Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

As Twitch pivots from subs revenue to ads, it’s time for marketers to get streaming

by Olly Paul, Gaming Campaign Specialist at The Goat Agency

Over the past 18 months, Twitch – the biggest live-streaming video service – has pivoted its revenue model to prioritise advertising over viewer subscriptions and is now offering creators better incentives to include ads within their streams. 

This is huge for marketers. The gaming sector is expected to be worth over $296bn by 2026, so it should be considered a lucrative space to run ads, source influencer talent and craft partnerships. But it’s currently underutilised. That’s crazy.

Obviously, brands don’t have to be gaming related to take advantage. Burberry, Chipotle, NYX and Ralph Lauren, to name a few, have all run digital or physical activations in the gamerverse. The word ‘gamer’ no longer inspires that stereotype of a teenage boy chained to his computer screen; brands can engage with consumers young or old, male or female. That’s one of the things that makes the channel so exciting. 

What’s important, though, is truly knowing gaming audiences. Traditional advertising approaches and standard product placement aren’t enough when it comes to tapping into the possibilities of the gaming world. To authentically connect in this space influencer matter – you need to think about who the influencers in this sector are, how they’ve successfully partnered with brands previously, and what kind of content audiences have responded positively to. 

Doing all that is a good starting point, but it is still just the start. 

Twitch in focus

Twitch can play a key role in influencer partnerships. Brands just need to tap into the opportunity.

It’s easy to just think of influencers on traditional social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok, but they’re also very much present in specialist gaming networks too – particularly Twitch. 

Twitch streamers now receive 55% of revenue for every ad they run and have more control over ad breaks, so it’s in their interest to explore more advertising opportunities. Twitch is also investigating new ways to enable sponsorships. When a platform and its influencers are focused on something it is time to get involved. 

One element contributing to this shift – the influence of Twitch streamers is skyrocketing. The platform’s top streamer, Ninja, has over 18 million followers, while the top female streamer, Pokimane, has 9.4 million. Non-gaming streamers are also rising in popularity; Kai Cenat is one of the platform’s rising stars, having just cracked into the top 20 with his 8 million followers.

But just 43% of brands operating in the gaming space advertise on Twitch, with over half favouring YouTube. Reaching this untapped audience is an enormous opportunity for savvy brands, whether they are game-adjacent or not. And there are plenty of different ways for advertisers to appear in streams, from pre-roll and mid-roll ads to display ads, gameplay and shoutouts, so there are a variety of opportunities to explore. 

Twitch’s combination of live and long-form content can make it a more difficult platform to sell through than say TikTok which is all about fast-paced, short-form content consumption. But when it works, it really does work. Audiences have a very strong connection to the streamers they follow, often watching them everyday. So on the one hand, they’ll know if a brand advertisement or partnership feels forced, but on the other, if it feels real and authentic, they’ll really trust and consider it. 

Opportunities on other platforms

Twitch is increasingly important, but obviously there are other options available. Gamers are highly active on YouTube, Reddit, Discord and TikTok too. Marketers can also explore off-platform opportunities, from sponsoring an esports team like Honda and Puma to developing a product with a gaming influencer, as energy drink GFuel did with PewDiePie. Both are brilliantly effective brand-building activities and data has shown esports fans are more likely than football fans to notice the sponsors of their events. 

Blending different partnerships across platforms can be particularly impactful, as we saw with our pre and post-launch influencer campaign for Deep Silver’s relaunch of the Noughties video game Saint’s Row

The campaign spanned Twitch, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, culminating in two meet-and-greet live events where fans could play the game alongside the creators themselves. Overall, the campaign delivered 9.2 million video views – an over-performance of 124%. Saints Row attracted more than one million players in its first three months. Pair the right activity with the right platform and the results can be huge for your brand.

Who is the modern gamer?

The reality is that today, people of all ages and genders game on more platforms than ever. From mobile phones to game consoles to PCs, the audience ranges from casual gamers on their commute to hardcore fans. 

Gamers are a key audience for all brands and must not be overlooked. Twitch, with its new revenue model, is a key channel – but truly making the most of this opportunity means getting to grips with the entire gaming landscape, the platforms they use, and the real-world opportunities available.