01/17/19: Riot continued to lock in partners ahead of the new season of LEC

It’s Thursday January 17, 2019 and this is your weekly early morning Esports briefing. For additional longer-form esports news plus jobs, a team directory, glossary, calendar and data, check out our new esports hub updated daily: http://cynopsisesports.com.

Another day, another deal for Riot Games, which has now locked in oil and gas behemoth Royal Dutch Shell to sponsor the League of Legends European Championship. The deal marks Shell’s first foray into esports, with the brand powering the Baron Power Play with Shell V-Power during LEC weekly broadcasts. “We’re proud to be collaborating with them on their very first quest to bring entertainment and value to esports fans across Europe,” Riot stated in the announcement.  In addition, Shell will provide League of Legends fans with in-game items via various regional promotions.

Blizzard announced that live events are coming to the 2019 season of Overwatch Contenders, as the program’s eight regions take part in interregional tournaments in a pair of live Showdown events featuring double-elimination-style brackets. Top performing teams will secure spots for their region to compete in the Contenders Gauntlet live event later in the year. The Pacific Showdown will take place from May 24–26 and will host the best teams from the Contenders Australia, China, Korea, and Pacific regions. The Atlantic Showdown will take place the following week from May 31–June 2. Teams in the two North America regions, as well as Europe and South America, will participate in that tournament. Top-performing regions will send their teams from Overwatch Contenders 2019 Season 2 to the Gauntlet, which takes places from Oct. 10–13 following the conclusion of the 2019 Overwatch League season
ESL and NODWIN Gaming announced the debut of ESL One powered by Intel in Mumbai, India that will run April 19-21. ESL One Mumbai 2019 will see 12 Dota 2 teams battle over a lion’s share of the $300,000 prize pool along with the championship trophy at India’s first Dota 2 mega event, hosting seven directly invited teams and four teams that enter via online qualifiers, which are set to take place in the regions Europe, North America, Greater China and Southeast Asia. Additionally, a local qualifier will be held in India to find the last participating team among India’s best.
The Pokémon Company is launching a new global circuit for fighting game Pokkén Tournament DX. The 2019 Pokkén Tournament DX Championship Series will host four international qualifiers that span Australia, Germany, and North America with the top players from each qualifier invited to the World Championship in DC, where players in each division will battle for a prize pool worth over $20,000.
Riot detailed broadcast times and matchups for the LCS North American league. The season kicks off on Jan. 26 with matchups that include: Cloud9/Team Liquid and TSM/100 Thieves. Saturday games will start at 5p ET, while Sunday games begin at 3p. 
Speaking of a big week for Riot, the publisher and Tencent, its owner, agreed to establish a joint esports venture, according to Score.gg, known as TenJing Sports, and establish a home in Shanghai where the entity will oversee operation of League of Legends tournaments in the country and related products. It will also see Riot and Tencent work together on developing new releases. Riot and Tencent will split shares in the venture evenly. The new company will be led by League of Legends IEG head of operation Jin E-bo and Riot Games China head Lin Song.
Gfinity will host the third EA FUT Champions Cup April as part of the EA SPORTS FIFA 19 Global Series in addition to the four previously announced events: the Gfinity FUT Champions Cup December, which took place at the end of last year, and three Licensed Qualifying Events which will run each month from January to March. All events will be held at the Gfinity Esports Arena in London. The tournament will span April 5-7 and feature 64 of the world’s best FIFA 19 players who have qualified through in-game online competitions.
The National Association of Collegiate Esports will host its first student Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament for the Spring 2019 semester in partnership with Skillshot. The online tournament opens fire on March 26 for both member and non-member NACE schools. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with NACE in providing esports competition for college students,” said Todd Harris, President of Skillshot. “We see first hand the value universities and students realize by adopting formal esports programs and working with NACE.”
In venue news, GameWorks announced the rollout of “eSports Lounges” in four additional sites nationwide, lining up new sites that will join current locations in Las Vegas, Denver and Seattle. The company’s new venues will open in the first quarter of the year, with locations in:
  • Chesapeake, Va. (Norfolk/Virginia Beach) – February 28
  • Schaumburg, Ill. (Chicago) – March 7
  • Minneapolis, Minn./Mall of America – March 14
  • Newport, Ky. (Cincinnati) – March 20
Meanwhile, the University of Washington is building an Esports Arena & Gaming Lounge in its Husky Union Building, with completion expected this spring. According to the announcement, the HUB Esports Arena & Gaming Lounge will serve as a “full-service, state-of-the-art gaming center” that offers both casual and competitive gaming, along with virtual reality in a 1,000 square-foot space.

Twitch streamers use the tile section of their channels to display information about their PC builds, sponsorships, and social media profiles. This week, Stream Hatchet investigates trends related to the influence of different social media platforms on Twitch in 2018. Here are the insights:
  • Twitter and YouTube have the largest influence on Twitch: Streamers who’ve linked YouTube and Twitter profiles generated a combined total of 12 billion hours watched in 2018.
  • The YouTube Hypothesis: YouTube may have the largest influence on viewership because it prolongs the value of livestream content. Streamers often edit livestreams to focus on the most exciting moments; new viewers may discover streamers on YouTube and follow them back to Twitch.
  • The Rise of Discord: Discord experienced the largest growth in Twitch influence over the last year. Its hours watched increased by 53% from January 2018 – December 2018.
For more insights, analysis, infographics and everything related to game streaming, visit us at: blog.streamhatchet.com.

