How to Advertise Esport Events in College

Look at our booth? Do you think a booth like this went well? Click here to learn more or read through until the end!

When I got appointed the president of Lambton College’s esports club (LCGC) in my first year at college, I was very unsure about the methods of esport event marketing. Nowadays, I can easily plan an event two weeks in advance and get the word out thanks to a few strategies I learned along the way.

The best ways to market your esport events in college is by putting up posters on campus, utilizing social media accounts, by engaging in your local community both at physical locations and online, and most prominently with word-of-mouth. Through this article I will be breaking down each marketing tactic into depth and how to best leverage them to fit your needs!

Posters: The Dos and Don’ts

Hanging posters can be a powerful tool to increase awareness, not engagement (that’s a completely different topic entirely), but posters are such an overused tactic by every event, club and service that to get noticed, you will need to really stand out and make sure your poster follows the necessary criteria for success.

Poster Do: Do place your poster somewhere that is not a poster board. Unless you are limited to using the community board on your campus, posters on there never stand out. You will typically have a few people who will stop by those boards and scan all the posters, but most people will miss it.

Talk to your college staff about where you could put up posters or learn where you can place your posters by looking at other poster placements and choose places that are commonly seen. For me, the best way was by putting a bunch of posters on all sides in the same area, making it impossible to not notice the poster regardless of where you look in that specific hall.

This image is a typical example of a location you do not want to put your poster. It may seem like an extreme but this picture was taken by me at Lambton College a few days before writing this article. People actually put posters on this board!

Poster Don’t: Don’t forget to make the game a visible part of your poster. A lot of posters can look really nice, but they forget to make the game/s of their event a noticeable part of the poster. So when players of that specific game cannot recognize the game on a glance, you will lose their attention and they would not know of the poster’s purpose. Both through the theme, unless your theme is iconic and well-known, and your text should yell out the game your event will be utilizing upon first glance.

This was one of my earlier posters for our PUBG Mobile event. We tried very hard to make it professional and give off a community-vibe. But when I talked to people at the actual event, a few people did not realize the poster was for the PUBG Mobile event! Terrible move by us!

Poster Do: Ensure all the necessary information is present on your poster with a well-placed link. Make sure you include the game, any key formatting (PUBG Duos, Overwatch 1v1s, etc.), the date, time, location, entry fee and a link to gain access to all the information. Keep your font, font size and colour theme generally consistent and clean throughout.

Ideally, you want to have your link as a shortened or custom link. I like bit.ly (HYPER LINK), since they provide free custom links that are shortened and track how many people clicked on your link. You also do not need “www.” or “https://” (or “http://” for that matter) on your URL, its just extra clutter and looks unprofessional.

Poster Don’ts: Don’t rely completely on posters. Too many events I have seen rely completely on posters as their only source of awareness and social media as their only form of engagement. When you put all your eggs into one basket, if people fail to notice the poster or do not end up following your social media, you end up running a poor event that could have been larger with more effort.

Poster Do: Do get a legal-sized or larger poster. The fact of the matter is legal and tabloid-sized posters are much easier to notice and makes it easier to put information on them without making them over cluttered. You can still do letter-sized paper (standard) and still have success, but in most cases larger posters allow your posters to stand out and have a higher success rate for awareness.

Social Media

Your social media is great for engagement, but this article is not about engagement therefore we will not be getting into that. Instead, we will be looking into leveraging other’s social media accounts to advertise and create awareness of our esport event in our college or university.

First, using your own social media can help start conversations between your own friends and you may find friends interested who you may have not otherwise suspected.

Second, asking your friends to also talk about your event on their social media would help further awareness. Be ready for people to deny your request, it happens often, but there is no shame in asking. Make sure to have prewritten text and graphics for them to use.

Besides the obvious stuff, your real benefit from social media will come from your college’s social media accounts. At Lambton College, we have Student Administrative Council (SAC) social media that we can utilize because the LCGC (my club) is a SAC approved club. We also can use the Lambton Esports social media due to our correlation with esports at Lambton College.

You also want to take advantage of other club’s social media as well. One of our events was a physical Magic the Gathering event because some of the LCGC team adored the game and wanted to run an event for it. That game fell right in the ballpark of the Tabletop Club (and we were honestly intruding on their territory), reaching out to them and asking them to help support our event with social media advertising would have greatly benefited our event.

Picture of one of our Magic the Gathering events, not a huge turnout because we did not take advantage of the Tabletop Club’s social media presence

Depending on the scale of your event, you may be able to talk to your college’s marketing department about posting on your official college’s social media. LCGC’s events are very frequent and small, so we never reached out to them. If we ran a one-time larger event, that would totally be something I will talk to our college’s marketing department about.

Physical Community Outlets

Even if your event is taking place at your college, depending on your goals and objective it may be advisable to advertise to your local community. For people who do not want to invite players from their local community, that is completely up to you but you may want to read through this method for future reference.

I would also recommend NOT advertising your event in the community if this is your first esports event (or first event for that specific game) unless you have to, since the first few runs usually result in many mistakes. People from your college may be willing to overlook these mistakes and attend your next event, but people external from the college may not feel the same. Your event will only get better when you run it multiple times.

As far as where you can advertise, remember that most local places are prohibited without government permission. I know some people put posters on bus stops and polls, but at least in Ontario that is a finable offence. You need to collaborate to advertise on private property

This kind of advertisement is allowed in Ontario, but if you start taping posters against a bus stop without permission is considered illegal and you can be fined for the offense.

An easy one is community boards where there is no real work for you to do in order to use them. You just need to find them and you are good-to-go. You could call your local government and see if they could direct you to some.

