Investments in Esports: A Whole New Level In Popularity?

Some of the world’s biggest companies are investing heavily in esports sponsorship packages as they bid to win over a new generation of consumers. More than 450 million people now identify as fans of competitive gaming and the vast majority are either teens or young adults. Brand owners are desperate to appeal to this important demographic and they are investing millions of dollars in the esports industry.

Esport is becoming big businessThis cash provides a massive shot in the arm for gaming franchises, as it allows them to pay higher salaries and invest in training complexes, helping to make the entire scene more established and professional. Here are the biggest and most intriguing sponsorship deals in competitive gaming so far:

Intel and Electronic Sports League

Intel signed up as ESL’s global technology partner all the way back in 2000 and it has channelled huge amounts of money into the competitive gaming scene since then. The duo launched the Intel Extreme Masters in 2006 and it remains the longest running esports tournament in the world, covering CS:GO, League of Legends and PUBG. Tournaments have been held in Los Angeles, Dubai, Katowice and many more cities across the globe. 

In December 2018, Intel signed a $100 million three-year extension with ESL. Intel is referred to as an endemic esports sponsor, because its software is used to power tournaments and games, and it is a passionate advocate of this blossoming scene.

MasterCard and League of Legends

LoL is the world’s most popular esport and publisher Riot Games recently pulled off a significant coup by securing MasterCard as a sponsor. The credit card company is a major backer of traditional sports and it is excited about the potential of the pro gaming circuit. 

“Esports is a phenomenon that continues to grow in popularity, with fans that can rival those at any major sporting event in their enthusiasm and energy,” said Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing officer at MasterCard. “We are excited about the experiences and benefits we can bring to the world’s largest esport, both in-game and to the millions of League of Legends fans that watch and attend the tournaments each year.”

Samsung and Ninja

Fortnite star Ninja is by far and away the most popular streamer on Twitch and he is now earning $500,000 a month through his various sponsorship deals.

Red Bull and Uber Eats are among the well-known brands that have supported his journey to superstardom, but Samsung has really put him at the heart of its marketing. He featured in a mainstream commercial for the firm, while he has also made a number of live appearances at Samsung events and promoted the brand on social media.

Coca-Cola and Overwatch

Blizzard launched the Overwatch League to great fanfare last year and T-Mobile, Toyota and Sour Patch Kids were among the big names to sponsor it. The commercial team excelled itself further in 2019 by enticing Coca-Cola to become its official beverage partner.

The multi-year deal gives the soft drinks brand exclusivity with all 20 teams in the league, while its branding will also feature at collegiate and amateur events. The Overwatch League is also shown on Disney XD and ESPN 2, highlighting the mainstream acceptance of esports.

Marvel and Team Liquid

Marvel made its first foray into the esports world when it signed a commercial partnership with Team Liquid this year. Impact, Xmithie, Jensen, Doublelift, CoreJJ and TF Blade caused a major stir when they donned Captain America-inspired jerseys at League of Legends Rift Rivals 2019, which pitted the best North American teams against their European counterparts. 

The Europeans won the day, but Liquid held its own and even took down the mighty G2 Esports on the day. TL is the most successful esports team of all time, consistently rank amongst the top teams in games from League of Legends to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and are usually among the favourites amongst the best Esports betting markets, which you can see here

Marvel will lend a helping hand, and fans can purchase Captain America, Iron Man, and Quantum Realm T-shirts along the way. “I think it’s really exciting that such a huge company like Marvel would support Team Liquid,” said Jensen.

BMW and Cloud9

North American powerhouse Cloud9 signed a major sponsorship deal with car manufacturer BMW in March 2019. “It’s character that drives performance,” read the slogan as the team gathered around a BMW i8 to announce the news. Cloud9 is one of the world’s most valuable esports companies and its diverse list of sponsors includes the U.S. Air Force, Red Bull, HP, Twitch, HyperX and Puma. 

Car companies are investing heavily in the esports sector this year, as Audi sponsored Origen, Honda backed Team Liquid, Nissan tied up deals with FaZe Clan and OpTiC Gaming and Kia sponsored LEC, the European League of Legends competition.

Nike and Uzi

Chinese LoL player Uzi became Nike’s first ever esports ambassador when he signed a lucrative endorsement deal with the apparel giant. The Royal Never Give Up star instantly appeared in a commercial with LeBron James and he was catapulted to new levels of fame. 

Nike has continued investing in esports, and it recently backed emerging Brazilian team FURIA, which hit headlines by toppling the mighty Astralis last month. The FURIA players now have the famous Nike tick adorning their jerseys, and the brand is likely to ramp up its investment in esports going forwards.

PayPal and Rainbow Six

Tactical shooter Rainbow Six Siege is making great strides in the emerging esports industry and the $2 million Six Invitational was a roaring success this year. It has signed up a number of commercial partners, and PayPal is the most intriguing of the bunch.

It is now Siege’s “official payment platform”, and the sponsorship covers the 2019 league seasons, spanning North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, plus big live tournaments that bring the world’s finest players together.

Totino’s and 100Thieves

100Thieves did wonders for the credibility of esports when it attracted Grammy Award-winning artist Drake as a major investor last year. Totino’s, the producer of pizza snacks, wanted to get in on the action and they teamed up for a humorous marketing campaign. It was a lot more fun that many of the commercial partnerships the esports scene has witnessed, and it is sure to make 100T an attractive team for other brands going forwards.

KFC and Call of Duty

Call of Duty gained a finger licking good sponsor when it convinced KFC to host a tournament using its battle royale mode, Blackout. The tournament featured a $50,000 prize pool, but KFC also threw in another prize that is arguably a lot more valuable. The winner received a KFC black card, entitling them to free fried chicken on a daily basis.