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  • Matt Kimball

EWD: News for Week of 1/3/22 - 1/9/22

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

Key Topics: Partnerships, Copyright, COVID-19

Partnerships


American Express X NBA 2K22


American Express and NBA 2K have teamed up to launch an immersive pop-up experience in downtown Los Angeles. As part of American Express' renewed partnership with the NBA inked in early October 2021, the deal included an NBA 2K22 crossover partnership. Agencies Momentum, Day One Agency, UM and Wasserman Media Group worked on this great campaign. The pop-up event took place on December 10-12, 2021 and brought the NBA 2K digital world to life for Card Members and fans to experience.


Amex card members who visit the experience could claim free NBA 2K digital merchandise for their in-game player using NBA 2K22 codes, including merch from popular apparel brands such as Mitchell & Ness, OVO, and Under Armour. Additionally, Amex members could purchase exclusive physical NBA gear. Other deliverables to this event included a place where 2K players could scan and upload their faces to the app for their in-game player, an "infinity cube" of wall-to-wall mirrors for fans to immerse them into the sights and sounds of NBA 2K22, and receiving 35,000 virtual currency in-game if one purchased the game using their Amex card. 6-time All-NBA star Paul George and 2-time WNBA champion Breanna Stewart also made an appearance to face off in a 1-on-1 NBA 2K22 match streamed via the NBA Twitch channel.


Shizuka Suzuki, VP of global experiential marketing and partnerships at American Express, aimed to merge real-life and the virtual experiences of this game into a very interactive pop-up event. She stated:

Insights tell us that NBA 2K players are always looking to collect digital merchandise no differently than in real life. We always want that latest shoe drop or that exclusive jersey

She hit the nail on the head with this hybrid campaign activation. It both gives Amex members a sense of exclusivity as they receive virtual currency in-game, digital swag, and officially licensed NBA gear while also cultivating brand awareness through the Paul George and Breana Stewart 2K Match on NBA's Twitch livestream. NBA 2K22 did a very good job in this game with making a city for 2K players to move freely and show off their outfits in an online environment. This collaboration is so good on all levels and I expect more companies to enter the foray soon.


CTRL X Ahman Green


Former NFL Player and current Lakeland University esports coach Ahman Green has been named a brand ambassador for meal replacement company CTRL. CTRL has made a surge into the scene since it was founded by former Team Envy founder and Chief Creative Officer for Gamma Labs GFuel in 2018. The brand focuses on meal replacement protein shakes that are advertised as a cheaper, healthier, and quicker alternative to standard meals which are perfect for a gamer lifestyle.


Alex Matthysse, Head of Partnerships at CTRL, stated:

To partner with an athlete of Ahman’s caliber is a major move for CTRL, it shows that our product is not only for gamers but for anyone who wants to lead a healthy lifestyle. Ahman has tried hundreds of meal replacements and protein shakes in his career and for him to choose CTRL to partner with shows the potential our product and brand has.

This partnership is a perfect fit for what Alex and CTRL are trying to achieve in both the gaming and lifestyle verticals of their business. Partnering with a big-name athlete such as Ahman Green validates that the product is not only meant for gamers, it's for everyone trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Ahman represents both sides of the coin.


Team Vitality X Tezos


French esports organization Team Vitality has partnered with blockchain technology company Tezos. In a multi-year deal, Tezos becomes the main technical partner of the organization. The collaboration is said to give fans of Team Vitality even more access to their team through new fan experiences. Tezos aims to also reward and educate fans on blockchain and its benefits.


The multi-year deal is described as Team Vitality’s largest ever partnership and ‘one of the biggest in European esports history.' Tezos will also get front-of-shirt jersey patches and visibility across the competitive gaming outfit’s digital assets.


Blockchain technology and gaming industry partnerships continue to happen and this is just another example of that. It's a great fit as this partnership will likely open new revenue streams and leverage new opportunities for fan-centric activations in the future. Most importantly, Tezos will certainly aim to gain trust with more esports fans of its' blockchain tech through educational initiatives.


Vitality has been busy to start the new year as they also received a €50 million investment from esports venture fund Rewired.gg. Rewired.gg has been a significant contributor for Team Vitality in the past and this investment will help the team develop 'European super teams' going forward. They officially announced the signings of former Astralis CS:GO players Peter ‘dupreeh’ Rasmussen, Emil ‘magisk’ Reif and coach Danny ‘zonic’ Sørensen as well.


AOE Esports X Immortals


Area of Effect (AOE) Esports and Immortals to enter the LCS Amateur Circuit together. The team will be called Immortals AOE and they'll combine their resources together to make a more structured AM team.


Immortals joins a list of other LCS teams that have since created teams in the amateur scene as an ongoing project to develop new young talent. Immortals, in their statement, said:

Our goal is to bridge the gap between amateur and professional esports, to develop and execute the first true talent discovery and development pipeline at scale

They are also prioritizing their efforts to grow in the Great Lakes Region (GLR) with this team. They noted that they're making the commitment to maintain an active roster of at least 3 out of 5 players directly from the GLR. As I mentioned in last week's post, Immortals is moving their business operations to the GLR.


Combining with an existing organization in the LCS Amateur Circuit makes a ton of sense. Your merging capital to field a competitive team that can create a pipeline of talent for the Immortals LCS starting roster going forward. We've also seen this last year with Dignitas Mirage: a partnership of Dignitas and Mirage Sport Electronique.


