With the rise of esports, everyone tries to compare it to many things in order to gain mainstream attention – what’s interesting is the parallels between esports and motorsports
Whilst many people draw comparisons between physical world sports such as footy and soccer, not many look at the world of motorsport and how many of the aspects of motorsports events are embedded into esports. When you’re starting something new or in a rapidly growing industry, you often need to look outside for inspiration or to understand success.
Sure footy, soccer, cricket, and those sorts of physical world sports are useful to look at, but they lack some things esports is focused on. For example, physical world sporting events like these are often very short, compared to the full, or more often, multi-day events of esports and motorsport. All the action in real world sports in a stadium are centred around a single location, drawing all audiences to the one area of focus – ie. the ball. Fan engagement around footy, soccer, and cricket as examples, are usually tailored directly around the game – half time kicks, loudest crowd member, special ticket numbers etc.
Let’s take a look at each of these things and what we can learn.
Short events vs. long events
As above, soccer, footy, many of those physical world sports are time constrained. Aside from cricket which may run over a couple of days as a test match, most of the sports are a few hours long at the most, with a defined outcome after a set time. This brings a few things into play. Firstly, short events don’t ask for the crowd to be entertained for long periods of time without action. Therefore, most of the engagement is centred around the game rather than keeping people entertained.
Motorsport contrary to this, and even big events like the Australian Open, go over a longer period of time. Therefore, the fans need to be engaged along the way. Aside from the occasional face-painting at the footy, there isn’t much else to do. With motorsport however, there is so much to do you almost don’t know where to start – there’s DJs, sim racing cars, experience zones, driver signings, acrobats, you can learn free running, or drive the new Land Rover, there’s so much excitement. Similar to the Australian Open – there’s the Garnier tent giving away relaxation hours, there’s plenty of fun things for the kids to do, and you can chill out in a number of different areas.
Then we look at esports – same thing! Whilst there are video games being played on the main stage, there’s so many other things you can do in a variety of spaces. You can jump on a car and go sim racing, fly a drone, build a computer, play games, try out VR, get some freebies, grab your favourite player’s signature, or even hang out in the VIP lounge if you’re lucky. We’re seeing some great cross-overs with motorsport (and those longer sports events like the Olympics or the Australian Open), and there’s a lot esports can gain from looking at these as spectacles… and vice versa!
Where’s the action?
Unlike cricket, footy, soccer, or any of those stadium/ball events, the audience in motorsport or esports don’t simply sit around and follow the action of the ball. Sure, there’s the player who’s got the most points in a video game, or the driver who’s coming first in the race, but that’s not always where the action is. The real spectacle, and what the audience wants to see might be at the back of the pack, or fighting for control of a position, or planning a sneak attack.
Sure in footy, or cricket you may pan to another player to talk about something during a pause, but most of the time the players on screen either have the ball, are about to receive the ball, or have just disposed of the ball – the action follows a single focal point.
The changing focal points in motorsport and esports alike are what give them their ‘spectacles’. Audiences want to see action and it’s always exciting when you don’t know exactly where that action will take place – this also has challenges for spotters, but let’s not dive into this now.
Action is what makes something worthwhile. And by action I mean anything from crashes, to awesome overtakes, to great sneak attacks, to good team work. It’s what draws your audience in and grows your audience. If you don’t have action then you don’t have an audience, because you have nothing to show them. I think there’s a lot esports can learn from the motorsport world with this changing action. In motorsport, as with esports, there’s constant shifting of cameras, angles, styles – from the externals of the car, to on board with the drivers, to team chat, to coaches. Esports at the moment are still doing a lot in the broadcasting space to innovate and we could take a leaf from motorsport here…
I mean how cool would it be to listen into team chat at key moments, just like what happens in motorsport? Of course we already have “on board” cameras with a web cam on each player, but are there other things we can do with in-game broadcasting to build more of a spectacle? With the parallels so clear, there’s a lot each industry can learn from one another.
