12th Apr 2019 by Cam Brierley

Updated 25th Apr 2019

Our 10 favorite esports sponsorships of 2019 so far

There's been some really high-profile esports sponsorships so far in 2019, and we recap the very best in this list...

Esports is in a really exciting place in 2019. As an industry, it feels like each week there’s a new bombshell partnership landing. From iconic automobile companies to global fashion labels, it’s becoming almost as much fun to watch the newest sponsorship announcement unfold as it is to watch the tournaments where they’re showcased!

That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to recap some of our favorite esports sponsorship deals that have been announced in 2019 so far. The calibre of sponsors that are getting involved in esports nowadays signal a very exciting future for the industry.

We selected these sponsorship deals based primarily off the size of the brands involved, how it was received by the community and how well initial activations have come across. Financial details are rarely revealed in this deals, so we thought this was how best to judge them!

Now, let’s get started!

1. Cloud9 and BMW

We have to kick things off with a big one, and what’s bigger than one of the largest esports organizations partnering with one of the most recognizable automobile companies in the world?

On March 9, 2019, Cloud9 announced that they were partnering up with BMW, the German car manufacturer that was founded way back in 1916.

Cloud9’s Twitter announcement of the partnership received over 900 retweets and 8,000 likes, and featured an image of various members of the organization around a BMW i8, with the title “It’s Character that Drives Performance.”

As one of the most personality-driven organizations in the scene, this tagline seems to suit the partnership well. Even more so when you spot Sneaky pictured in the announcement image in one of his classic cosplay outfits.

Founder and CEO of Cloud9 Jack Etienne commented on the partnership in a video reply, thanking the members of his org for their commitment, and BMW for forging the partnership.

Already, Cloud9 has dropped two promotional videos in collaboration with BMW, one featuring their Overwatch player and streamer Aspen, and the other showcasing Gaylen, the org’s general manager. Each ad has a different style, but both share the underlying message that skill in gaming is not dictated by muscles or size, rather by willpower.

So far the partnership between Cloud9 and BMW has been a unique one to say the least, and we can’t wait to see what more they have in store for us. For the swish execution and the story that Cloud9 is telling, this is easily one of the most exciting esports partnerships so far in 2019.

2. 100 Thieves and Totino’s

Next up is an esports sponsor deal that hit the internet with a masterful announcement video, something that’s fast becoming a trademark of 100 Thieves. It was as good as any other announcement video we’ve ever seen in esports, as Nadeshot’s organization unveiled their latest partner in hilarious style on February 18.

To begin with, things are subtle. You’ll see the occasional piece of Totino’s-branded clothing, or Nade eating a small pack of Totino’s, slotted in naturally. As the video goes on, it becomes harder and harder to ignore the Totino’s presence everywhere, before it eventually gets to the point of of a body-painted-Totino’s-logo cameo.

Esports loves humor, and this video totally nails that theme. Check the full thing out below to see how the content masters announce activations with non-endemic brands.

As Totino’s is a sponsor of 100 Thieves Call of Duty, they’ve since teamed up with 100T for a series of branded content showing highlights from the organization’s in-game exploits. This compliments the humor outside of the game with epic moments within them. From top to bottom, 100 Thieves are already executing some awesome activations. Well played to everyone involved in this partnership!

3. compLexity, Envy, OpTic Gaming & GameStop

As OpTic Gaming acknowledge in their announcement post of this partnership, GameStop is a household name for gamers of all ages. For that reason, it was great to see the brand enter the scene through not one, but three(!) concurrent partnerships on March 27.

All of the organizations involved are Texas-based, so it’s clear that GameStop really wants to make a mark in esports, especially in their local market.

On top of partnering with compLexity, Envy and OpTic, this activation includes the Overwatch League brands of the latter two teams: the Dallas Fuel and the Houston Outlaws. The Fuel has already teased at doing live Overwatch clinics at GameStop locations with their two coaches, so you can expect lots of exciting developments to come from this partnership in the future.

GameStop’s deal with compLexity, one of the most storied North American organizations, includes them being the title sponsor for the compLexity HQ, now titled the GameStop Performance Center. This will be located at the Dallas Cowboys HQ, which shares ownership with compLexity.

The inevitable video tour of this amazing facility is sure to blow our minds if the teaser video on the center’s website is anything to go by!

