As traditional sports remain on pause, esports may move towards the Mainstream.
We are now a few weeks into social distancing from Covid-19, and media habits have already shown rapid changes. There has been a specifically large change in sports media, where networks are dealing with all major sports being paused for the time being. This has resulted in networks finding creative ways to fill up time slots, including Rogers and Bell combining to replay the entire Toronto Raptors championship run. (No spoilers, please!)
It is in this programming hole that esports is looking to take significant steps forward. Twitch.tv has already seen a +12% increase in viewership during the month of March, with an 88% increase in mentions on social media. In the USA, ESPN is streaming the LCS playoffs on their app.
People haven’t just been watching games—they’ve been playing them, too. Casual gaming has seen unprecedented success, with the new title Animal Crossing: New Horizons experiencing the biggest-ever launch for a Nintendo Switch game. Older games like The Sims 4 have capitalized on this trend by dropping the price of their game to $5.00 during the crisis.
Esports has long been a medium on the rise, and that has only accelerated with current events. Brands that value reaching Gen Z consumers have an opportunity to get involved in the esports community and build a connection to this audience. Sponsorship opportunities may be the key to that connection, as gamers have high sponsor recall but over-index on ad-blocker usage. 
There is an opportunity to act now and integrate into the world of esports. YouTube Gaming, Twitch, and Mixer all have dedicated user bases that stream for hours on end—with gamers being twice as likely to be loyal to an esports sponsor than sports fans to a traditional sponsor.  However, this is not a short-term investment. If a brand appears disingenuous or uneducated, then there is a chance that the investment will not resonate.