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Volume 23 No. 23
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Esports Exposure: Defense contractor joins sponsor ranks

Look no further than Leidos’ presenting sponsorship deal for Ted Leonsis’ NBA 2K team to see just how different the esports market is from the rest of the sports business and how much media companies and sponsors value esports’ young, tech-savvy audience.


Leidos, a Virginia-based defense contractor, already had established a long-term sponsorship relationship with Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics. In fact, the company had initial discussions about buying naming rights to the Monumental-owned arena in Washington, D.C., which ultimately went to Capital One Bank last year.


But Leidos’ NBA 2K deal is unlike any of the sponsor deals it has with Monumental. In fact, it’s different from any deal Monumental has with its other sports and could offer a blueprint for companies looking to invest in esports.


As part of its NBA 2K team sponsorship with Wizards District Gaming, Leidos is pushing a recruitment program where it offers up to $2,000 to anyone who refers a legitimate candidate for employment.


In its negotiations, Monumental’s sales executives pushed esports’ demographics, which are generally younger and better educated than other sports, according to Zach Leonsis, Monumental’s senior vice president of strategic initiatives. Leonsis cited a statistic that shows 40 percent of the typical esports audience pursues a technical profession.


“Leidos’ recruiting effort was a no-brainer for us,” Zach Leonsis said. “It was a different pitch and opportunity than what we were providing with our other teams, the Capitals and the Wizards, that reach different audiences.”


While Zach Leonsis could not recall previously selling sponsorships that involve recruitment-based activations, he said Leidos’ overall deal is relatively standard and includes branding and marketing activation like other sponsorships. “You can expect to see Leidos branding pushing this $2,000 referral campaign along the virtual LED signage and more,” he said.


For Zach Leonsis, the deal shows the promise of esports, which he sees as big and getting bigger.


“We have the opportunity to observe a lot of different verticals at Monumental with the different leagues that we play in. Esports definitely is the hottest,” he said. “There are a lot of blue-chip brands that are yet to activate in this space. But they’re all curious about the best way to do so.”


— John Ourand