Making esports work
Properties: Overwatch League, Houston Outlaws, 2017 League of Legends World Championship (North American sponsorship), Cloud9 (2017), Team SoloMid (2017)
Why it’s notable: With three major team deals and a multiyear arrangement with Overwatch League, T-Mobile has already secured its space as the most active telecom sponsor in North American esports by a wide margin. T-Mobile customers get VIP seating and discounts at Outlaws events, and the brand had title rights to Overwatch League’s regular-season and finals MVP awards. Among telecom competitors, Boost Mobile was an early mover in esports, sponsoring the MLG Pro Circuit in the 2000s, and recently rejoined with a deal with Turner’s ELeague.
Why it’s notable: Believed to be the first footwear deal in North America, Immortals has opened up a potentially lucrative new category. Also, K-Swiss will develop an Immortals-branded lifestyle shoe along with a competitive model for players, which will test fans’ interest in brand extensions outside of the traditional gaming products. (Adidas recently announced a deal to sponsor the Danish esports organization North.)
Brisk iced tea (PepsiCo)
Property: Rocket League
Why it’s notable: Brisk is back for its second year as presenting sponsor of a major summer event in the cars-playing-soccer video game, which it’s once again using to promote a limited-edition flavor. Last year, it produced three commercials with Rocket League game broadcasters to promote its watermelon-lemonade blend, which it also sold at Rocket League promotional displays in select 7-Eleven locations. This year it will do the same with Brisk Dual Force Guava Ginger Limeade during the Universal Open Rocket League.
Why it’s notable: Most U.S. sponsorship experts agree that alcohol, travel and financial services are the most lucrative categories yet to enter esports in a big way. But in January, Paysafecard, a European online prepaid payment system, signed a deal with ESL for category exclusivity across the tournament organizer’s range of major global events. Crucially, it’s also now a payment method online at the ESL Shop, ESEA and ESL Play, providing a direct link from the sponsorship to sale. That could be a template for any payment-processor credit card company to follow.
Property: Team SoloMid
Why it’s notable: After first signing as a sponsor in 2017, the parties announced a new marketing campaign in April that ties viewership of TSM players’ streams directly to a sales channel. Every TSM player’s Twitch streams include an advertising banner for Gillette, which when clicked on leads a viewer to Twitch owner Amazon’s page for those Gillette items. When a fan purchases the product through Amazon, the viewer receives 250 “bits,” a form of Twitch-only currency that can be used to donate real dollars to the streamers. This is a way for a media expenditure to drive sales, and represents one of Twitch’s major competitive advantages as an esports platform. “If you’re a brand that sells through Amazon, I think their ownership of Twitch is going to be really powerful,” said Johannes Waldstein, FanAI founder and CEO.
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