EWD: News for Week of 1/10/22-1/16/22
Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Key Topics: Partnerships, ESA, DOTA 2, EVOS Esports
Immortals x Progressive Insurance
Once again, Immortals is making noise as they announced a multi-year League of Legends naming rights deal with Progressive Insurance last week. The exclusive entitlement agreement will now see Immortals' LCS team be rebranded to "Immortals Progressive."
Along with the announcement, Immortals Progressive revealed their "Northern Lights" themed jerseys and branding. Both Progressive Insurance and now Immortals are based in the Great Lakes Region, thus creating the new branding concept. Additionally, Immortals Progressive will bring several interactive initiatives to the gaming community in 2022. The initiatives include:
3 community tournaments broadcasted on Twitch with LCS talent/influencers commentating
A scheduled streaming program throughout 2022 with Immortals content creators known as Progressive Gaming
Minecraft activations through building contests and custom games. Fans compete with incentivized gaming prizes
Giveaways on Immortals Twitter account after each LCS win
Although this sponsorship deal is not at all an endemic fit, Progressive Insurance has quite an expansive sponsorship portfolio and strong recognition within its' signature advertisements. There announcement video was very creative in showcasing the Flo character with its' creators, including Immortals' Aria Saki 'IRL streaming' at the set of the announcement. Along with the fact that they have geographical ties, this appears to be a great fit and beneficial for both parties involved. Besides streaming content with Immortals creators, Progressive Insurance even scheduled out many competitions for getting new and loyal fans involved with the brand in 2022. Immortals keeps making impressive moves since relocating to the Great Lakes Region, and getting support from a Fortune 500 company to kick off 2022 is impressive to say the least.
FlyQuest x Mastercard
Los Angeles based esports organization FlyQuest signed a one-year sponsorship deal with Mastercard. The global payment technology behemoth is designated as the official financial services partner of FlyQuest's League of Legends teams. Mastercard's logo will also be placed on the FlyQuest team jerseys throughout the 2022 LCS season.
Mastercard has been a staple within competitive League of Legends play since becoming the 1st-ever global sponsor in 2018. FlyQuest as an organization only competes in League of Legends. Together, they believe there's a "synergistic partnership" together. FlyQuest CEO Tricia Sugita stated:
We have always been committed to ensuring that any partner that joins the FlyQuest family must match our values, which is why I’m so thrilled FlyQuest is partnering with Mastercard
This is a very encouraging quote from Tricia Sugita about this partnership. Many collaborations with non-endemic brands within esports can feel unauthentic and seem like there's a lack of shared objectives with each other. Mastercard, whether within esports or traditional sports, has always been one of the best in emphasizing their brand identity through their "Priceless" sponsorship campaigns. Advertising fatigue is a real thing, so creating stories that are meaningful for consumers rather than throwing random messaging goes a long way. CMO for Mastercard, Raja Rajamannar put it like this:
Advertising is dead in its current form ... The future is all about story making, which is creating and curating experiences for customers and consumers. They narrate those experiences, they tell their own stories, and the brand is subtly embedded in those stories.
They didn't share the activations and deliverables that'll be executed during the 2022 LCS season (as of 1/17/22).
Excel Esports x JD Sports
British esports organization Excel Esports has landed a partnership with UK-based sports fashion retailer JD Sports. The logo will be placed on the front and back of Excel's jerseys in 2022. JD will also have exclusive naming rights to Excel’s academy roster currently competing in the Northern League of Legends Championship (NLC). The new academy roster will play under the name JDXL.
Based on Wouter Sleijffers' (CEO of Excel Esports) and Peter Cowgill's statements (Executive Chairman of JD Sports), they clearly have a goal in mind with this partnership. They aim to cross-pollinate gaming and sports communities while also delivering incredible virtual experiences. This partnership highlights the ongoing trend of fashion and esports brands working together and I quite like the cross-over effect it has.
MSG Sports x Anheuser-Busch
Anheuser-Busch is now partnering with MSG Sports' esports properties CLG and Knicks Gaming as part of a multi-year marketing sponsorship renewal package with MSG. CLG competes in the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) while Knicks Gaming competes in the NBA 2k League.
A-B will work together with the esports properties in bringing livestream content on Twitch to provide fans with "insider access to the organizations." Matt Davis, Sr. Director of Sponsorships, mentioned how partnering with their esports properties will bring them "incredible access to even more fans."
This isn't the first time A-B InBev has dabbled in esports. Their no-alcohol beverage unit called NABev worked with a team of gamers to create an energy drink called Fusion. They then leveraged partnerships, activations, and influencers to build good rapport with Fusion in the Brazil and China gaming communities. Ana Henriques, Global VP of NABev stated that those 2 countries accounted for 1/5th of the global esports market at the time. In North America, the A-B InBev's Bud Light team built activations and gaming experiences through the creation of their Bud Light Twitch channel, the Bud Light Beer League tournament, and partnering with established esports athletes.
It's clear that A-B knows the esports market offers a lot of potential in reaching new audiences. They also know that "authenticity is key" as non-endemic brands enter the market. If they're able to build their Fusion Energy drink and compete within the North American energy drink market in the future, they'll have a much higher chance in cultivating the gaming community.
