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eSports popularity continues to rise in U.S.: Nielsen

eSports has continued to soar in popularity in the U.S., with 14 percent of the 13+ population now a fan of the competitive entertainment, up 8 percent from last year, notes a report from Nielsen.

“While eSports may not rival the size of many traditional sports fan bases just yet, it’s gaining the attention of many sports leagues, teams, owners and even players—both as a formidable threat and a potentially lucrative complement to the sports status quo.”

According to a summary of the report, 52 percent of NFL fans are also eSports fans, while 45 percent of NCAA football fans also indulge in esports.

However, of note is that the NBA is the only league to rank in the top five traditional sports leagues both in terms of avid fanship in the absolute and relative to the general population.

“This is noteworthy given the major investments that NBA teams, owners and players have made recently in the eSports space,” said the research firm.

According to the research, the eSports population is also three times as likely to be an avid fan of combat/fighting sports, racing, and U.S./European soccer, which is noteworthy given that these parallel three of the most popular genres of sports video games.

The report also found the eSports audience to be mostly male (77 percent), millennial (with 61 percent aged 18-34), and more likely to stream a traditional sport event online than the typical U.S. sport fan.

“This is wholly consistent with their eSports viewing habits, as streaming is by far the most popular way to consume eSports content, with 71 percent of fans viewing eSports events online.”

For brands looking to engage with eSports fans, the report has found that for fans of both eSports and traditional sports, direct involvement in eSports can elevate fans’ opinion of a brand on top of its gains via traditional sports involvement (+12 percent), while eSports integrations also offer the prospect of growing purchase intent (+7 percent) and brand loyalty (+8 percent) beyond what sports activations generate.

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