Jack in the Box is ordering up a multiyear multimillion-dollar sponsorship with the Dallas Fuel, the new Overwatch League team owned by Team EnVyUs. The fast-food chain will serve as the first jersey sponsor for the franchise and will also appear on the jersey of the EnVyUs Call of Duty team according to ESPN. “Entering the world of esports is a natural fit for Jack in the Box as the platform aligns with the challenger spirit of the brand — a spirit that sidesteps conformity and celebrates the unconventional at every chance,” said Jack in the Box marketing communications director Adrienne Ingoldt in a statement. “We’re committed to sustaining a sponsorship program that looks beyond the current social and traditional advertising strategies to create a more fan-centric experience.”
Speaking of which, Overwatch League spawned its first round of league sponsorships with Blizzard announcing that HP Inc. and Intel had both signed on for major sponsorship deals for the new league. As part of the multiyear agreements, Intel will sponsor future Overwatch competitive events in addition to the Overwatch League. Players taking part in these events will be equipped with gaming hardware from both HP and Intel. HP, and more specifically, its OMEN by HP gaming PCs and displays will be used exclusively for Overwatch League games, with PCs powered by Intel Core i7 processors. “We’re thrilled to be joining forces with HP and Intel to ensure that the teams competing professionally in Overwatch are equipped with top-end technology,” said Pete Vlastelica, president & CEO of Blizzard Entertainment’s Major League Gaming division. “Multiyear collaborations such as this illustrate the momentum behind the Overwatch League as well as a long-term commitment by us and our partners in what we see as the future of esports.”
Esports and sports management veterans, Drew Holt-Kentwell, founder of Catalyst Esports Solutions and former head of global esports at Razer, and Roger R. Quiles, esports attorney and sports agent, announced the launch of FTW Talent, a new global talent agency that will be headquartered in New York with offices in Singapore. The company will look to “set a higher standard of representation for aspiring and seasoned influencers in the esports industry by focusing on exceptional execution, one-to-one strategic analysis and guidance, and end-to-end career management” with main capabilities that include career guidance and protection; contract negotiation; pro-active search for endorsements, sponsorships and team placement opportunities; business management and monetization strategy; dispute resolution; and post-career management across the North American and Southeast Asian region.
Dell and Y&R North America are unveiling a campaign anchored by a slate of influencers designed to “redefine the perception of gamers and reach consumers leading into Black Friday. The campaign features notable gamers such as Gamer Grandpa, WWE’s Xavier Woods, Nerdist host and mom Jessica Chobot and Tea Dignitas.
RFRSH Entertainment announced that the BLAST Pro Series inked a deal with Unibet, one of the largest betting brands across Europe and in Australia, to become the exclusive betting partner of the new tournament. The World Premiere of the new tournament will take place on November 24-25. Unibet will provide a wide range of outright odds through the tournament with special head-to-head offers as the tournament unfolds.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is the latest heavyweight sports personality to make a significant investment in esports, snagging a majority stake (along with real estate magnate John Goff) in CompLexity Gaming. The Jones family and Goff’s Goff Holdings company will serve as the majority owners of the company, with CompLexity CEO and co-founder Jason Lake remaining in his position and retaining a minority interest with the team relocating to Frisco, Texas where, according to the team, they will build “a state-of-the-art operations center and global headquarters” at the new location.
Premier League staple QPR is the latest sports entity to dive into esports waters, announcing plans to launch a team for FIFA play in partnership with Virtual Pro Gaming. The club launched an esports-focused Twitter channel @QPReSports to support the franchise.
TEAM SPOTLIGHT – SAMSUNG GALAXY
Social media index and valuation platform MVPindex is now plugging into esports, announcing plans to track, measure and value the social media impact of nearly 2,500 esports leagues, tournaments, teams, players, and games across leading social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The MVPindex score is composed of three different variables: Reach, Engagement, and Conversation. In the inaugural MVPindex esports rankings, one team dominated the charts: FaZe Rug is #1 on the list of Top Players/Personalities with a score of .998, while FaZe Clan ranked #1 among esports teams with a score of .989. “Brands are already investing in esports with in-game content, but our index also shows there are huge levels of engagement around lifestyle content with esports celebrities and influencers,“ said Kyle Nelson, co-founder and CMO of MVPindex. “MVPindex has set the new standard with our social measurement and valuation platform in sports, and brands rely on our real-time data to make strategic business decisions. Our new esports index can help them navigate the rapidly changing esports digital landscape and understand the true ROI they’re getting from their activations and sponsorships.”
Former WME/IMG esports topper Tobias Sherman is launching Foundry IV, a new game studio with the aim to create a competitive esports-focused title from the ground-up, according to ESPN. Partnering with co-founders Simon Abitbol and Lilia Russo Sherman, the company has already landed seed round investment from MGM Resorts International and is working through Series A funding, noting in a statement that “Franchise owners will gain an equity stake in every game we develop and all revenue streams associated, whether it’s sales on PC, sponsor partnerships, media or the league itself.”