I have placed posters in a library before, but your event (at least for my local libraries) had to be a non-profit event. If you are running as a school club, you are by default a non profiting event. Otherwise, I would recommend running your first few events as not for profit endeavours if you want to put up posters in your local library. Through that, you have a built fanbase and you can advertise profitable events to that group afterwards as well.

You can also place posters at local stores. Some stores, very few, would allow you to place a poster in their store for nothing in return. However, many store owners are willing if you can give them a logo placement or other perks in return to allowing your poster to be in their store. Some store owners may even be interested in moving as a sponsor and willing to post it on their social media. Be ready for that possibility and approach the situation as if they were a potential sponsor.

Online Community Outlets

Community-wise, online outlets are not only a much easier tool to leverage but also a lot more effective, especially for esports. I will say the same thing as I said for physical outlets, do not use if this does not align with your objectives and goals.

Right off the bat, you can post on pages that host other event postings. Your local government’s event calendar, your local radio station’s event schedule, your city Reddit page, etc. These are easy marks to hit and increase general awareness.

Where you will benefit greatly from is advertising on game-specific local Discords and Reddit pages. This is where acting as a not profitable event through your school helps, as people are more willing to let you advertise if you are not trying to make a quick buck. You are even more likely to gain access to marketing if you are supporting a charitable organization. The downside to that strategy is that when you want to profit, you may have to rebrand and create a different organization, but you can leverage your old brand’s community to advertise, which makes it a lot easier and potential higher return-on-investment in the long run.

Reaching out and advertising on communities not related to esports is doable too to further awareness but expect fewer results from taking this route. It does not hurt if you do so but be mindful of your return-on-investment, by advertising on these sites, do you lose anything? I used to advertise on this one site for esport events, but when I wanted to advertise our hackathon (which actually related to their community), the owner stopped me as he helped me out multiple times in the past and I essentially used up all my freebies.

Word-of-Mouth: The Ultimate Tool

Word-of-mouth, without a doubt, is your best bet to advertising your event, showing engagement and converting your awareness to actual attendees.

You can first start telling your friends about your event and tell them to tell their friends. I know most of my friends would likely only tell others who they know would be interested in the esport event, but that is a start. Telling your own friends usually gets some of them to come out anyway (even if they do not play the game as much), I have experienced that on multiple occasions and seen that work for my fellow peers as well.

The real power of word-of-mouth marketing is when you get other people to do the talking. But to have them do that, not only do they need to be aware of your event, but they need to come to your prior events and love it. This organic growth is brewed by others through indirect work of your own from prior events.

If you are running your first esport event, or the first event for a specific game, you may be wondering how I could still benefit from that. Odds are, unless you force people (taking away the organic part), you will not. Remember, when you are running your first esport event, you will not get as many people as you possibly could, but as you run events in succession, and each time your attendees love it, only expect your next events to grow.

This was an actual message sent to me by a random participant at our of our PUBG Mobile events (made me really happy). In our conversation, he talks about how he really enjoyed this event and will be telling his friends to attend as well. Host good events and let other people do the marketing for you!

Conclusion and Recap

You will only get better at implementing the strategies mentioned above with practice and applying it to your unique context. The one thing to remember is that even if your first event does not get many people, you have to think about why that is and keep on trying.

This article is about awareness, not engagement, and that may be why you failed to get as many attendees. I highly recommend (LINK) reading about engagement (article coming soon) and have a way to track how much traffic you get. Websites with the right plugins can do that automatically, while bit.ly links do the same.

Here is a recap of what was discussed:

  • Posters are powerful marketing tools, but there are many do’s and don’ts to ensure you are successful
  • Having social media posts from others’ social media accounts is a great way to drive traffic to your signups and information page
  • Depending on your goals and objective, marketing in the community with physical signage is a great tool if you can have an agreement with private location owners
  • Depending on your goals and objective, marketing on online communities dedicated to your local area is a powerful method of driving traffic
  • Word-of-mouth, a high return-on-investment marketing strategy, is your most powerful tool that has high success-rates for awareness, engagement and increasing your consumer count. But to develop this, you need to hold prior events where people attended and ensure they are satisfied, and make them aware of your new event

BONUS: Physical Marketing and Booths

The picture of our booth (above) was the third booth held by the LCGC. Our first (image below) was only intended to help us get more involved in Lambton College by taking part in the college’s open house, but did not provided any real benefits to increase awareness of our events. 

Our second booth (I have no photos) was intended to advertise our club and collect data. However, the booth ended up failing due to its location and failure to attract people. 

The location was a high traffic hallway, but this hallway was one of the main walking halls for people going to their classes, therefore they passed by without getting a chance to talk to us.

Also, we had a monitor that said “Do You Game? Come Talk to Us”, but this did not end up getting people to actually talk to us.

So now, for the real question; Did our third booth do well? Yes, it did pretty well.

As you can see in the breakdown above, a lot of thought and effort went into this booth. Our location this time was the cafeteria, the perfect place to attract gamers.

We had a section for people to drop in and play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart or FIFA 20. 

Our biggest issue with our booth setup was that the ‘draw’ banner was hard for people to see, while the Esports program whiteboard was noticed by everyone. If we moved the ‘draw’ onto the whiteboard, our booth would have been more successful.

Overall, we had a lot of positive discussions with students about our events (specifically for our PUBG Mobile event) and it was successful.

The downside of the booth is getting the equipment and having people man the booth during class-time. I would recommend this as a form of marketing if you have the flexibility to try it, it has its own strengths and weaknesses, but I did not include this in the main body of this article because it takes a few tries to get it right, and even then it is a high investment for a low-to-high return (depending on the quality and effort put into your booth).

But also just walking up to people without a booth works to get the word across, especially when you are desperate! (trust me, I would know 😀 )