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How ESL & Intel created the world's largest esports event

Winner Spotlight: IEM Katowice 2019

How ESL put on a global esports event that reached a cumulated peak of more than 4 million concurrent viewers
Winner Spotlight: IEM Katowice 2019

The following interview with ESL is part of our Campaign Spotlight series, which examines this year’s Hashtag Sports Award-winning work. IEM Katowice 2019 won for Best Engagement Through Esports, which recognizes the most effective use of gaming to build deeper relationships with fans and leverage the enthusiasm of esports audiences.


What unique objective or goals led to the creation of IEM Katowice 2019?

When this global esports experience was conceived 13 years ago, the initial goal was to establish the world’s premier esports tournament and set precedent for proceeding global esports events. As the esports industry has progressed and these events have gained worldwide recognition, that objective has shifted to not only maintaining the tournament’s prestige, but also to engage a new generation of esports fans.

Through this event in Katowice, Poland, both ESL and Intel aim to diversify the esports audience, increase visibility and expand awareness to a broader, more mainstream audience by providing more interactive onsite activations and activities for fans to engage with while still catering the best esports action to its core group. The esports event is designed to be immersive, offering a unique sporting experience whether live streaming from the comfort of your living room or cheering on your favorite esports team in the at-capacity crowd at Spodek Arena. It is a proliferation of ESL and Intel’s commitment to grow and diversify the esports industry.

How was the event designed and produced with the modern sports fan in mind?

Gameplay was broadcast to a global and diverse group of fans on linear and digital platforms worldwide, with content produced and distributed in 21 languages. In addition to world-class competition in CS:GO, Dota 2, and Starcraft II, the event succeeded in showcasing an esports experience featuring educational programs, fan activities, etc. that appealed to hardcore gamers and newcomers alike.

ESL leveraged partnerships with recognizable non-endemic brands to create onsite and online experiences for fans, engaging previously “unreachable” audiences. The massive exhibition space highlighted esports through various product booths, competition stages and technological showcases. Four additional competitions helped to capture mainstreaming trends and diversify the industry, such as the Intel Challenge Katowice, highlighting the world’s best female CS:GO teams, and the ESL Katowice Royal featuring Fortnite.

How did this work achieve effective engagement and what measurable outcomes were delivered?

This global esports event has defined a generation of esports tournaments as the longest-running global professional esports tournament circuit in the world. As a result of the approach to appeal more broadly to a mainstream audience, it saw unparalleled growth across metrics both onsite and online. ESL and Intel welcomed 174,000 fans to Spodek Arena for the world’s largest esports tournament to date. Along with fans attending the tournaments and surrounding festival over the course of two weekends, the event reached more than 230 million unique online viewers and a cumulated peak of more than 4 million concurrent fans, a 156 percent growth from last year. Through livestreams, highlight clips, and custom features on Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms, the tournaments in Katowice reached nearly 200 million video views on social media channels.

With more than 125 million hours of content viewed, the $1 million CS:GO Major is considered ESL’s most-watched CS:GO tournament ever. Additionally, the World Championship in StarCraft II broke global viewership records for its six-day tournament, reaching more than 10 million sessions throughout the entire duration.

The event exemplifies ESL and Intel’s continued commitment to expand and advance the entire esports industry.

What new benchmark(s) in fan engagement does this set? How will this work inspire and move the industry forward?

This year’s event is the world’s most-attended esports event as well as the most-watched ESL tournament series in the company’s 20-year history. Not only is this a testament to the elite status of the event, but also to the growth of the industry as a whole.

As the world’s longest-running pro-gaming circuit, it continues to fuel innovation for the industry year after year. It promoted diversity and inclusion in esports and expanded horizons and opportunities on a global scale, from amateur gamers to families to esports enthusiasts. With multiple digital and linear distribution partners, an expanded esports festival, and integration of cutting-edge technology, ESL has broadened its commitment to lead esports and create opportunities for fans and players at all levels.

With this event, ESL hopes to inspire esports organizations to continue innovating the industry and growing the esports audience to create a world where everybody can be somebody.

Can you share a bit about any research that your team conducted while developing this engagement strategy?

ESL has been planning and executing live esports tournaments and leagues for nearly 20 years. ESL’s greatest asset for developing its engagement strategies for major esports competitions, such as IEM Katowice, is leveraging the company’s knowledge and expertise of ESL’s product, publisher, and partnership teams. These teams work hard to identify premier games and partners that add value to the esports fan experience.

What technological breakthrough made the biggest difference in planning & executing this event?

The expanding digital media landscape helped to grow IEM Katowice’s viewership and engagement. IEM Katowice was broadcast on both linear and digital platforms worldwide with partners that produced and distributed content in 21 different languages, dramatically improving global accessibility. Providing several options for esports fans to tune in directly contributed to IEM Katowice’s record-setting viewership.

IEM Katowice 2019 was one of only 25 inaugural Hashtag Sports Award winners. What does this honor in engagement excellence mean for ESL?

Being named among the inaugural class of Hashtag Sports Award winners is an incredible honor for ESL. The award validates the company’s ability to engage fans beyond hardcore gamers and proves that the open ecosystem model is the best format for esports fans across multiple games, platforms, and interests. ESL will continue to iterate on the IEM Katowice fan experience to innovate the space and provide increasingly interactive onsite and online activations.

We’re now accepting entries for the 2020 Hashtag Sports Awards presented by Budweiser. Ensure your company’s work is recognized for excellence in engagement alongside our inaugural class of winners. Click here to view the categories or click here to get started.

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