Brandon Doerrer
Jan 26, 2023

Where are all the brands at live gaming events?

Gamers pack out award shows, esports competitions and convention floors — spaces many brands have yet to explore.

Where are all the brands at live gaming events?

Gaming experts predict this is the year brands will venture into the more niche dens of gaming culture. 

After The Game Awards reached 103 million viewers in December, even brands not endemic to gaming have begun to realize how deeply untapped the global gaming audience of three billion people actually is.

These gamers congregate at a plethora of live events throughout the year, including The Game Awards, E3, PAX, esports competitions for multiple titles and Games Done Quick, a marathon where streamers blaze through games as fast as they can while raising millions of dollars for charity

These events draw in thousands, if not millions, of people. For instance, the 2022 League of Legends World Championship peaked at over 5 million viewers, while the comparatively niche Games Done Quick recently raised more than $2.6 million for charity while drawing in more than 90,000 viewers at its peak. In-person events have reduced numbers post-pandemic, but PAX East in Boston, MA. still attracts tens of thousands of attendees.

But despite their massive reach, sponsors for these events have mostly been limited to brands entrenched in the gaming space, such as Razer and Dolby, which sell gaming products. 

The few non-gaming endemic brands who do sponsor such events typically have years of experience in the space; Doritos, for instance, was the “official salty snack” of The Game Awards.


Despite the size of the gaming audience, untested brands are still hesitant to market to gamers.

“It seems like it’s scary to have to lean in and treat this community differently — which you do,” said Lou Garate, head of global sponsorship sales at Twitch. “But they’re also just regular consumers as well. Don’t overthink it.”

Garate worked with Doritos to sponsor The Game Awards, where it announced an upcoming Fortnite activation to millions of viewers. He also works with brands sponsoring TwitchCon, Twitch’s semi-annual gaming convention.

TwitchCon separates itself from other live gaming events with the brands it is able to attract. In October, Capital One, Wendy’s and Dairy Milk, part of the Milk Processor Education Program, all appeared as presenting sponsors at TwitchCon San Diego. Chevron, Butterfinger and Velveeta also sponsored the event.

In addition to the brand recognition Twitch has, TwitchCon has been easier for brands to approach because the platform has existing relationships with brands through its ad platform. This relationship allows brands to ingratiate themselves with the gaming community before showing up to a big event, said Max Bass, director of influencer marketing and content partnerships at GALE’s innovation practice Advance Party, which worked with Milk on its TwitchCon appearance.

“The learning that we have from TwitchCon is that the digital extensions matter,” he said. “It matters to give people context. It matters to create connections before people see you at the event — especially if you’re a brand that people don’t know.”

Milk, for instance, partnered with streamer QTCinderella on a branded baking stream to complement its appearance at TwitchCon. Wendy’s is also active on Twitch with over 110,000 followers on its account.

Having a year-round presence in the gaming space allows brands to create custom content they can build on at live events. Without that tie-in, brands don’t always see value in activating for just one day or weekend of the year around a gaming event.

“It’s difficult for brands to get involved, to find value in it,” said Dave Kersey, chief media officer at GSD&M, which worked with Capital One on its TwitchCon sponsorship. “Because you need to create something customized for that experience. That’s expected by the audience. It may require an investment to do so, and [brands] could be looking at the return on that experience.”

But for brands willing to make the leap with a full-throated approach, there’s value to be found in showing up where the gaming community is already gathering. 

“Being actually on the ground at TwitchCon allowed us to interact with the gaming community directly and… provide a real and tangible association between milk and gaming as a sport,” said Yin Woon Rani, MilkPEP CEO.

“At TwitchCon, we created an activation that allowed us to expand upon our metaverse strategy and grow our one-to-one connection we’ve been building in digital,” said Kristin Tormey, director of social media and digital engagement at Wendy’s. 

Live events, even virtual onest, allow brands to interact with gamers in real time, said Twitch’s Garate. When that event has millions of viewers, as The Game Awards did, the effects are multiplied.

On Friday, Twitch announced this year’s Streamer Bowl, its accompanying event to the Super Bowl which kicks off Twitch Rivals, a streaming competition where brands such as Dunkin’, StateFarm and TurboTax get involved.

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