It’s clear that non-endemic brands can certainly make waves in esports with a partnership involving so many major names in the scene, so GameStop deserves a place in this list for linking up with all of the esports powerhouses in Texas at once.

4. Team Liquid & Honda

Another of our favorite esports sponsor announcements involves another automotive company! It seems like esports is a big area of interest for car sponsors, as they realize they can make an impression early on with fans who may not have developed loyalty to any other manufacturer.

Team Liquid’s deal with Honda was announced alongside a trailer for a new series of branded content that the organization will be producing to help promote Honda, titled “Level Up”, on January 24. They’ve already used the horsepower pun in reference of their logo (which features a horse), so we’re enjoying this one already.

“Level Up: Driven by Honda” will follow Team Liquid’s League of Legends, Fortnite and Dota 2 divisions as they seek to level up from their previous year’s results. Produced by the esports production company 1UP Studios, which is a part of Team Liquid, you can expect a sublime production level around each these team’s stories.

In addition to that, Honda is also sponsoring easily-digestible Twitter moments like this to track the journey and success of their League team.

This content from Team Liquid certainly has us hyped, and the overwhelming reaction their announcement received shows how well-engineered the partnership has been since its inception.

5. Ninja & Red Bull

Ninja is perhaps the most recognizable gamer in the world right now, and because of that he’s someone who has consistently been in the mainstream media talking about his and Fortnite’s meteoric rise.

In 2018, Ninja partnered with Red Bull and made headlines everywhere. In 2019, they stepped the partnership up a level by launching a Ninja Red Bull can to be sold in the USA.

As if a partnership of that scale with a leader in gaming wasn’t awesome enough, the announcement video dropped the can into an unsuspecting Ninja during a photoshoot, capturing his genuine surprise as he sees his face on the can for the first time.

Red Bull even have a story to go with the stunt. The video begins by showing a tweet of Ninja’s in 2011 where he says how much he loves Red Bull, and ends with an edited screenshot of Ninja’s bucket list of being sponsored by Red Bull with the addition of “+ my own can” scrawled on. Full circle or what, huh?

Red Bull and Ninja’s partnership was already pioneering, but this update really does take things to the next level.

6. FaZe Clan, OpTic Gaming & Nissan

This sponsorship deal is the only one in the list that brings together the two very biggest forces in gaming. OpTic and FaZe share the similarity of being both esports and lifestyle brands, and they have each accumulated an audience of millions through the content they produce both on and off the servers.

That’s why when Nissan drove in with the announcement that they were sponsoring both of the titans you weren’t able to avoid it!

The Twitter announcement videos alone from FaZe and OpTic accumulated over 2,000,000 media views between them, something quite frankly unheard of and likely only possible from these two powerhouses.

FaZe’s video promises that Nissan will be teaming up with them to produce video content and to provide their members with Nissan cars. The unmistakable FaZe vlogging style that has carried them to incredible YouTube success carries over into the announcement, as Adapt walks us through the partnership in a casual, personal manner.

It’s certainly fair to say that FaZe and OpTic have laid the foundation for how esports organizations present themselves to the outside world, and the reach Nissan are already receiving from this activation goes to show that in 2019 they are still setting the bar.

7. LPL & Nike

It was only ever a matter of time until the giants of sports apparel got involved in esports, and Nike made their move on 28 February with their sponsorship of the LPL (League of Legends Pro League) on a four year agreement.

What this deal involves is all of the players, coaches, managers and referees wearing exclusively Nike gear on game days. Though the figure is unconfirmed, Lanxiong Sports suggested the deal is valued at $7,480,000 a year!

The LPL is the premier League of Legends tournament in China, so it marries nicely with one of the undisputed kings in sportswear. What’s more, the LPL is the most-watched League of Legends competition, and the most watched esports competition in the world due to the game’s popularity in the China. You would have expected Nike to enter the scene by going straight for the top dog, and that seems to be exactly what they’ve done.

If you’re a frequent user of our site, you might remember us posting an esports job with Nike early in 2019 in Beaverton, Oregon, so we’re hopeful Nike’s involvement in esports will extend to more areas than China in future. Bring on the Nike esports jobs!

The huge scope of the two companies easily makes this one of the standout esports sponsorship announcements so far in 2019. Involvement from sportswear brands has long been awaited in esports, as the next partnership will show...

8. Cloud9 & PUMA

Cloud9’s second appearance in this list of groundbreaking esports sponsorships is one with another titan of the sportswear industry, PUMA.