Lots of action on the team front this week. Team Liquid locked in a new sponsorship deal with Jersey Mike’s Subs, where they’ve already “begun brainstorming fun ways to collaborate with Jersey Mike’s, including exclusive streams, special merchandise, and various fun campaigns.” In addition, the team will launch “Jersey Thursdays” today, offering a different player jersey on every third Thursday of each month. 
Cloud9 inked in a deal with Puma, to mark the brand’s largest esports deal to date. The deal involves Cloud9’s North American League of Legends Championship Series team for Spring Split with PUMA becoming the Official Apparel and the Official game-day Pants and Shoes provider of the Cloud9 LCS team. “Esports are becoming increasingly popular with our consumers, so this is a very exciting deal for us,” said Adam Petrick, PUMA’s Global Director of Marketing. “Cloud9 is poised to have a great LCS season, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. We look forward to working with the Cloud9 team to make sure their players look as stylish off-stage as they do on-stage.”
Collectables and trading card company Panini is partnering with esports outfit compLexity Gaming in a move that will see the two companies develop projects in the near future, including the launch of a Panini Twitch channel on Jan. 17. The companies will work to engage fans from both esports and traditional sports through original content collaborations, onsite activations, and collectible memorabilia. Complexity influencers and streamers from Madden, Fortnite, card games, and other gaming communities, will stream on the official Panini Twitch channel, alongside a dedicated monthly YouTube video, and social media posts.
North American esports organization Renegades entered a multi-year partnership with clothing manufacturer Champion. Champion will design and create limited edition apparel collections throughout the course of the deal.
Fnatic announced a partnership with Worldwide Asset eXchange to distribute authentic digital collectibles and branded physical merchandise to global esports fans through WAX’s blockchain ecommerce platform. Additionally, an entirely new line of Fnatic x WAX digital memorabilia and collectibles will be released during the live event.
Elsewhere, Riot Games gassed up a deal with Kia Motors to serve as the LEC’s automotive sponsor for the 2019 season, as the European League of Legends organization preps for its new season. The deal sees Kia serve as the presenting sponsor of the ‘Player of the Game’ segment. Kia will also be making appearances at LEC “roadshows and offline events.” LEC starts on Friday at noon and continues on Saturday at 11a.
Lagardere Sports also unlocked a multi-year partnership with Riot and the LEC designed to target “the commercialisation of the newly established LEC” and collaborate in multiple areas to further develop esports in Europe. Lagardere Sports will act as the exclusive sponsorship agency for the LEC and leverage the long-term knowledge in sports sponsorship consulting and activation to conceptualize and establish long-term partnerships between endemic and non-endemic brands and the LEC. The two companies will create future initiatives designed to enhance the relevance of the league as well as esports as a whole, including the “development of innovative sponsorship concepts and unique activations that guarantee brands to reach a highly involved and young target group.” As part of the partnership Lagardere Sports will launch a microsite informing about the agency’s esports activities and the sponsorship opportunities at the LEC.
KFC Gaming will sponsor a Call of Duty event in the UK called titled KFCRoyale, in partnership with Call of Duty UK and pitting competitors in the title’s Battle Royale game mode, Blackout.
HyperX launched “We’re All Gamers,” a major national advertising campaign that features its lineup of celebrity influencers including musician Post Malone, top athletes Gordon Hayward, Joel Embiid, JuJu Smith-Schuster, De’Aaron Fox and celebrity gamers Pokimane, Shroud, Daigo, and Rush. The campaign will run on television, digital and social channels in 2019 and as the new presenting sponsor of the NBA Saturday Primetime telecasts, HyperX will begin airing the ad campaign on Saturday on ABC and ESPN and will continue through the playoffs and the NBA Finals.
Targeting gamers around the country, MTN DEW AMP Game Fuel has gone national with new partnerships, following its beta test launch in December. The brand announced a slate of deals to coincide with its rollout, including ESL and Ubisoft, in addition to its roster of teams. With Ubisoft, the brand will deliver “valuable assets” within games, including the upcoming Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Meanwhile, the beverage is also now the official global beverage partner of major global events within the ESL ecosystem, activating with “unique, interactive onsite experiences” at ESL’s premier competitions, ESL One, Intel Extreme Masters and ESL Pro League. Finally, the company is also expanding its professional gaming roster to include leading esports organization, Counter Logic Gaming. CLG joins the brand’s current roster of Team Dignitas, Immortals, SK Gaming – and most recently, Team OpTic.
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Esports venture company ReKTGlobal locked in a $10.8 million Series A funding round that will bolster its pro team, Rogue, which is competing in the League of Legends Europe Championship. The funding round is anchored by Nick Gross, founder of media company Gross Labs, who will also join ReKTGLobal’s board. Other investors include named such as Steve Aoki, Imagine Dragons manager Mac Reynolds, Live Nation, talent manager Larry Rudolph, Ozone Entertainment founder Bret Disend, and 1916 Management founder Jonny Gordon. “We’ve believed in the vision of ReKTGlobal’s co-founders Amish Shah and Dave Bialek from the beginning,” Gross said. “By partnering with ReKTGlobal, Find Your Grind was able to bring esports curriculum to high schools across the Unites States and award $450,000 in annual scholarships to students interested in exploring esports as a possible lifepath. I’m passionate about this space, and it’s exciting to take my involvement with ReKTGlobal to the next level by joining the board, bringing our Find Your Grind and Junior Rogue programs to Europe, and expanding Rogue esports around the world.”
SK Gaming announced new ownership following the acquisition of ESForce’s shares by Mercedes-Benz and 1. FC Köln. “We also want to use this opportunity to thank ESForce Holding for their trust and guidance over the past two years and especially all those who have supported us along the way – players, employees as well as our fans,” the team said in a statement. “It’s been an incredible ride and we wouldn’t be here without any of you. Please expect more news from us in the coming weeks and months, we are excited for what is to come in 2019 and beyond!”
OverActive Media locked in more than $22 million in its latest funding round. The capital will be used to fund its Overwatch League team, Toronto Defiant, and its League of Legends European Championship team, Splyce in addition to using funds to complete its acquisition of Splyce. The funding came from both new and existing shareholders, with a mix of corporate, private, and institutional investors.

