Sponsor Insights

Forward-Thinking Brands Took the Metaverse by Storm in 2022

Web 3.0-related technology continued to develop rapidly throughout 2022. As metaverse platforms have continued to sell digital land, there has been an estimated nearly $2B investment in the acquisition of virtual real estate in the metaverse. There is a variety of available digital asset offerings currently offered such as wearables, and these types of Web 3.0 related assets will continued to expand.

Brands are getting increasingly creative in their entry to the new Web 3.0 virtual reality. Here are some of SU’s favorite partnerships from the last year:

  • A partnership between Metaverse platform’s Decentraland and Atari saw the creation of an Atari Arcade that operates on Ethereum blockchain. Players can also explore and search for exclusive wearables throughout the platform’s Casino.
  • Tequila maker Patrón activated its Pop-Up Series on Decentraland–a virtual experience including various quests that give users the opportunity to win prizes and exclusive wearables.
  • Forbes worked with Metaverse platform The Sandbox to create a first-of-its-kind event on November 10, aimed at offering more opportunities for members and subscribers to socialize in the Metaverse. Forbes digital subscribers received a wearable NFT as their ticket to enter the Metaverse, while the initiative included quests to find different areas of the platform’s property, including a DJ booth, bar, and dance floor.
  • HSBC/World Rugby Sevens Series launched virtual rugby quests in The Sandbox, becoming the first global bank to acquire a plot of land in Metaverse platform. The bank staged a virtual stadium in The Sandbox from 24 October to 14 November to activate its first community initiative.
  • Esports organization FaZe Clan named its 12×12 virtual plot of land in The Sandbox “FaZe World,” where it will co-produce experiences including virtual events and games with the Metaverse platform.This gamified activation aims to allow users to learn more about FaZe and engage with its roster of talent.
  • Beats by Dre partnered with Ja Morant–a non-playable character (NPC) that hosts various in-game missions–to develop the Roblox game “Dunking Simulator.” This “Dark Mode” virtual experience evolved from a recent Beats campaign, highlighting the mutual admiration between rapper Lil Baby and Ja Morant.
  • Claire’s created Roblox game “ShimmerVille,” where users can earn digital currency through interactive retail jobs, playing mini games, or just by spending time in the digital experience. Players can also select from 15 different pets to accompany them throughout Claire’s virtual world.
  • Mattel partnered with Roblox to build roleplay-style game “Barbie Livetopia,” a virtual activation aimed at celebrating the Barbie Dreamhouse’s 60th anniversary. Custom NPCs within the game represent different characters, including Barbie and her friends
  • Invisalign launched a Roblox virtual experience that included an explorable dentist office, equipped with exam rooms and two mini games. Winners of the playable games are rewarded with uniforms for their digital avatars, and digital coins to buy Invisalign-branded outfits.
  • The U.S. Open Tennis Championship and Grey Goose teamed up with Decentraland to build an immersive lounge experience that included “The Honeydew Hunt” game.

Call of Duty League Championships

The 2022 Call of Duty League Championships took place in Los Angeles from August 4th-7th, and SponsorUnited was there covering the action. 

Mountain Dew and MTN DEW GAME FUEL featured over 10 unique assets during the four-day run–including an on-stage commercial live at the event, product handouts, and concourse signage including a 360 ribbon billboard inside the venue. The soda brand also posted on social media throughout the tournament. Its efforts generated the highest average engagement rate (.07) among brands sponsoring the CDL.

Speaking of engagement, Zenni’s Kickoff Classic Bracket was the top post across all 3 social media platforms, with a combined score of over 19,000 followers. In the last 12 months, the social media partnership between the optical brand and the CDL featured 23 branded posts, for a total engagement of over 40,000.  Zenni Optical ranks third in total posts and engagement among CDL partnerships behind Mountain Dew and MTN DEW GAME FUEL, respectively. Nearly a quarter (24%) of Zenni’s deals are within Esports. 

Technology, beverage non-alcoholic, and leisure/recreation comprise the top 3 brand categories that sponsor CDL with an even split, each owning 16% of the league’s total portfolio. Moving against the current trend in the sports and entertainment industry, digital deals are declining in the CDL–down 9% versus last year–while sponsorships have climbed 7% over the same period.

As the Esports industry’s explosive growth–jump-started by the pandemic in early 2020–continues, CDL’s fan base is also steadily expanding, with a 37% increase in followers on Twitter, FB, and Instagram in 2022 compared to last year.

2022 Call of Duty League season Instant Replay

QSR in Esports

As the momentum of Esports continues to snowball, Quick Serve Restaurants (QSR) are increasingly taking a bite of the action. 

More than 30 QSR brands–each with nearly 3 sponsorship deals on average within Esports–currently buy sponsorship/media within Esports, while 22% have 5 or more. The top-five brands ranked by number of deals are: 

  • McDonald’s
  • KFC
  • Chipotle
  • Jack-in-the-Box
  • Subway 

McDonald’s also ranks No. 1 in sponsorship growth, with more than 10 new deals with Esports properties, mainly teams and leagues, over the last 12 months. In June, multinational Esports organization Gen.G and McDonald’s renewed their McDonald’s Crew League partnership, designed to recruit and retain employees through gaming. 

Other recent link-ups include Chipotle’s April collaboration with gaming influencer Karl Jacobs, to promote the launch of its new pollo asado chicken menu item with a limited-time “Karl Jacobs Burrito.”  Papa John’s partnered with Esports tournament operator Beyond the Summit (BTS) in May to launch a Super Smash Bros-centered community campaign.

QSR brands and Esports organizations utilize social media posts in more than 85% of deals. Out of the top-five emerging assets, Twitter reigns supreme: images, videos, and text posts on the channel take the first, fourth, and fifth spots, respectively. 

