Nielsen's latest eSports survey reveals that 14 percent of Americans over the age of 13 are fans of professional gaming.
The data reveals that eSports fans are 77 percent male, and 61 percent 'millenial' (that's 18 to 34 years-old). Blizzard's Overwatch skews particularly young, with 68 percent of players coming under the age of 34.
Fans of pro-gaming are a heavily engaged audience, too, says Nielsen. On average, eSports fans spend four hours a week watching or participating in eSports matches. 71 percent of this audience stream events online, 40 percent have viewed matches on TV and 23 percent have attended an event in person.
Nielsen has also produced a study to look at how advertising and sponsoring eSports events are perceived by US fans, and the results are positive. The study only looked at those gamers who watch both traditional sports and eSports, and it found that an involvement with eSports elevated opinion of that brand by 12 per cent, brand loyalty increased eight percent and purchase intent was up seven percent, compared to traditional sports.
We asked Nielsen if this meant that eSports offered better return-on-investment than sponsoring traditional sporting events, and this is what we were told:
"There is certainly the potential for this, though it will vary based on the brand, integration, and sector of eSports involved," said Nicole Pike, Director of Games.
"In most cases, we at Nielsen like to think about this in terms of the incrementality eSports can bring above other sports activations, vs a direct comparison of impact, because most brands - especially non-endemics - activating in the eSports space are already established within traditional sports as well. So the effectiveness and value of eSports activations are inherently impacted by how a brand is already interacting with consumers through sports.
"More than anything, eSports fans are looking for authentic, non-interruptive, and value-add connections with brands in the eSports space. If a brand is able to align with these expectations, they have the ability to build a stronger connection with eSports fans beyond what a traditional sports activation would achieve with this audience."