and Co-founder of esports analytics firm Newzoo, Melody Li, Director Corporate Partnership at international sports rights marketing agency Sportfive, and Ajay Jilka, business director at Culture Group, a brand advisory and integrated marketing agency.

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The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the sports industry, with seasons cancelled and some leagues—like the NBA and it’s “Disney Bubble”—forced to take drastic measures to salvage their events. On the other hand, esports have seemingly been riding the wave of COVID-19, with games seeing a surge in downloads and new player profiles, as lockdown measures and social distancing drive people online.

As Peter Warman pointed out, gaming is much more than entertainment for many. It is where people socialize, communicate, and play. With China being the world’s largest market for esports, companies operating in the country have been the first to take advantage of this and adapt quickly to changes in the industry.

“Chinese studios and game developers pioneered a lot of business models that we have migrated to in the West,” he said.

Melody Li echoed this, and noted that brands are increasingly leveraging esports to connect with consumers, with the competition for tournament broadcast rights intensifying to reflect the newfound opportunity. She provided case studies based on the work of her agency, Lagardere Sports (now Sportfive), including esports partnerships for gaming team T1 and BMW.

“BMW will get to enjoy exceptional levels of brand exposure while cultivating a brand preference among younger audiences through bespoke content creation and meaningful social engagement opportunities with T1 fans,” she said of the ongoing partnership. “At the same time, T1 will also gain access to world-class technology and design.”

While esports continue to draw spectators, their influence—like that of traditional sports—goes beyond the screen and into mainstream culture. This has led to successful partnerships with lifestyle brands like Nike, which is something Ajay Jilka is intimately familiar with. His agency, Culture Group, was the lead executive in forging a strategic partnership between Nike Greater China and the League of Legends Esports Property (LPL)—the first venture from the footwear company on a league basis in esports globally.

“We found out that there was the emergence of new cultural heroes and sporting heroes, which were gamers at the time,” he said.

Watch the full episode below.

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