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7 Mistakes from Eracing (Motorsport Esports) Events

1) Not understanding the objective

We’ve seen a rush since mid-2017 for automotive and motorsport linked businesses and organisations to be involved in “esports”. From the outside, it often appears that there isn’t a concrete reason other than the worry that everyone else is doing it and we don’t want to be left behind. This results in poorly planned events or rushed concepts that don’t resonate with the type of audience that would normally be interested in these events.

So what good reasons are there to host an eracing event?

· Younger audiences are much more resistant to traditional marketing – experiential marketing and creating memorable events is one of the most effective ways of reaching this audience.

· Experiential marketing is linked to sales growth with an estimate ROI of 4:1 from over 50% of brands.

· “Real-world” motorsport is becoming harder to be actively compete with budgets ranging from 7 to 9 figures sums. Before you even buy a car there’s often a cost of circa £5k for safety equipment and licenses.

· 43% of current motorsport fans are either very interested or interested in esports – there is already a market without looking far from the existing fans.

· The opportunity for series to experiment with free-to-air broadcast models where sponsorship is the main revenue generator.

· The ability to combine audiences – gaming fans and motorsport fans are not necessarily the same but cross-pollination can help brands grow audiences.

· Far less expensive, dangerous and eco-friendly than hosting a “real” event.

2) Making it too difficult to get involved

Younger audiences don’t have short attention spans (contrary to popular opinion) but they will quickly disengage if the user experience is not seamless or intuitive.

With that in mind, it is best to design a competition with as few barriers in the way as possible. For example, it is best if your event is held on multiple platforms (e.g. XBOX, PC and PlayStation) so you can reach as many people as possible. If that is not possible then perhaps setting up eracing simulators or gaming stations in real life will level the playing field and capture people outside of the platform restrictions.

The UX (user experience) on the competition websites must be straightforward. If you cannot easily find out “how, where and when” then your potential competitor will look elsewhere for entertainment and enjoyment.

3) Lack of media strategy

If a tree falls over in a forest and no-one hears it… did it really happen? Well for some events launched this year (with six-figure prize pools) it may as well not have.

If you’re Formula 1, you’ve already got some great media partnerships in place. F1 Esports went out live on Sky Sports F1 as well as online channels. However, it’s possible to create just as impressive results for other competitions.

My first point is that as with every sport, the competition should be available live. If you cannot watch it live, to me it is instantly less important. If I miss a six nations rugby match (and I’m a big rugby union fan) then I will just go to BBC Sport, find out the result then watch highlights if I have time. It just doesn’t mean as much to me (and anecdotally my friends feel the same way). I’ve been involved in a project where TV episodes came first and only a few events were broadcast live and one of the key feedback from social media fans was that it was difficult to follow the competition throughout the fortnight of events.

Building on from live events, it is also important to consider what channels are being used and how partnerships can help cross-pollinate audiences. For Nissan GT Sport Cup, with our sister company Octane Junkies we devised a media partnership with popular motorsport online media company WTF1. Alongside them sharing the live-stream they are creating a four-part web documentary and the most recently release has currently received over 160,000 views.

Combining the efforts of Nismo, PlayStation Europe and WTF1 means that by the time the final episode and race highlights package have launched we expect a view count of over a million whilst reaching many times more.

4) Using other esports as a starting point

​​I could write for hours on this subject but the short point is: no other electronic sport has such affinity with the real world. The actions of driving in a racing game or simulator are so similar that they can easily be transferred in both directions (see the Nissan GT Academy that my colleagues have delivered).​​

Why is that relevant? Well motorsport and the automotive industry have a huge history. If you are able to combine and tap into the decades old cultural backstory then you will get infinitely better results.

Other esports games are often very detached from reality, with complicated rules that are difficult to understand unless you are a rabid fan. The simplicity of eracing is that we have all seen it before in motorsport: drive as fast as you can and the first one across the line wins. Everyone understands it and where the mass market can be more engaged, even casually, there is more potential viewership and fans.

You may find that currently games like DOTA2, LoL or CSGO are top of the esports revenue table but once brands work our the link between gaming and selling we will soon see a higher number of events and prizes in the new future.

5) Re-doing the “Race to Reality” thing with no new creative ideas

GT Academy launched in 2008 and engaged millions in its program that took the very best Gran Turismo drivers and offered them the chance to race for real. My colleagues were key project directors that delivered the program and it was a fantastic concept that captured the imagination of Nissan/Sony customers and future customers globally.

That was 10 years ago now and no-one has come close to being able to replicate it. Even if you had a similar budget, every media outlet that mentions your project will always mention the GT Academy program. It has been done, successfully, and arguably has run its course.

GT Academy existed during a time when we were still consuming a majority of our video content on televisions. A TV series was created around each competition to ensure greatest possible reach to audiences. Nowadays eracing can stand on its own two feet and engage viewers with the virtual racing all on it’s own. It can also be inexpensively broadcast globally live through Facebook, YouTube, Twitch – these platforms are also where you tend to find the target market too.

6) Poorly designed sporting regulations

As someone that loves to compete and has run hundreds of real and virtual race events, this is one of my biggest issues with how events are run.

As in real-life, it’s important that the racing is fairly stewarded and therefore produces results that are legitimate. For the gaming audience reading, how often do you race online and get taken out at the first corner? It’s frustrating and we see the incidents happening with little or no penalty applied at all.

I recently read a sporting document for a global eracing series (not run by us!). It came across more as a timetable with terms and conditions and there were no definitions on “General Conduct”, “Unsporting Behaviour”, “Starting Procedure” amongst other rules that I would expect to find in a “real life” racing competition.

For Nissan GT Sport Cup we developed a system that has one adjudicator per every two competitors to ensure no incidents are missed by race control (these adjudicators also act as “team leaders” for competitors). Any incidents reported to the Race Director and their assistant are then reviewed across three replay stations to determine penalties. This system worked a treat and ensured the competition was fair and legitimate. In the example below, the drivers to blame were quickly determined within 1/2 a lap with an appropriate penalty applied.

7) Creating a competition that only serves the 0.01% of top drivers and fails to engage with the rest of the gamers​​

We often see the same names in every major competition. The problem isn’t that these guys are good, it just creates a lack of opportunity for the wider audience. We want to create competitions that engage people across the board because that will ensure the biggest reach and therefore return for our clients.

The most common way of qualifying for competitions is through hotlapping then online races. Why not consider a number of qualifiers coming from a lottery of qualifiers under a certain benchmark? Or a physical event for local people in a particular region that you wish to target in particular? There could even be an “AM” (amateur) category as you see in many “real world” motorsport events that gives more people the possibility of engaging with your competition.

If you have been reading this article, thank you for sticking with it and reading my thoughts. I believe that it is imperative for maximum success that all of these mistakes are avoided and considered before jumping into creating a new eracing competition. If you have any additions, questions or rebuttals then I look forward to reading them below!

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