Blizzard reports that more than 30,000 players gathered in Anaheim for BlizzCon 2017, which saw a slate of announcements for its titles that included: a new expansion for World of Warcraft in Battle for Azeroth as well as plans to develop WoW® Classic; the Hearthstone expantion Kobolds & Catacombs; StarCraft II becoming free-to-play as of Nov. 14; Heroes of the Storm seeing the entry of Hanzo and Alexstrasza as well as voice chat and performance-based matchmaking; and Overwatch revealing the new support hero Moira, along with a new map in Blizzard World.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has now topped 20 million copies sold, according to the game’s creative director Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene. The is less than a month since the title bested the 15 million mark in October.
Millennial Esports Corp. announced the formation of a new division focused on the creation and implementation of blockchain based ‘in game and cross platform’ game and digital content tokens. The company is currently exploring various synergies in implementing blockchain-based applications and protocols to enhance the community and user experience.”In my 25 years in the gaming and entertainment space, I have never seen such a potentially disruptive and paradigm changing technology like blockchain. If ‘content is king’ then blockchain is the ‘queen’ that wields the real power,” said Millennial Esports CEO, Alex Igelman, who was been following the business of blockchain for several years. “Our company is now poised to enter this space and is focused on successfully integrating the new division with our existing assets in order to maximize shareholder value.”
Activision announced that the newly-released Call of Duty: WWII has already topped more than $500 million in sell-through worldwide in its first three days of release. On PlayStation 4, the title set a record as the best-selling digital full game by units sold on its first day of availability. Overall unit sales at launch doubled year-over-year globally. “We challenged our players to get their squads back together and they answered the call with the highest number of players we’ve ever seen on current gen consoles and PC,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision. “Call of Duty: WWII returns the franchise to its roots and the results are incredible, selling twice as many units in its opening weekend as last year and setting the day one record for full-game downloads on PlayStation 4. Our $500 million opening weekend was not only bigger than Thor: Ragnarok‘s, it was bigger than the opening weekends of both Thor and Wonder Woman combined. And we’re committed to supporting the community with continuous improvements and new content.”
South Korean police reportedly raided the offices of the Korean Esports Association on Monday, following corruption allegations. Local papers writes that prosecutors are investigating funds received by an unnamed former KeSPA president in 2015 from Lotte Homeshopping, a company later involved in two major bribery scandals, as well as a sponsorship deal between the two parties in 2015, when Lotte Homeshopping sponsored the KeSPA Cup.
POWER PLAYERS – Martin Keely, Major League Gaming
Amid the crowds that flocked to Anaheim for BlizzCon last week, anchoring the center of the event for the first time, was MLG, which launched a slate of new media initiatives at the event under a new logo to mark the next chapter in the brand’s storied run in esports. Serving up production that included the series MLG Checkpoint, along with a new digital home at MLG.com and new mobile apps, MLG continues to evolve under recent executive hires, and continues to reposition its media platforms and content in addition to its run of events such as the Call of Duty World League.
Cynopsis caught up with Martin Keely, Head of Operations, MLG Networks at Major League Gaming to break down the company’s media plan moving forward.
On MLG’s approach to Blizzcon: BlizzCon was interesting for us this year because it was the first time that MLG really had a runway to prepare and plan its participation as part of the Blizzard family. So the opportunity that the programming team saw was the chance to create the show Checkpoint, which brings the best of all Blizzard esports to our desk, and bring some of the athletes and participants the opportunity to talk about their own experiences and share that out. So I think this marks a foundational step to start to demonstrate that MLG is part of the Blizzard universe and talk to the fans here so that they are aware of MLG as the platform and place to watch premier esports content. This has also been a terrific opportunity for us to build relationships throughout the company and develop a lot of original programs, with Checkpoint being the first of many to come.
On goals: There are two main businesses now for MLG. The first is operating professional leagues such Overwatch League and getting that off the ground this year as well as Call of Duty World League. The other big part of the business, which I am really focused on, is the media business. We want to develop MLG as a digital network where people can come to watch the best esports and we will be broadcasting and streaming thousands of hours of events and not just from Blizzard and Activision, but also with third-party games. We are working with Gears of Wars currently. We want to be the top destination for the best esports content and we are first starting by relaunching MLG under MLG.com, as we acquired that domain. I think MLG has this unique place in the esports landscape, it is a pioneer and we want to expand and build on that.
On the future: Eventually, we will look at MLG that same way some traditional media companies operate their sports networks where you will find MLG-powered experiences in and around Blizzard games and on other digital platforms where we can participate as a partner. We are just getting started on that journey but first we wanted to build a strong foundation of our apps. The road ahead will be about how we find the right distribution for this network.
On Overwatch League content: MLG will be responsible for producing broadcasts for it. Everything related to the live events that are either streamed or televised – depending on how our media deals work out – as well as shoulder programming that goes along with the league such as pre- and post-shows as well as the story-telling of the athletes and the teams. We are starting a new league so a lot of these players may be well known to the esports community, but we want to capture casual fans as well. So we are going to be doing reality, behind-the-scenes programming so people know about the training and work that goes into play.