Toronto Ultra recently announced a partnership with a Bud Light, becoming the first franchised team in the Blizzard competitive ecosystem to do so. This comes after Activision/Blizzard made an announcement earlier this year that they would be branching out to new types of sponsors and partners for their events and leagues. Back in May, the decision fell that they would be looking at liquor and even gambling brands for potential partnerships (though not in as many words). Now it is becoming a reality – and Call of Duty team Toronto Ultra is the first to make good on this.
The entrance of liquor and gambling brands into the Activison/Blizzard esports scenes is likely to push up investment levels for teams as these previously restricted brands look to gain representation and visibility in what is already a competitive sponsorship market. Big brands tend to bring a lot of money, and they’re even more likely to do so when they’ve previously been restricted from doing so. Some brands like liquor, gambling and other types of potential sponsors have long since been excluded from Blizzard’s potential investors, as far as team sponsorships or event headliners go – and now, Activision-Blizzard is changing its mind in that regard.
Esports fans and brands
The target demographic of esports fans is a prime market opportunity for both liquor and gambling brands. Many of these new partnerships focus on the creation of social media content to further target the primarily younger demographics. Younger obviously doesn’t mean underage, but precisely people in their early 20s are likely to enjoy esports and reject ‘traditional’ advertising methods – so that’s what brands want to aim for when they advertise in esports. Of course, liquor or gambling brands are no different.
Bar the awkward commercial, Activison/Blizzard opening up sponsorship from these previously restricted industries is likely a positive move for the Call of Duty and Overwatch Leagues. Teams have paid a lot of money for franchising deals, for team houses and have to pay their players, coaches, and staff. Adding more industries to the sponsorship pool increases competition, which in turn results in higher pay-outs for teams – or at least, it could.
The added competition to the sponsorship market is also good news for esports fans. It will likely result in more creative content, more product deals, and more ways to support your favorite teams. Smaller tournaments that may not otherwise have happened could get funded, and new developments could get greenlit. After all, it’s no secret that there is a lot of money in precisely this type of new sponsor.
The opening of the betting sponsorship market could well result in the inclusion of gambling odds in official league streams or in team streams at some point down the line. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if Blizzard decided to cash in on the esports bookmakers – but for now, this move could entice more bookmakers to offer odds on their competitions. This especially could result in more competitive content, as that itself opens up more avenues for engaging fans in betting.