- American Eagle Outfitters became the presenting sponsor of the launch of EDGE (Experiential Development for Gaming and Esports), an esports platform created by marketing company VY Esports. The virtual event will be livestreamed from the Edgelive.gg website and Twitch channels for co-sponsors GameStop and Uproxx at 12-5 p.m. PT on July 25, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Gaming influencer Jess Brohard will host the livestreamed event, starting with a discussion about mental health awareness in the gaming community. Derwin James from the Los Angeles Chargers, Cam Akers from the Los Angeles Rams and rapper and gamer YBN Nahmir will speak about gaming-related topics. Members of professional esports teams FaZe Clan and Team Liquid also will appear, along with representatives from UCLA, USC and UC Irvine who will discuss collegiate esports.
- The EDGE launch will have a live esports event featuring the Madden NFL football video game in partnership with the North American Collegiate League, a nonprofit esports and entertainment organization. Viewers also have a chance to donate to Take This, a mental health group for gamers.
American Eagle's sponsorship of the launch event VY Esports' EDGE can help the retailer reach a target audience of young adults and teens who are most likely to play video games, watch esports events or follow gaming influencers. The launch event comes as the coronavirus pandemic has driven higher viewership of livestreams among homebound consumers, many of whom are also playing more video games to pass the time in isolation. The health crisis also has led esports organizations to cancel their live events and host matches and tournaments as virtual events, giving EDGE sponsors like American Eagle, GameStop and Uproxx an alternate promotional channel.
The esports industry is growing, though it isn't completely shielded from the economic fallout of the pandemic that's pressuring many brands to scale back spending on advertising and marketing. Global esports revenue is forecast to grow 1.7% to $973.9 million this year, or 8% less than researcher Newzoo had estimated in an earlier report. Revenue will rise 23% to $1.19 billion in 2021 and eventually reach almost $1.6 billion by 2023, per its revised estimate. Newzoo didn't change its forecast for audience growth, which is expected to expand 12% to 495 million people worldwide this year. The pandemic may actually support faster audience growth as viewers look for programming, including livestreams of virtual esports events.
Despite the challenges from the pandemic, brands like American Eagle are expanding their sponsorships of esports teams, events and organizations. BMW in April signed a deal to sponsor five of the world's leading esports teams, a move it billed as a "major expansion" into the category. In June, Verizon inked a three-year contract to serve as the official 5G and network services provider of Legends Championship Series, the North American professional gaming division of Riot Games' leading title "League of Legends." Bounty, the Procter & Gamble brand, last month enlisted several popular Twitch video game streamers as part of a month-long advertising campaign. Fast-casual restaurant chain Zaxby's last week became the exclusive sponsor of Ali "SypherPk" Hassan, a professional gamer with 11 million followers across digital platforms.