State Farm goes deeper with esports
State Farm has become the first NBA partner to sign a separate deal to sponsor the new NBA 2K League, also making it the first non-endemic brand to sign league-level deals with three major esports properties.
“It’s clearly an opportunity to complement our traditional sports opportunities, because the fan of esports is not always a stick-and-ball sports fan,” said Ed Gold, State Farm advertising director. “At the same time, the demographics are significantly younger than most of the traditional sports, which is certainly appealing to a brand that wants to reach a younger audience.”
State Farm is the first non-endemic sponsor of the NBA 2K League, which had already signed deals with four gaming hardware suppliers.
NBA 2K League sponsors
• Dell Alienware
• Scuf Gaming
• State Farm
In January, State Farm became the first sponsor of the reconstituted North American League Championship Series, run by Riot Games, and then in March signed on for the fifth season of the Rocket League Championship Series, run by Psyonix.
In the NBA 2K League deal, State Farm gets virtual courtside signage during the next two regular-season tournaments and the NBA 2K League finals in August. It also gets presenting rights to pregame segments on the Twitch broadcasts called “Game Mode,” which feature players sharing strategy and insights from their games. The videos also will be distributed on league social channels and on a weekly feature at nba2kleague.com.
Despite its provenance within a respected major sports league and the popularity of the 2K series among casual gamers, the 2K League has faced doubts about the market’s interest in a basketball simulation as a spectator property.
Gold acknowledged the 2K League is a “learning experience.” Financial terms and the duration of the 2K deal were not disclosed, though Brendan Donohue, NBA 2K League managing director, said the vast majority of its deals cover multiple years. One industry source said 2K League deals were priced in the mid-to-high six figures.
“I think that we’re all going to learn whether players of console games will become fans of the esports leagues that utilize that game,” Gold said. “I think it’s a learning experience for all of us: game makers, leagues, teams, partners, everybody.”
In its first two weeks, 2K League viewership on Twitch peaked at 13,703 on its May 1 opening night, then gradually fell off into the high four figures by the finals of the tipoff tournament and the first week of regular play, according to The Esports Observer Audience Insights. By comparison, peak daily viewership during Overwatch League action ranged from 126,000 to 203,000 in the same window.
Donohue said the league is happy with its viewership, calling it “pretty close to what we expected.”
State Farm joins Intel, Dell Alienware, HyperX and Scuf Gaming in the NBA 2K League’s sponsor portfolio.
ReKT Global is State Farm’s esports agency of record. CEO Dave Bialek, who is credited with bringing the idea of buying advertising space on basketball hoop stanchions to State Farm in the 2000s, advised on the deal.
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