At the recent Sports & Active Nutrition Summit in San Diego, Jason Chung, B.C.L., LL.B. discussed the increasing opportunities – including in the field of nutrition – in the esports industry worldwide as it continues to grow and evolve.
March 4, 2022
Jason Chung, B.C.L., LL.B. is excited about the myriad opportunities within the field of esports – and not just for gamers. While speaking recently at the Sports & Active Nutrition Summit (SANS) in San Diego, Prof. Chung told attendees that esports is a growing and dynamic industry with a need for professionals in a variety of different areas.
As the industry evolves, so do the needs of gamers and fans. While discussing the many opportunities for promoting and marketing nutrition and nutrition products at esports events, Prof. Chung said that more representation from the nutrition industry could benefit the esports industry.
As one of the presenters and panelists at the event, Prof. Chung shared his in-depth knowledge of the esports industry, as well as the unique needs of gamers. He said sports nutrition is increasingly important in esports as well as in “traditional” sports, as it plays a key role in helping individuals gain an advantage over their competition – whether they are behind a free throw line or in front of a screen.
“Even at the college level, students – particularly older students – are getting more serious about nutrition,” said Prof. Chung, an assistant professor of sport management and executive director of esports for the University. “At the professional level, I’m seeing that people are interested in lengthening their careers. They don’t want to retire at age 23. They want to extend their careers, so nutrition is important.”
‘If you’ve played Candy Crush, you’re a gamer’
Prof. Chung told the audience that he is often asked if esports is, in fact, a sport. His answer? “Who cares!” Still, esports is different from “traditional” sports in many ways – from the physicality to the way the business side of the industries operate. He explained that video games can be legally protected and owned and that esports is often a byproduct of a primary business – in other words, game publishers aim to sell games, they don’t typically organize esports leagues.
A rapidly growing industry, esports generated more than $1 billion in 2021 alone with a viewership of nearly 729 million. Gaming, he says, is more inclusive than many might think.
“If you’ve played Candy Crush, you’re a gamer,” he said. “You still count.”
‘Esports needs talented workers – not just gamers’
Prof. Chung told his audience that esports is the largest sector of the entertainment industry, and that means there are considerable opportunities for marketing – and for money to be made.
Among those taking advantage of the growing audience and ever-expanding reach of esports is the American military. Prof. Chung says that some branches of the military have been criticized for using esports as a recruitment tool, for integrating themselves in the esports industry, and for marketing to kids and encouraging them to enlist.
Esports is already being commercialized in a variety of other ways, including streaming, esports gambling, casino and online gaming, licensing, and tourism. That means jobs and a wide variety of opportunities in diverse fields.
“Esports needs talented workers – not just gamers,” said Prof. Chung, an attorney by training. “We need workers who understand Gen Z, who understand the importance of authenticity and connection. They need to hire people like the students in my program who understand these markets.”
‘He clearly resonated with attendees’
Prof. Chung believes the industry is paying attention. Brands such as beverage companies are now partnering with esports tournaments. While companies that market “traditional foodstuffs” continue to profit in the esports industry, he is seeing that start to change as nutrition becomes increasingly important. He says it is “great to see more engaged nutrition sponsorship” as there is a real market potential for companies that focus on older gamers and on good nutrition.
“We’re exploring the limits of competition,” he said, noting that one can now expect to find professional chefs and sleep pods at an esports event, much like at “traditional” sporting events. “It’s about how quickly you can maximize muscle and maintain a competitive edge. It’s important to have good nutrition and good rest.”
In addition to Prof. Chung, the conference featured insight from former and current athletes, nutrition company leaders, and dietitians. Intended to foster scientific and business innovation, the event also covered talks on topics such as CBD, personalized nutrition, and innovation.
Danielle Masterson, senior correspondent for NutraIngredients-USA, which hosted the event, moderated the esports panel discussion that included Prof. Chung.
"Given his impressive background in esports, combined with his legal training, I knew Jason would be a great speaker to present the history, research, and academia catering to the booming gaming community,” she said. “On stage, Jason was able to deliver priceless insights to the Sports and Active Nutrition Summit audience, and, based on the influx of questions he received, he clearly resonated with attendees. As a panelist and presenter, Jason was engaging, credible, and brought a fresh perspective."
‘Gamers are passionate people’
As part of the discussion, Prof. Chung and his fellow panelists discussed the esports market, as well as stereotypes in the industry. Although many people still may think of gamers as very young people who eat chips and drink soda, Prof. Chung says that research suggests otherwise. Gamers tend to be educated, and are increasingly interested in a diet that will support better performance, while competitions increasingly include gamers who are over age 30.
The panelists also discussed how the industry is evolving to focus more on integrity, and there are now more councils that promote esports integrity and rules that enforce it. The experts also explained how esports differs around the world.
“In North America, esports is all about gamers’ personality and how they engage their audience,” explained Prof. Chung. “But if you look at South Korea and China, it’s all about excellence. You have to win. You have to be the best. You’re eating the right things, you’re always ‘on.’ Europe tends to be a combination of both.”
Though an expert on the industry of esports, Prof. Chung jokingly referred to his own level of gaming as “atrocious.” It was an important admission, he says, since authenticity is critical in esports, and will go a long way as companies and brands market their product in the esports industry.
“Gamers are passionate people,” said Prof. Chung, who says Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is his favorite game. “If you don’t know the intricacies of their passion, they won’t let you in. They’ll detect you aren’t authentic. You’re better off admitting you don’t know anything about esports. If you admit you don’t know about it but that you are interested, that’s much better than pretending to understand it.”