It’s about the fans
At the end, with all things considered, it’s about the people – in any area of the sporting world, not just esports and motorsports. Your fans are your asset. They dictate your worth in the industry. If you don’t have fans, or viewers, you don’t have anything, because what you sell, or what you bring to your corporate partners, is access to your audience.
Therefore, keeping your audience excited and engaged is a must if you want to keep those people happy and prevent them from drawing their attention elsewhere. The problem with the influx of media and events in today’s society is if you’re not engaging your audience in a fun and exciting way, they will simply go elsewhere – another sporting event, a play, a music festival, some other place where they will be entertained.
As stated above, esports and motorsports tend to do well with engaging in an audience in the offline space. They hold prestigious events that draw a crowd and provide something everyone can do. But what about when it’s only in the online realm? What happens when esports and motorsports are all digital? Do they still do as well?
Arguably, yes! Currently, esports (and this isn’t true of every esport, but across the board), does an amazing job of engaging their audience online. Viewers can jump on Twitch and instantly become part of the conversation. They can subscribe to their favourite channels, chat with other viewers and streamers, cheer, send bits, add emojis and have a lot of fun online. Outside Twitch however, there isn’t a heap happening. Sure there’s Discord, but many of these things are very gamer focused. If esports wants to hit the mainstream market, they’ll need to look at how to leverage traditional social media much more than they already are – Instagram, Twitter, YouTube… just like motorsport.
Motorsport does a very good job of engaging their audience in an online sense. The majority of racing events, including the Supercars and F1, utilise Twitter extremely well during races. You can find all the updates on who’s in front, what’s happening in the action space, and be part of the conversation too. Typically, Instagram does a great job of creating fun and engaging content for fans.
The team probably doing it the best right now though is Red Bull F1. Sure RB has awesome reach and engagement due to the nature of it’s brand, but all their videos and posts are so much fun to watch. Not everything is about car racing either. It’s often about showing hilarious clips of Danny and Max in a tractor, or out for a BBQ, or racing go karts in a shopping mall. These type of PR stunts really help to draw your audience interest and show you care about entertaining them as much as about car racing.
Whilst motorsport does very well in this area at the moment, there might be some learnings they can take from the esports world. What if motorsport was streamed on Twitch? Would you engage your audience in a unique way? Would you bring different viewers in? Is there a platform where you can involve your fans more than what’s already happening?
There’s a lot to be done in the fan engagement space and companies are constantly innovating and shifting as people’s perceptions and expectations change. With more media out there than ever before, you need to understand what you can do to engage your audience in a way that’s fun and unique. I believe there’s a lot esports and motorsports can learn from each other in the space here.
What is human?
One thing I almost forgot to put in (well, pretty much did forget until I was reminded), is the biggest link between esports and motorsport, is they both require machines to run. Sure, traditional physical world sports requires ‘equipment’ to be used – bats, balls, gloves, rackets etc. But it becomes very different when the piece of equipment is digital and seemingly has a mind of it’s own.
The best parallel here is horse racing, or horse sports. It’s an Olympic sport, the riders are considered athletes, but part of their equipment, while it’s controlled by the rider, still has a mind and working of it’s own. Same with esports and motorsport. The player or driver controls the computer/keyboard/mouse, or the driver controls the car, but there’s something about the thing they are controlling and it being technology that people seem to think is different.
Sure, cars and computers can be unpredictable. They blow up, they break, they lag, they crash (in both senses), but so do horses. Horses can get spooked, they need to eat, they can get hurt. So why then is it so different? Why do we not necessarily see drivers and players as athletes who tame these beasts? Is the same amount of physical ability required to drive cars and play computers as other sports?
It’s food for thought!
That’s all folks
Well that’s all for my rant this week. I hope it’s valuable to people and I would love to hear your thoughts on it too. There’s parallels we can draw in all walks of life, but as an esports fanatic and a motorsport nut, I decided to focus on these two areas this time around. If you want to see something else let me know, or if I’m missed the mark completely, I want to hear your thoughts. Tweet me, comment below, connect, or send a carrier pigeon.
Oh and looking forward to sharing all my updates on BAM this weekend so keep a look out for that!