Twenty-three weeks ago, when the gravity of the situation became clear, we started daily reporting on how brands were dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. What’s now becoming clear is that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption. So we made the decision to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid the latest crises in an anxious world. Our goal remains the same: to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.
A new report from esports brand Fnatic (downloadable here) has collected some interesting statistics on the sector and its resilience in recent months. Pre-COVID it was already the case that gaming’s share of time and wallet was increasing, particularly among young people – but COVID hyper-accelerated that trend, says the report. Per Nielsen, 4 out of 5 global consumers played video games or watched video game content during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, and in general the industry saw a 46% daily active user increase in PC gaming and 17% increase in mobile gaming. In the live arena, Esports was one of the first industries to take decisive action to limit access to events for supporters; several weeks prior to the ‘business as usual’ completion of the UK’s Cheltenham Festival racing event (10-13 March) and the UEFA Champions League fixture between Liverpool and Atlético Madrid (11 March), ESL’s IEM Katowice CS:GO ‘major’ took place behind closed doors; and thereafter almost all major esports competitions moved rapidly to a wholly online set-up. Esports consulting agency and data service Newzoo has revised its estimate of total esports revenues for 2020 to $1.06B, down from its previous estimate of $1.1B (but still up YoY vs 2019). Newzoo’s re-forecast predicts the biggest percentage revenue drop off in the “merchandise and tickets” vertical (down 12.2% / US$15m), which is mainly connected to offline events, along with a decrease in “media rights” (down 4.8% / US$176M) and “sponsorship” ( down 3.4% / US$615M) categories. On the other end, they foresee an increase in the “streaming” (up 9.3% US$19.9M) and “publisher fees” (up 3.3% / US$120.2M) categories. Online, YouTube Gaming saw 1.1B watch hours in Q1-20 (average CCV at nearly 0.5M); and Facebook Gaming also saw increases, reaching 0.5B watch hours for the quarter; CCV also increased by 15.5% QOQ. However, among online platforms, the real winner was Twitch. The platform experienced a 17% increase in hours watched compared to the previous quarter and represents 65% of the market share compared to the other platforms. Average concurrent viewership on Twitch increased (MOM) by 16% from February to March 2020, and then again by 55% into April; for the first time ever, Twitch surpassed 3 billion watch hours in a quarter (3.1B, Q1-20, i.e. roughly double YouTube Gaming and Facebook combined). These numbers build on Twitch’s explosive growth as a streaming platform over recent years, with watched minutes roughly doubling from 2017 to 2019, and up nearly 32% YoY. “The bigger picture point,” says the report, “is that the esports ecosystem as a whole will benefit from raised awareness and interest in gaming. There are two questions still unanswered: first, whether, having brought new fans into the esports and streaming funnel, those fans can now be converted into enthusiastic and committed consumers of gaming content; and second, the extent to which marketing budgets and planning will now be recalibrated towards digital assets (and particularly streaming and streamers).”
Outdoor gear brand Yeti, known for its durable coolers and water bottles, is supporting those out of work with a musician-backed auction. The One for the Roadies initiative is a fundraiser for Crew Nation, a charitable organization that supports tour and venue crews impacted by the pandemic. The brand tapped 37 musicians and bands to create personalized Roadie 24 Hard Coolers to be auctioned off today through Aug. 10. Participating artists include Green Day, Reba McEntire, Leon Bridges, Portugal the Man, AWOL Nation and Jason Aldean. Bill Neff, VP of consumer marketing at Yeti, said the stories of concert industry workers who’ve been hit hard by the pandemic – such as those who have lost health insurance, don’t qualify for unemployment or have been forced to drain their savings to survive – inspired the brand to create One for the Roadies. “Live music inspires millions around the world, but the concerts we all enjoy wouldn’t be possible without the countless crew members working behind the scenes,” Neff said. “As Covid-19 puts live events on pause, we wanted to find a way to do a little something to extend a helping hand to the touring and venue crews who depend on shows to make a living.”
Airbnb has just surpassed 1 million booked nights in a day for the first time since the first week of March. According to booking information collected by AirDNA, a data analysis company that specifically looks at the short-term rental market, Airbnb bookings in New York and Los Angeles fell more than 50% in June when compared to 2019. But bookings for Panama City Beach, Fla. are up 117%, while Kissimmee, Fla., which saw the highest amount of unique bookings for entire home properties in 2019, saw a slight rise in bookings this summer, about 66,747. Of those bookings, 60% of nights were for people traveling solo or with one other guest. “Our business has not recovered, but we are seeing encouraging signs,” Airbnb said.
Fast-casual dining chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has found a use for the pits from the 300 million avocados used in its guacamole – they are now being used to dye the company’s new limited-edition Chipotle Goodsclothing and accessories line. The gender-neutral collection includes: avocado dyed shirts and tote bags, custom order shirts “where fans can customize their go-to Chipotle order ingredient by ingredient,” avocado lined jean jackets, sweatshirts, hats, baby onesies, leggings, reusable lunch bags and more. According to Chipotle, the leftover pits from select restaurants will be “upcycled” to create several “natural avo dyed goods.” The pits are simmered in water to create the plant-based dye, which varies in color. Chipotle Rewards members can access the collection shortly with a special password sent in email. The line will be available to the public a little later.
Uber will allow employees to work from home through June 2021, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has told employees. The move is not a mandate, meaning workers will be allowed to return to offices if they open before then. The ride-sharing company now joins Google in extending its remote-work timeline through next June. Most tech companies have announced that the bulk of employees can work from home until the end of 2020, or haven’t finalized a date. Amazon and Apple have asked that workers return in January, while Twitter has allowed employees to work from home “forever” if they wish. But Uber’s delay could be the start of more companies shifting their return date even later.
London’s Metro Bank will not urge staff to return to the office until the winter flu season is over. Chief executive Daniel Frumkin said he would not ask its 1,400 head office and back-office employees to return to their desks before 2021, given the potential for a rise in coronavirus cases during the winter months. “Everybody tells me flu season will be difficult and it doesn’t seem prudent to let people back in the office in October, staring into a winter that could be very difficult. It seems much more prudent to revisit the topic once we see what the winter unfolds like,” he said. However, the banking boss said the success of homeworking meant staff were unlikely to return to a permanent desk and would only be in the office two to three days a week. An internal survey found that only 4% of Metro’s head and back-office staff wanted to return to the office five days a week. “We were always going to move colleagues to a lower-cost jurisdiction,” he said. “What has changed is we won’t be doing that. We actually found office space for all our colleagues – and it just looks a lot like their sitting room.” Metro will be kitting out the basements and first floors of existing branches with office space to allow staff to use hot-desking areas when they are not working from home.