Game developer Riot Games has extended its relationship with Mercedes Benz until at least 2025. The German luxury car brand’s contract has been in effect ever since 2020, and they will continue for the next three years as the exclusive automotive partner of all global League of Legends esports events.
The company’s statement said that all measures and activations are “intended for the further development of the global esports culture” and will “thus strengthen the worldwide LoL community.” They also stated that the partnership’s annual highlight is the Worlds, League of Legends’ official world championship.
Esports Partnerships on the Rise
As part of the deal, the partnership will continue its tie-up with U.S. based Aether Diamonds to produce a Championship Ring for the winning Worlds team. The commemorative ring was first unveiled in 2021, and the tradition continues this year with a sustainable approach. Aether Diamonds manufactures diamonds with carbon captured directly from the atmosphere, rather than mined out of the ground.
Esports brand partnerships are on the rise, despite mounting recession fears and the industry being hit hard by the pandemic. More companies are recognizing and tapping into the fast growing potential of competitive gaming, and are keen to cash in on the burgeoning market. Mercedes-Benz have been highly active in the esports industry ever since they partnered with ESL in 2017, which they renewed later in 2020. They sponsored the LPL team Royal Never Give Up in 2018, and next year purchased a 67% stake in the LEC’s SK Gaming.
In June, the LoL offseason before tournaments kicked off their summers, there was an influx of new signings for teams from a variety of organizations ranging from cosmetic brands to tech giants to cryptocurrency exchanges. Garnier Fructis partnered with Team Vitality while Japanese automotive conglomerate Honda signed a naming rights deal with Team Liquid.
Brazilian esports organisation FURIA is now being sponsored by cryptocurrency exchange company FTX, who are reportedly paying $3.2m for the one-year deal. ASUS too entered into a sponsorship with ESL Gaming. Perhaps the biggest deal so far was information technology firm Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s partnership with Evil Geniuses. That deal was described by EG’s CEO Nicole LaPointe Jameson as “the biggest data partnership in all of esports,” but she didn’t shed light on the specific figures involved.
Improved Esports Campaigns
Esports campaigns in 2022 are a whole different beast compared to what they were in 2008 when the first recession hit. Back then partnerships were focused on the competitive side of gaming, but eventually found their market stagnated. Their target eventually switched directions to appeal to the casual, everyday-gamer, with an emphasis on influencers and there hit the jackpot.
Esports orgs increased funding toward the non-competitive side of the gaming community – for instance, supporting their team members who retired from pro-play to become full-time influencers, as well as signing dedicated entertainers and influencer talent to grow their market rather than focusing simply on the competitive aspect. Take a look at the organization 100 Thieves, who now feature more prominent influencers on their roster than top-level competitors.
In a nutshell, all it comes down to is capturing the attention of the everyday gamer, still in many ways a vast well of potential just waiting to be tapped. This concept was expanded upon by G2 Esports chief revenue officer Irina Shames, who said, “When fandom is there, partners will flock to us, because for brands, it’s important to reach their audience at the time and place where they’re most open to that messaging.”
The esports industry remained strong even during global crises like the 2008 recession, as well as surviving the pandemic over the last couple of years with fan attendance numbers remaining unwavering during those periods. It seems that big brands are increasingly viewing esports partnerships as a secure bet, unshakeable even by the looming recession predicted in 2023.
Irina Shames said, “Pringles, or Red Bull or whatever, they’re partnering with us because they know that they’re part of this ecosystem where fans are super excited that brands support their favorite scene — so that will always be there.”