Cowboys & Insights: Using AI to Take a Football Brand into eSports
There’s a reason Jerry Jones is in the Hall of Fame. As owner, president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys – America’s Team – he has always been at the forefront of the business of being an owner in the NFL. One visit to the state-of-the-art AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is enough to illustrate his vision, leadership and innovative thinking. So, in the same year NFL viewership has seen a decrease of 8% – the largest decline in the past ten years – it’s not surprising to hear Mr. Jones and the Cowboys organization are exploring a new avenue that promises to help widen their audience, improve brand positioning and increase profits. They’re considering getting into eSports.
The overall interest in eSports is growing exponentially, with viewership exploding from 90 million in 2014 to a projected 180 million by 2019. Even more attractive to established brands like the Dallas Cowboys are the coveted Millennials and Gen Z audiences that eSports attract. According to LEK, a global strategy consulting firm, “Younger casual fans represent growth potential.” They add, “If traditional sports organizations can’t find a way to draw them in, the fan base will stagnate and will eventually decline as existing fans age out.”
With NFL popularity already declining among young people – teenagers, in particular – targeting these eSports fans could be an effective way for teams to freshen up their demographics. Moreover, LEK points out that “eSports are particularly popular among Millennials who identify as casual sports fans,” which makes the two entities a natural fit.
For the Dallas Cowboys and other forward-thinking brands, the challenge, then, is to understand the best way to tap into the emerging world of eSports and access its attractive young fan base.
How Brands Can Play in eSports
In order for brands to capitalize on any new field, they must understand the audience affinities for various segments within their new market. In other words, they need to understand who the audience is, how they engage, how both brands are similar (and different), brand perceptions and more. And they need to get to a high level of understanding while the iron’s hot.
To help them quickly gain these insights as they explore entering the eSports market, the Dallas Cowboys turned to Epsilon and Oculus360. Using the Oculus360 AI-driven consumer insights platform, the Cowboys organization is able to see, as mentioned in Ad Age, “which brands are associated with eSports and, of those, which brands match with the ones the Cowboys’ fan base identifies with.” The goal is that the two audiences are mutually beneficial, with the Cowboys gaining fans from their new eSports team, and vice versa.
With this information, the Dallas Cowboys are able to discern which eSports team best aligns with their existing brand, and which would make the most sense to purchase in order to gain better competitive positioning.
Brand Affinities for Segmented Audiences
For the Cowboys, the Oculus360 platform also looked at the most engaged and influential Twitter users in different eSports video game genres and built personality profiles (demographic/psychographic) based on each video game genre league. These profiles fell into four distinct types: introverts, neurotics, conscientious and open. Amazon data on each audience segment was also aggregated and assessed to understand the brand affinities of each group and hone in on their purchasing preferences.
If the Cowboys were to host an eSports event at AT&T Stadium, they could use these consumer insights to attract brand sponsors that closely align with the audience profiles of both their eSports team fans and current fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Conversely, the sponsoring brands could then optimize product positioning and relevant messaging at the eSports event.
As reported in the complementary Oculus360 eBook, eSports: How Competitive Gaming Will Deliver Millennials and Gen Z to Your Brand, eSports fans are especially loyal to brands that are authentic to the eSports experience. A deeper understanding of consumer insights and audience affinities enables brands to offer experiences and messages that truly resonate with the audience they’re trying to reach.
For the Dallas Cowboys – for any brand – this authenticity will translate into increases in brand awareness, loyalty and, ultimately, revenue.