The audience reach of online gaming is huge, and sponsored avatar outfit themes are officially a "thing" amongst participants of multiplayer tournaments. But which fashion brands will be the first to catch on to this new form of influence marketing?

A couple months ago my fiance turned to me on the couch me while playing Borderlands and said "Hey babe, check out my character's new outfit: it's avocados and dollar signs! Pretty fun, huh?"

Wanting to know more, I asked whether he's ever paid for a skin and he told me he once paid $5 for an LA Gladiator skin in an Overwatch League tournament. At $5/player, it's not hard to imagine the revenue coming in from even a minority of those 40 million worldwide players.  Online game companies such as Riot Games are primed for these types of fashion partnerships, producing free games, but charging for "unlocked" character skins.

Overwatch League LA Gladiator Skins

The world of online fashion influence is getting exponentially bigger and more monetizable in ways beyond social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitch streams.

Unlocking cool character skins plays a huge role in incentivizing tailored game play for many, many gamers who spend hundreds to thousands of hours a year with their characters.

Everyone wants to be an original, even in the virtual world.

To me, this raises the question of whether brands like Supreme, Patagonia, Gucci, etc might be the first to reach out to online gaming companies with millions (billions?) of players who will pay money for sponsored character skins. The Louis Vuitton x League of Legends merch collaboration certainly demonstrates compatible cross-market interests between gamers and fashion lovers. However, I still have yet to see such a partnership outside of the LV World Championship partnership where the avatars themselves are decked out in branded merchandise, paving the way for influence and customer loyalty.

And if you thought there weren't men across the globe sharing their avatar skins in social communities like Reddit, think again. We found thousands of players sharing unlocked character skins in dedicated online forums pretty easily. It's not just men who are playing these games, either: in 2019, women account for a whopping 46% of all US gamers. Games such as Overwatch seem to be doing very well to accommodate these female players by providing many female avatars to choose from.

So the question is: which brands will be the first to participate? Would this pay players as influencers, or would players continue to pay for sponsored skins? How would players with Twitch streaming audiences be compensated, and what CRM tools would marketers use to facilitate these influential partnerships?

All I know is that there is a huge adtech (gamer ad tech?) opportunity here in a virtually untapped market.

Cheers to stylish gaming!

Rachael