League of Legends developer Riot Games has just entered a partnership with the data analytics company Nielsen. According to their agreement, Riot will provide Nielsen the latest information on streaming viewership data (including Pro View) to measure sponsorship valuation for LoL esports competitions all over the globe.
Nielsen will also include brand exposure data in its esports reports and track that exposure during specific League of Legends events this year and next.
It’s clear this move is meant to highlight the benefits of sponsoring LoL esports events. The question is, will it work?
Signs of confidence
It’s no secret Riot has historically struggled to acquire sponsorships for their esports products. Or rather, they’ve been very selective in their partners. Director of Esports Dustin “Redbeard” Beck has even gone on record saying his company doesn’t “want to be the Nascar of eSports with logos everywhere.”
However, even if you account for this statement, Riot has the most prominent esports broadcasts in the world. And the fact that one of its most popular competitions—the League of Legends Championship Series (or LCS)—is still severely lacking in sponsorships hints that either the company has been too picky about signing partnerships or there isn’t as much value in LoL esports as there appears to be at first glance.
Riot seems confident in disputing the latter claim. After all, no company would open its data to a third-party if it wasn’t confident in a favorable valuation.
This stems from a place of finally making esports broadcasts profitable. Riot Games’ head of global events, Derrick “FearGorm” Asiedu, has said the company doesn’t “want to continue to be in startup mode … [Riot Games is] now a mature business and costs need to be more in line with revenue in the future.”
Of course, the company has already been organizing large-scale gaming events for almost eight years. Thus, some would argue this decision comes a few years too late.
Shift in perspective
In the past, Riot often treated its esports scene as a giant advertisement for League of Legends. The images of massive stadiums, professional commentators, and colorful gameplay made a powerful impression—one that has almost certainly prompted players to create new League of Legends accounts.
However, an esports broadcast is a product in itself. The company wants to treat it as such, acquiring high-profile sponsors like Kia and MasterCard. And the idea of receiving an esports sponsorship valuation and presenting investors with comprehensive brand exposure data is another important step in this direction.
Image courtesy of Riot Games.