Apparel is one of the fastest growing categories in esports sponsorship, with many top tier brands recently committing to team level sponsorship deals. This week, the trend continued with Cloud9 announcing a new deal with PUMA. To dig deeper into this, FanAI took a closer look at a few major athletic apparel brands and investigated the brand awareness gained with the esports audience. While all of the brands have a lot of room to grow into the space, Champion has captured the greatest proportion of esports followers amongst their own handle. 36% of Champion’s Twitter followers also follow at least one esports handle, which could be the result of their multiple partnerships with organizations like FaZe Clan, Dignitas, and most recently FNATIC. This data demonstrates the potential results non-endemic brands can see by becoming first movers in esports within their respective sponsorship category.

Wrapping up its numbers from 2018, Superdata released its annual report on the gaming marketplace, noting that the games and interactive media industry grew 13% in 2018, driven by the success of Fortnite. Overall, free-to-play titles drew 80% of digital games revenue in 2018. Fortnite earned $2.4 billion on its way to becoming a global phenomenon.
The NBA, National Basketball Players Association and 2K, a wholly-owned label of Take-Two Interactive Software and publisher of the basketball video game NBA 2K, announced a multiyear global partnership extension. “The NBA has been an outstanding partner throughout the history of the NBA 2K franchise, contributing significantly to its unparalleled success and the ability to grow its audience around the world across a myriad of platforms and offerings,” said Strauss Zelnick, Chairman and CEO of Take-Two. “We’re thrilled to be in business with Adam and the entire team at the NBA, and enter into the longest-ever partnership extension between our organizations. Together, we’re confident that we will continue to find new and innovative ways to captivate and engage basketball fans, and expand further the success of the NBA 2K brand.”
GameWorks entered into a partnership agreement with SCCG Management, a full-service management consultancy focused on the casino industry, to bring “venue-based, peer-to-peer wagering esports Lounges to casinos nationwide.” The new venue-based concept, Play by GameWorks, allows players to add skill-based, peer-to-peer wagering and custom betting capabilities to a variety of popular PC and console games. Each 10-12,000 square-foot Play by GameWorks esports Lounge will boast 20-40 PCs and consoles and an extensive library of approximately 100 of the most popular video games, and the ability to run significantly larger tournament events. Every Play by GameWorks will also host a 100-seat restaurant, The Works Kitchen at GameWorks,
Amazon is reportedly developing its own game streaming service, according to The Information, with a potential launch date set for 2020. The article claims that the company is already in talks with publishers,

Global esports organization Gen.G appointed Chris Park as Chief Executive Officer. Gen.G has also announced that co-founder Kevin Chou will assume the role of Executive Chairman. Park most recently served at Major League Baseball as Executive Vice President, Product & Marketing. He will be setting and guiding the day-to-day execution of Gen.G’s strategy in a close partnership with Chou, and will relocate from New York City to Gen.G’s new headquarters in Los Angeles.
Beasley Media Group, LLC, a subsidiary of Beasley Broadcast Group, Inc. named Jennifer Sulik to the newly created position of Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Beasley XP, the company’s recently announced esports division. Sulik most recently served as the founder and chief executive officer of Go Media Detroit.
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September 9-10, 2019
New York City

ON THIS DAY in 2005: Electronic Arts inks a 15-year deal with ESPN for access to ESPN televised programming, personalities, and other opportunities.
Trivia: Who is credited as the father of the Mario franchise? (Email chris-sports@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What was the grand prize for the first known video competition, for the game Spacewar, in 1972? Answer: A subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. Kudos: Will James-Midan Marketing/Mooresville NC, David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank

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