From Field to Screen: Why Sports Brands Are Scoring Big With Gamers

Across the vast landscape of entertainment, there is a major overlap between two very distinct communities: sports fans and gamers. With billions of enthusiasts worldwide, both sports and gaming boast massive followings on their own. Our research has found that 6 in 10 players identify as sports enthusiasts, while there are currently over 3.3 billion gamers worldwide.

When both of these spaces team up, the potential for increased engagement is unparalleled. Given the rise of trends like esports, major sports game franchises (such as EA Sports and NBA 2K) seeing millions of players worldwide, and sports titles exploding in popularity across the mobile ecosystem (including Golf Clash and Soccer Super Star), video games are the perfect playing field for sports brands looking to launch in-game ad campaigns and tap into dedicated communities of players. Let’s take a closer look.

Exploring the popularity of sports within gaming

Sports-themed video games have been a staple in gaming libraries for decades, offering fans an engaging experience where they can step onto virtual fields, courts, and tracks to compete within teams or as digital athletes. Popular PC, mobile, and console titles — including EA Sports (formerly FIFA, which has over 700m players), NBA2K23 (which sees 2m players daily), Tennis Clash (which has over 50m downloads on Google Play alone), Golf Clash, and Soccer Super Star — have become annual blockbusters, drawing in players who can find joy in the competitive spirit and strategic gameplay these games have to offer.

Within the last decade, esports has also emerged as a global phenomenon, captivating audiences with its intense competitions in smash hits like League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. To date, esports now has an audience of over 540 million players worldwide. Many popular esports titles may not directly emulate traditional sports, but they share the same competitive essence that resonates with sports fans and gamers alike.

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The integration of sports elements into video games also doesn’t end there. Many major esports leagues and organizations have embraced gaming as a platform to engage with global demographics and expand their reach beyond traditional boundaries. Events like the NBA 2K League and Formula 1 Esports Series have not only garnered attention from gamers but also introduced sports fans to the world of competitive gaming.

Gamers are real-life sports followers and players

While gaming is a popular pastime for sports followers wanting to access the competitive thrill they get from watching or playing sports, the same can be said about gamers’ engagement with sporting activities. 

Our research has found that US gaming audiences are avidly tuned into their favorite sports fandoms, with 67% of players more likely to have attended a professional sports event in the past six months and 28% more likely to listen to a sports podcast in the past week. 

This suggests that gamers are happy to divide their time between playing popular titles and following their favorite fandoms, and that marketers who promote their messaging through in-game advertising have a unique opportunity to strike meaningful connections with players and also establish brand loyalty.

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For those who also think gamers don’t get enough physical exercise — think again! Our audience is 72% more likely to have a child who participates in youth sports, meaning that many younger game players are happily splitting their time between gaming and real-life activities. YouGov research has also found that 45% of UK gamers and 36% of US gamers are more likely to exercise at least once a week when compared to non-gamers.

Our findings have also revealed that several popular gaming titles align well with sports’ core audiences, offering an additional source of engagement and another community of like-minded enthusiasts. For example, 62% of Asphalt 9 players have attended a sporting event within the last six months, while 53% of Baseball Clash’s player base has attended a real-life baseball game within the last six months.

Gamers are also decked in sports gear

From colorful jerseys to custom-cushioned shoes fitted by some of the world’s top athletes, sports gear is worn by athletes looking for comfort during activities and also by those wanting to promote their favorite teams with sporting merchandise. It can be found pretty much everywhere, in any country across the planet.

Our findings show that 43% of US gamers are more likely to have bought sports clothing or shoes in the past six months, while 58% are more likely to have shopped at popular American retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods within the same timeframe. Gamers are loyal to their sports fandoms just like they are to their favorite at-home pastime, making those who play real-life sports more likely to purchase gear or merchandise needed to hit the field, court, or track.

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We worked with a popular sportswear brand that came alive in the gaming world, successfully capturing the attention of players without disrupting their gameplay experience. By placing engaging creatives within intrinsic in-game ad placements across popular gaming titles, they saw a 15pt lift in brand affinity, a 15pt lift in recommendation intent, and a 10pt lift in purchase intent.

Gaming and sports: a winning team

Given the massive popularity of both sports and gaming, their close relationship should come as no surprise. In recent years, sports brands have realized the potential of tapping into the gaming market to capture the attention of players and reach passionate communities. 

By launching in-game ad campaigns that engage gamers without disrupting their playing experience, sports brands can unlock new avenues for growth and establish themselves as integral players in the world of gaming. Whether you’re a die-hard sports fan, an avid gamer, or somewhere in between, there’s no denying the power of this unstoppable duo in shaping the future of entertainment.

Curious to learn about how you can promote your sports brand to players with intrinsic in-game ads? Fill out the form below, and we will be in touch!

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Coral Cripps

Coral works as Anzu's Content Executive. With a background in copywriting and journalism, she is an enthusiast of all things surrounding gaming, tech, and innovation.

Coral Cripps