Overwatch seeks ways for teams to boost sponsorship revenue
The Overwatch League is helping teams get better sponsor exposure and more inventory to sell, according to sources, as the franchises look to bolster this crucial revenue stream.
Sponsorship is an important area for the second-year OWL, which allows its teams to sell a limited number of ad spots on jerseys among other inventory such as digital/social media brand placement and on-site experiential activation. However, with teams coming under increasing pressure to land more sponsorships, and move toward profitability, they have started working with the league to find ways to increase exposure and value.
Pete Vlastelica, CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues, confirmed to Sports Business Journal that the league was working on the initiative.
“It’s important — we are always looking for ways to free up inventory for the teams to bring to market,” Vlastelica said during an interview at the Atlanta Reign’s Bud Light Homestand Weekend in July. “We’re also always looking for ways to bring our league partners into relationships and positions with the teams.”
Vlastelica did not get more specific on how the league may carve up new inventory, but he did say that there will be a consistent split next year between inventory for the teams and league for all events. Sources familiar with the discussions said that among the things under consideration is having the OWL’s video production team make a more concerted effort to show logos during broadcasts, allowing teams to show local sponsors on broadcasts via geofencing, and the possibility of eliminating league exclusivity on one sponsorship category. It was not clear which categories the Overwatch League has exclusivity on, but its official partners are Coca-Cola, T-Mobile, Toyota, Intel, State Farm, Bud Light and Omen by HP.
The OWL is moving next year to its full home/away model after largely playing in California for the first two seasons, aside from three homestand weekends this season that are being held as dry runs. At the Bud Light Homestand Weekend in Atlanta, both Coca-Cola and Bud Light activated on site, which Vlastelica pointed to as an example of how league partners are getting involved with teams.
Some teams have suggested adding more jersey logo positions or more prominent positions. They have taken issue with the fact that jersey logos are relatively small and only near the collarbone area, rather than having a bolder and larger logo near the middle of the jersey like what is seen in soccer.
Christian Bishop, commissioner of the World Showdown of Esports tournament, which is not affiliated with the OWL, said he would prefer to see teams doing unique third jerseys with corporate partners rather than adding several more sponsor logos to the main jersey. As an example, he pointed to Team Liquid’s recent partnership with Marvel Entertainment to make special Avengers jerseys. Team Liquid competes in League of Legends.
“I would rather see more like that than pure logo slaps,” Bishop said. “I wouldn’t want to go as far as the NASCAR model of littering the jersey.”
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