Other News


Copyright Strikes Again


Twitch superstars Pokimane and HasanAbi have been banned or given a copyright takedown for reacting to TV shows. Pokimane was banned for an unknown period of time from Twitch for watching Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender while HasanAbi was the one to receive a copyright takedown for watching Fox Network’s Masterchef

Copyright infringements usually lead to the streamer facing penalties from Twitch, such as a warning, suspension, or even a full-on ban. It Previously was 3 strikes and you’re out. Now, it’s under twitch’s discretion to ban or suspend streamers after “repeat infringement.” This, along with many streamers reacting to copyrighted Tv shows/movies, makes streamers feel much less worried about potential copyright infringements on their channels. It’s also noteworthy that Twitch doesn’t have an exhaustive copyright system in place that flags/takes down streams/VOD’s like YouTube does.

However, registered copyright owners can file a lawsuit in federal district court and receive profits from an offender who makes any profits on the infringed material. If you violate the DMCA, you could face criminal penalties as well. When an alleged offender willfully violates the DMCA rules for financial gain, Criminal cases can happen.

It’s yet to happen, but it’s possible that streamers can go to court for this and lose a significant amount of money. Who knows, maybe some of these big media companies are building up a giant lawsuit for it (as Industry savant Devin Nash mentioned in his YT video on this topic). This is definitely to the extreme and I don’t believe this is happening.


On the contrary, almost all Twitch content is essentially a copyright infringement. Video game publishers can very well DMCA strike streamers for playing their game for content, and inevitably, a profit. Nintendo is the only notable one to do this. I think it’s obvious that game developers don’t take down creators playing their game because it brings publicity and potential future sales of the game.

I personally don’t see the problem with streamers reacting to older TV content. Just like streamers playing video games, it gives a TV series publicity. For example, HasanAbi streaming a nearly 10-year old season of Fox’s MasterChef shouldn’t affect Fox’s profits because the majority of passionate MasterChef viewers already watched it. Streamers reacting to old shows gives a set of new eyes on any given TV series, and as a result breed new viewers to brand new seasons on cable TV. It’s certainly a problem though if streamers react to new movies and TV series’ that are behind a paywall and deviate viewers away from live media content.


LCS and HCS Tournament Changes


Due to the surge of COVID-19 cases and the Omicron variant, both Halo Championship Series (HCS) and League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) tournaments in Los Angeles have been altered.


Days after the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) announced they're moving the Spring Split to an online format, the LCS Lock In Tournament will be played online as well instead of their LCS Studio. With the rising COVID-19 cases and the LCS’s main mission to keep its players, coaches, and staff safe, it's uncertain when the competition will return to a LAN environment. Fans on Twitter don't seem very happy with this announcement as fans haven't been able to watch LCS competition in-person since the Pandemic started. However, critics have to acknowledge the risks of having an event take place with the world's current surge of the Omicron variant. The LCS Lock In begins January 14th.


The HCS Anaheim NA Regional Championship that's set to take place next month announced that spectators will no longer be allowed. Additionally, the tournament's open bracket will now be an online-only event. The qualifier will determine the remaining 8 teams that'll join the top-8 teams from the HCS Kickoff Major in Raleigh. More information about the event will be announced on January 14th.


With the recent Raleigh event peaking at 171,000 viewers on Championship Sunday (Dec. 19), and not even including all the watch parties and YouTube broadcast, Halo Esports is in a really good place right now. However, the Raleigh event saw an OpTic member, who was a spectator, get COVID-19 as well. I'm unsure if any pros contracted the virus.


New York Islanders Enter Esports


NHL Hockey team New York Islanders announces launch of Isles Gaming Team (Isles GT). This is the organization's first foray into the esports industry. According to the team's announcement, Isles GT will be made up 6 professional players who will compete in both one-vs-one and six-vs-six NHL esports tournaments. The team will create gaming content as well. Along with the new team, they will also host the IGT Circuit which is a series of NHL 22 tournaments for fans to compete in.


This announcement is obviously very encouraging for the growth of NHL esports. as more teams get into the space, it's inevitable that the player base to compete competitively will continue to grow. Casual gamers will begin to realize that there's a career in being the best of the best in playing sports video games and will strive to go pro for their favorite NHL teams. I just hope the integrity and style of competitive play isn't deviated so much from traditional play. I believe this is what's limiting the traction of the NBA 2K G League. I'm for sure keeping a radar on the growth of NHL esports over the next year.


G2 Esports Expands into Music


European gaming organization G2 Esports takes its first major leap into entertainment with their own record label and single called 'Our Way'. The music video features the organization's founder and CEO Carlos 'ocelote' Rodriguez. The video also showcases the launch of their brand new 2022 jerseys created in partnership with global sportswear brand Adidas.


Carlos said that their the #1 esports organization in the world as well as state:

We are setting the stage to entertain everybody beyond just competitive video games. This is the beginning of an insane, fun ride.

Although we've seen esports organizations and content creators work with music artists and record labels, I've never seen a team create their own entire label. I think it's a great idea and a great first start for G2 Esports as they move more into the entertainment vertical of their business. Who knows, maybe the music they produce can be so good to where creators decide to listen to them on stream. That would be great free promotion and Carlos said on Twitter that their debut song is copyright free.

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