Twitch reaches beyond gaming and connects with viewers, brands

Amazon-owned Twitch had grown steadily since its 2011 launch, but the coronavirus pandemic led to a significant surge in viewership as homebound consumers seek fresh programming to stay entertained. With the average number of concurrent viewers more than doubling from 1.36 million in January 2020 to 2.9 million a year later, the livestreaming site’s potential as a marketing platform is also on the rise.

To support its growing aspirations, Twitch is diversifying its programming lineup with the goal of appealing to a broad audience beyond gamers through content like live concerts and fitness classes to cooking lessons and more.

Among the more recent brand efforts on Twitch, Lexus today unveiled its first car designed by and for the Twitch community after enlisting streamer Fuslie and more than 500,000 unique viewers in January to create a customized version of its 2021 IS sedan. The tie-up polled viewers on in-car features and is part of the IS model’s broader marketing campaign that looks to reach people who are “all in” on pursuing their passions. In other non-gaming related activations on the burgeoning streaming site, Amazon teamed with the NFL to simulcast the league’s “Thursday Night Football” coverage last fall, and commercial bank Capital One this year plans to expand its presence on the platform after becoming an official sponsor to Twitch Rivals last year.

“Non-gaming content will be an important part of Twitch’s future growth plan,” according to Dan Beer, group director of strategy at Deloitte Digital. “Look for a post-pandemic increase in travel and lifestyle streaming driven by the return of IRL [in-real life]. It won’t replace or even compete with the volume of gaming content, but it will draw valuable audiences that will help diversify Twitch’s product offerings.”

“Non-gaming content will be an important part of Twitch’s future growth plan. It won’t replace or even compete with the volume of gaming content, but it will draw valuable audiences that will help diversify Twitch’s product offerings.”

Dan Beer

Group director of strategy, Deloitte Digital

The platform’s non-gaming channels have gained attention from brands seeking to reach these valuable customers. Lighting retailer Lamps Plus last year sponsored livestreams from Katie Ruvalcaba, one of the most popular cooking show streamers on Twitch, to demonstrate its lighting products in her kitchen. The demonstration was integrated with her cooking tips, making it less intrusive than traditional video ad breaks.

“Twitch’s growth will continue to transform around anything that works well when consumed live,” Beer said. “For example, when you remove rights and investment from the equation, look for major sports and events to lean on platforms like Twitch to capture the next generation of viewers. With younger audiences spending more time on Twitch than traditional TV per day, this will be a necessary means to reach them.”

Elusive audiences

While part of Twitch’s key strength is its appeal among younger audiences — with about half of users in the 18 to 34 age group and another one-fifth are teenagers — marketers must be aware of what makes Twitch appealing and how core users respond to sponsored messaging, according to Deloitte Digital.

“Audiences on this platform can be wary of brands, especially big brands,” Beer said by email. “In some ways, they know your brand better than you do. They read your reviews and they can quickly learn what you really stand for.”

To engage Twitch’s audience, brands need to consider the sensibility of that younger user base, and the possibility they’ll display open hostility to ads or promotions that are too intrusive. Like younger cohorts of consumers, Twitch users generally respond negatively to brands they perceive as insincere.

“If you’re a brand that spends a lot of time crafting a carefully curated message, toss that approach out the window, Deloitte’s Beer said. “Be nimble and malleable, replacing brand polish with brand authenticity.”

“Be nimble and malleable, replacing brand polish with brand authenticity.”

Dan Beer

Group director of strategy, Deloitte Digital

He recommends brands consider the interactive dynamic of the platform, and get creative in how they integrate their messaging with the surrounding experience of users watching livestreams and posting comments. A key feature in Twitch lets users post comments in streams and chat with other users, letting it double as a social network in some ways.

“Think of it as a barter system done to ensure trust is built and you both get what you want,” Beer said. “For the audience, it’s a brand that enriches the Twitch experience by providing, for example, exclusive access or new platform innovations. For the marketer, it’s a seat at the table with potential high-value customers.”

Evaluating ad formats

Twitch offers a variety of ad formats and sponsorship opportunities for brands, ranging from unskippable video spots to integrations with its Twitch Rivals gaming competitions. That variety gives brands flexibility in developing campaigns.

“When thinking short term, the easiest way in are video ads,” Beer said. “It doesn’t have to be complicated to be successful, but they do need to be designed in a way that feels relevant to the interests and behaviors of the Twitch audience.”

From there, brands can deepen their commitment to the platform by sponsoring original programming and livestreamed events that draw viewer interest.

“If you want to be successful long term, show up frequently over a longer period of time,” Beer said. “Develop a cadence of programming that gives your audience something to look forward to while building a consistent brand voice. Over time, this builds the trust and authenticity needed to succeed on this platform and will provide greater opportunities to engage this audience, for example, a greater roster of influencers that want to speak on your behalf.”

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