eSports (Gaming) & The Supplement Industry

Gaming and esports can be described in many ways…

It’s a vibrant and fast-growing sector of the market. It’s a legitimate means of monetization in today’s attention economy. It’s an entertainment medium for billions of enthusiasts around the globe. It might also be one of the most misunderstood opportunities in the supplement industry right now!

Gaming and Esports 101

With an increasing number of people playing, broadcasting, and watching esports, the already booming, multi-billion-dollar gaming ecosystem is without a doubt cementing itself as a straight up cultural phenomenon. Gaming and esports are distinct yet integrated ecosystems. They share a common value chain up to and including game distribution, after which esports continues through events and other consumption-driven adjacencies.

Esports is a subset of gaming and is simply defined as competitive gaming, played individually or in teams. Just like any sport, there’s many levels of competition from a group of friends self-organizing tournaments to more professionalized amateur competitions to well-established professional leagues with multimillion dollar prize pools. It’s important to not anchor yourself to an elitist competitor bias because you’ll miss the massively valuable opportunities that could be available to your supplement brand.

But before I dive deep into that, I want to thank the sponsor of this article Nutrition21.

Nutrition21 is the developer and marketer of efficacious, high-value, clinically substantiated ingredients for use in dietary supplements, functional foods and beverages, such as nooLVL®, which is a non-stimulant nootropic ingredient that enhances cognitive performance in fast-paced esports competitions.

nooLVL was the first nootropic ingredient clinically studied in a population of gamers and has been shown to work within 15 minutes to increase energy*, focus, reaction time, and accuracy.

If you’re interested in obtaining more information around why brands are utilizing Nutrition21 ingredients to ensure they have cutting edge formulations, head over to or reach out to me directly and I’ll connect you with the relevant team member.

*Perceived energy measured by the validated Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire

Massive Potential, But…

It’s hard to deny that esports has massive potential. In 2022, the global esports audience is expected to grow just shy of 9% YoY to reach 532 million. That means the global esports audience is almost five times larger than the one that watches the NFL Super Bowl annually.

Here’s the problem with throwing a sensationalized data point like that out…it gets you excited, but it doesn’t give you the deeper context needed to assess the opportunity. That data point was an aggregation and doesn’t reflect the opportunity in any one esport. Each video game is essentially a new sport with its own esports athletes (gaming personalities) and ecosystem built around it.

Pick Your Esports Communities Wisely

Although numerous video games have competitive formats, popularity is highly concentrated around the top 10 games, which account for almost 90% of all esports hours watched. When picking a community to target, I believe assessing the competitive elements strategy of the video game is integral. These competitive elements are a rising tide with the potential to increase retention and monetization. This, in turn, drives stronger community, as well as encouraging higher skill levels among players, both of which support stronger consumption of gaming streams and videos.

Recognizing a strong pattern forming, it has sent esports organizations scrambling to expand into broader gaming culture and beyond, treating esports more like a customer acquisition funnel. This paradigm shift is important for any business looking at the gaming and esports market because organizations like FaZe Clan®, 100 Thieves™, and handfuls of others have become culturally relevant across intersections of gaming, fashion, music, and entertainment to name a few.

Gaming Personalities = Entertainment

There is a growing trend toward gaming content as a form of entertainment. Whether it be fans watching an esports competition, gamers looking for tips and tricks to improve their play, or simply community members following their favorite influencers’ content, I’d argue streaming audiences in any form is more valuable than typical sports. This is because the power of community and real-time chat features on a streaming platform drives and deepens engagement and stickiness.

Since esports competition and entertainment are now acutely intertwined, it’s important to not understate how influential individual gamers are to this opportunity. Like traditional sports and entertainment, gaming is becoming more personality-driven by the day. Gaming influencers are today’s most effective channel for esports marketing and are a major trusted source for brand discovery. So, the key to successful esports marketing is to meet the target audience where they are and deliver your message in a way that will resonate with them.

But…who are you delivering that message to and are they receptive to it?