What it might lack in the story value that their BMW partnership has already displayed this announcement makes up for in just how cool it was to see a global brand like PUMA sponsor one of the most recognizable organizations in esports.

As we’ve mentioned, the scene has been waiting for sportswear brands to begin making the jump into esports for some time now and in 2019 it finally seems to be happening.

And, just like NIKE, we recently advertised a PUMA job that focused on esports and gaming in Boston!

Through this sponsorship, PUMA became the official apparel and game day trousers and shoes provider of Cloud9’s LCS team. Their League team is arguably the most popular arm of Cloud9’s rosters, so it feels like PUMA has chosen wisely with this partnership.

Following on from our last point regarding the LPL’s deal with Nike makes this esports sponsorship deal all the more interesting. North American viewers will be exposed to PUMA advertising in the LCS while Chinese viewers see Nike on the players and supporting staff in the LPL. Should either brand look to get involved in the other regional leagues of League of Legends, the numbers involved could get very exciting indeed should these two compete for advertising opportunities in future!

9. The LEC & Kia Motors

What used to be the European LCS recently rebranded into the LEC, the League of Legends European Championship Series operated by Riot Games, and since then has been announcing plenty of awesome partnerships...

And in the trend of this article, it’s the automotive sponsorship deal we’re looking at! KIA is the main sponsor of the LEC, and besides the exciting story of another huge auto brand coming into esports, KIA has approached this agreement’s activation a little differently to others.

Teaming up with esports and gaming content outlets DBLTAP and Dexerto, KIA is distributing a candid video series with 2018 European champions Fnatic. Dubbed “Time to Talk”, this series records the players of Fnatic’s League of Legends team speaking with one of their parents in a KIA car, telling the story from a parent’s perspective as their child has grown to attain superstar status in such a young industry.

Issues like parents worrying about the effect that a heavy focus on gaming can have on school work is often expressed by players in the industry, and the series has done a good job of showing the other side to this story from a parent’s perspective. To make things even more unique, the content is presented in a casual interview, where the players quiz their parents.

Such a position on esports hasn’t been explored in this way before - at least to this scale - so we have to applaud KIA for finding a new lens to look at the life of a professional player through.

Not only have KIA pioneered a new type of content, but they’ve also made powerful connections to amplify its reach through their media partners, which means we have to rank it on this list of top esports sponsorships.

10. FaZe Clan & HTC

When you reach the size of FaZe Clan, any partnership you create is likely to be one of the most epic of the year.

This much is true regarding a partnership they announced on April 5 with HTC, to promote their gaming arm and virtual reality headset.

The reason we wanted to include this partnership in this list was to show how FaZe nail serious announcements along with more light-hearted ones. In contrast to the epic Nissan announcement, the video they dropped to commemorate this occasion depicted FaZe Cizzorz purchasing a HTC Vive Pro and getting lost in its virtual reality.

Initially mistaking the headset as not working, Cizzorz puts it down and returns to his desk before a weird looking rabbit creeps into the camera shot and begins speaking to him. Then, the revelation drops that Cizzorz still has the headset on, and he is in fact in virtual reality.

After a cosmic mashup of places Cizzorz visits in VR, HTC closes with the clever tagline “HTC Vive Pro. It’s virtually reality.”

The video is wonderfully made, and netted plenty of positive comments from community figures, as well as over 600,000 media views on the video.

We know we’ve rabbited on 😉 about the announcement video, but also involved in the partnership is that FaZe members Cloakzy and Cizzorz will be streaming content on the HTC Vive on Twitch throughout 2019.

The meme-y style of their announcement video and tapping into the massive audience of two of their Fortnite members is a smart move from HTC, which secures it a well-deserved slot in our sponsors list.

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So that wraps up our 10 favorite esports sponsorship deals of 2019 so far! If you’ve followed the scene for a while you can probably spot a noticeable rise in the quality in this list compared to some of the top sponsor announcements in the past. From the size of the companies getting involved in esports to the increasingly epic ways in which they announce activations and then integrate themselves, we have a feeling esports sponsorships of this size are just getting started.

We’ll be watching eagerly to see what comes next in this space, and look forward to seeing what kinds of esports employment opportunities subsequent deals of this nature bring. More huge partnerships means more money coming into the industry, which always means more jobs for Hitmarker to post!

Image credit: DreamHack // Adela Sznajder