Envy Gaming to operate Esports Stadium Arlington
Texas-based esports organization Envy Gaming acquired the operating contract for Esports Stadium Arlington (ESA). ESA was previously operated by Esports Venues LLC, a group owned by Texas Rangers co-owner Neil Leibman and other investors. The Dallas Morning News reported that Envy will pay lease payments totalling $2.35 million over eight years, with the first three years costing $250,000 annually.
City Manager Trey Yelverton thoughts on the impact ESA has on the city of Arlington:
Esports Stadium Arlington has been in the national spotlight since day one with its high-tech capabilities and the caliber of new events it has brought to our city. Opening this stadium was part of our broader economic development strategy to appeal to a younger generation, to attract entrepreneurs in the fast-growing esports industry, and to brand Arlington with a more modern vibe.
ESA is the largest turnkey space for large spectator gaming events with all the bells and whistles. Geoff Moore, COO at Envy, emphasized that Envy Gaming wants to give the passionate gaming community an opportunity to enjoy top-level competitions in a social environment.
One thing that hasn't really been talked about is if the previous ESA staff has been laid off or how much Arlington taxpayers have lost in the deal. Obviously the pandemic limited the ability to host many live events and is probably a big reason why it was sold off. I look forward to seeing the upcoming Call of Duty League's inaugural Kickoff Classic tournament this weekend (Jan. 21-23) at ESA. Lastly, I hope the health and safety of event staff, fans, and players is of the upmost importance.
Valve cancelled first Dota 2 Major of 2022
Game developer Valve has cancelled its first Dota 2 Major of 2022, an event that was expected to conclude Dota Pro Circuit’s (DPC) Winter Tour. Major backlash ensued on social media by the passionate Dota 2 esports community over the cancellation.
Valve provided an update and apology to Dota 2 teams via email. The email was sent to teams on Jan. 12 and was posted publicly by Team Secret's Operations Director Matthew "Cyborgmatt" Bailey Some of the main highlights from Valve's statement was this:
Major had to be cancelled due to the risks of Omicron variant, travel issues, and the lack of willingness from tournament organizers to run the event.
They wish they should've taken a different approach earlier to end the first season.
Currently working towards getting “everyone together in one location” and hosting an offline event.
Valve, however, did not address the main concern from the community: the lack of communication and the lack of stability in the competitive scene. Owen “ODPixel” Davies questioned Valve on Twitter about what they're planning to do with its $500,000 prize pool that would have gone to teams competing at the first major of the 2022 DPC. Valve hasn't commented on this matter.
Lack of communication from game developers has been an ongoing issue in other esports as well. As I mentioned in my 1st weekly recap, Call of Duty Esports has never had consistent communication from game developers. Fans and players from another Valve title, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, have gotten frustrated with the lack of updates on the game over the years. Former CS:GO pro turned content creator, Michael "Shroud" Grzesiek said on his stream that CS:GO is "dated" and Valve needs to step up. It's clear that some game developers either don't care about potential growth/improvements for esports in their game titles, or they don't have the right people listening to community feedback.
EVOS Esports Expands into basketball
Southeast Asian esports organization EVOS Esports has expanded into traditional sports with their own basketball team, EVOS Thunder Bogor. The team will be based in Bogor City, Indonesia and play professionally in the Indonesian Basketball League (IBL). The team will play in the EVOS Bucketlist venue for its home games.
EVOS is regarded as the most popular esports team in Southeast Asia. According to Esports Charts, the team has 6.4 million social followers as of February 2021. The team competes in mobile esports, League of Legends: Wild Rift, and Realm of Valor. Although we've seen basketball teams venture into esports, this is the first time seeing the opposite scenario. This is my first time looking into EVOS and the Southeast Asia basketball market, so I don't have much else to say on this. Managing Director of EVOS, Hartman Harris stated:
We are certainly very excited and happy with the inauguration of our new family EVOS Thunder Bogor. Through this expansion, we hope to bring new breakthroughs in the world of basketball and the sportainment industry. We chose basketball based on the interest and enthusiasm shown by our EVOS Fams for basketball.
Collegiate Rocket League expands globally
As competition continues to increase, as seen in the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) Fall Major, Rocket League Esports has decided to expand Collegiate Rocket League (CRL) globally. The Psyonix-run league is now introducing Europe to the CRL and for the first time ever hosting a Collegiate Rocket League World Championship.
In their announcement, they stated that the CRL World Championship replaces the previously held CRL National Championship and North American CRL will still operate like it had in previous years. The CRL during its Spring 2021 season had a shared prize pool of $75,000 in the form of scholarship. They have not announced the prize pool for the new CRL World Championship. The key difference they noted is that the best teams from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference will earn invites to the CRL World Championship that'll take place in June 2022.
They said that there will be a number of regional leagues across the continent to find the best teams in Europe. The top performers from those leagues will then qualify for the CRL World Championship. Prior to this announcement, European Rocket League tournaments were solely run by independent third-party entities.
I believe this is the 1st-ever official global collegiate league for an esport. This is quite an accomplishment from Rocket League Esports and this is setting the bar for collegiate esports projects for other game titles moving forward.