Gamer Demographics & Marketing Receptiveness

Let’s start with some gamer demographics that might surprise you because they’re no longer the stigmatized nerdy and overweight young white males who live in their parents’ basements. In fact, one-third of the global population would be considered a gamer with the gender mix being 60% male and 40% female. The average gamer is in their mid-30s, owns a house, and has children. They also tend to be successful professionals, with 49% of the cohort earning over $100K a year.

In terms of audience interest in non-endemic brands marketing efforts, a lot has changed in a short amount of time. It went from gamers fearing non-endemic brands would corrupt the community to them now embracing partnerships and sponsorship revenue as an integral driver of esports growth. While “buying a seat at the table” will always be available for non-endemic brands in esports, each day it gets more expensive as the gaming community increases its loyalty towards authentic brands.

Authenticity is Undefeated

I cannot overstate this extremely important lesson enough; authenticity matters…A LOT to the gamer community! Any supplement brand that is looking at the trending esports category with money signs in their eyes should understand that authenticity is key to having any success the market. Gamers want to support their own, so supplement brand owners should be asking themselves what can we do to impact this community genuinely and positively. Those actions should be in process even before launching a product.

It’s important to remember that the gamer nutrition category is only at the proverbial starting screen. In my opinion, the game hasn’t even technically started yet, so there is no reason for supplement brands to rush strategies and allow FOMO to create bad first impressions with the esports audience. Slapping a new label on a pre-workout product with a few extra nootropic ingredients and making some cheesy graphics for social media based on preconceived notions of gamers will get you slaughtered in today’s market.

Don’t be that supplement brand…please! It’s honestly embarrassing to our industry. Instead, stop and think about it this way…

Yes, there’s a new consumer cohort with unique desires and/or behaviors interested in performance nutrition products. That should evoke a feeling of internal examination at your supplement brand. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does your supplement brand even have a right to win in this nascent market?

  2. Can you do it authentically within your current brand strategy? If not, are you prepared for an extensive strategic overhaul?

Those are just some of the things that would be going through my mind before new product development is even a discussion. That’s because to me…product is the easiest part of this equation.

Opportunities in Esports Supplements

Currently, the biggest opportunities in esports supplements are within the energy, cognition/focus, and hydration categories. I believe a product’s format and use occasion can be as important as its nutritional value, so brands should lean into convenience, familiarity, and seamlessly integrating into a gamer’s daily routines. That being said, “daily routines” of consuming supplements aren’t as ingrained into gamer lifestyles yet compared to the traditional sports nutrition customer cohort.

It’s inevitable that a mainstreaming effect will happen in the gamer nutrition category (just like traditional sports nutrition), but any supplement brand looking at new opportunities for product category differentiation will need to be patient. Yes, gamers might be interested in eye-health, joint-health, and heck even general health, but they likely won’t seek these out yet in standalone products. In my opinion, the category with the biggest long-term potential in the esports market, outside of energy, cognition/focus, and hydration, would be sleep/relaxation.

Any supplement brand entering the esports market should remember that gamers are extremely intelligent, savvy at acquiring information, and a bit skeptical of outlandish performance claims. That’s why I think more clinically backed active ingredients that do targeted relevant studies on gamers, like what Nutrition21 has done with nooLVL, will be increasingly important. My stance has always been that science is important when marketing supplements, but that’s only true if you make consumers care about it.

Gaming Supplements Competitive Landscape

If we are including active nutrition categories like energy and sports drinks, then brands like Red Bull®, Monster Energy®, and Gatorade® would be the biggest players in terms of consumption dollars. If we are excluding those non-endemic functional food and beverage brands, the clear market leader would be G Fuel®. When gamer nutrition brand launched in 2012, it effectively created the largest esports supplement category (ready-to-mix powdered energy drinks). In recent years, G Fuel has evolved its product portfolio to include energy drinks and hydration beverages. Another brand offering energy drinks and powdered gamer supplements is GHOST® Lifestyle. They have quickly rose to the second biggest player in the gamer nutrition market. Moreover, rounding out the top five market leaders globally would be ADVANVCEDgg™, Sneak Energy, and LevlUp® (which is now owned by Glanbia Performance Nutrition).


Written by Joshua Schall