In total, there are currently 1,100-plus branded posts across more than 130 deals; the most-engaged post, at more than 600K followers, was between Jacobs and Chipotle. Engagement totals more than 3.5 million across all social posts, with the average engagement per deal just north of 28K. 

ALGS | Activation Spotlight

Day 2 of the $2M ALGS Year 2 Championship and OpTic Gaming is currently leading all 40 teams.

Take a look at some the unique assets and activations from Legion and Monster Energy taking place at the 4 day tournament.

Apex Legends Global Series Activation Spotlight

Esports’ Impressive Momentum

Apex Legends Global Series (Year 2)–one of the biggest Esports events for the game title– kicked off Thursday at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, and SponsorUnited is there live-scouting the event. 

The championship–which features a live audience for the first time–offers an opportunity to explore Esports’ seemingly unstoppable momentum: 

Red Bull is the fourth fastest-growing sponsor this year–with 35+ new deals in the gaming industry–and the only non-Esports equipment company in the top 5.

Over the last 12 months there has been an 82% increase in total deals with Esports properties (8,200+ current deals.) Notably, McDonald’s tied for the top spot with Aim Lab in new Esport sponsorships across three of the main Esports leagues: NBA 2K, Overwatch and Call of Duty League.

Esports teams average 7 sponsorships, while 64% of teams have at least 5 sponsors.

Social media branded posts are utilized over 70% of the time with Esports teams. Twitter is the most utilized social media channel by Esports teams tagging brands, while Instagram ranks second. Just over 55 Esports properties have endorsed brands on TikTok during 2022. Will 2022-2023 see an upward trend in partnerships? Fortnite is the top brand utilizing TikTok within their Esports partnerships. 31% of TikTok partnerships within Esports are technology brands.

Top brands sponsoring Esports teams:

  1. Logitech (also the fastest-growing brand in Esports sponsorships, with some 50% of its deals signed within the past year)
  2. HyperX
  3. RedBull
  4. Razer
  5. Twitch.TV
  6. Elgato
  7. DXRacer
  8. SecretLab
  9. Samsung
  10. Omen By HP

Within the Gaming/Esports influencer space, there has been a 47% increase from 2021 to 2022 in unique brands with endorsement deals. While Esports influencers average 5 endorsement deals, they utilize over 10 brands overall, including equipment like headphones, gaming controllers, and seats during matches. 95% of partnerships with Esports influencers include social media posts

Top brands sponsoring Gaming/Esports influencers:

  1. G Fuel (not a gaming industry brand, notably)
  2. Back 4 Blood* 
  3. Amazon Prime Gaming
  4. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction* 
  5. HelloFresh 
  6. Chipotle
  7. Razer
  8. HyperX
  9. Naraka: Bladepoint* 
  10. Call of Duty* 

   *video game

Gaming/Esports influencers with the most sponsors: 

  1. Jean Clenche (LockLear)
  2. BrookeAB
  3. Seth (Scump) Abner
  4. TimTheTatman
  5. AvaGG
  6. Loserfruit
  7. ActionJaxson
  8. Yiliang Peng (Doublelift)
  9. Tyler Blevins (Ninja)
  10. Brandon Stennis (IAmBrandon)

Apex Legends Global Series

Apex Legends Global Series Year 2 begins tomorrow, where 40 Esports teams compete for the lion’s share of the $2 million prize pool.

Take a look at the sponsorship activity of three of the biggest teams competing this year: G2 EsportsCloud9 Esports, Inc., and Team Liquid.


EA Sports Ends FIFA Partnership

EA Sports announced this week that they will not be renewing their deal with FIFA, ending their 30+ year partnership. The sports video game industry is essentially broken into two primarily entities, EA Sports and SONY. 

EA Sports reigns supreme (even without the FIFA deal) still having deals across four major sports including the NHL, NFL, UFC and FIFA (soccer).  SONY has created video games with the NBA 2K MBA game and the MLB with MLB The Show”, but there’s more to these deals than just the game.

During the NFL Kickoff Experience, you couldn’t miss EA Sports as they were the Presenting Sponsor of the event and blasted their logo across every asset possible. During the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas, players and former players had interviews where Madden 2022 was positioned perfectly in front of them.

For NHL All-Star Weekend, EA Sports was the Exclusive Title Sponsor for the NHL Hardest Shot event. You could also see them tagged in multiple social posts throughout the season with NHL 22 esport gamers who partner with the league.

The UFC and EA Sports currently have UFC 4 released and the partnership includes EA Sports as the sponsor of all weight class rankings during pay per view events and fight nights.

MLB The Show, a game made by SONY has multiple placements on the MLB.com where the game is featured and ready to be ordered. Within the NBA, SONY and PlayStation provide codes in social posts for fans to enter to win the game for free. 

LCS Finals | Activation Spotlight

SponsorUnited was on the ground at the LCS Spring Finals Delivered by Grubhutook, hosted at NRG Stadium in Houston over the weekend. Evil Geniuses made history at the event by pulling off the fastest finals series in LCS history with three-straight wins over 100 Thieves. The venue hosted various booths, activities and live entertainment for fans attending the event, along with unique brand activations.

The standout brand activations were led by State Farm, Bud Light, Samsung, and Roccat. 

State Farm made their presence known with a nearly 7 foot tall “fan wall” for attendees to write supportive messages to the teams competing that weekend. Bud light had a gaming trailer that offered fans a place to play League of Legends at the Beer Garden during Fan Fest and throughout the event. Roccat supplied its gaming stations (in addition to the stations at the Samsung and Bud Light activations) with mice, keyboards and headsets for an upgraded gaming experience for players. 

Additionally, fans also had the chance to win Roccat peripherals at the Grubhub Nexus outside the Arcade. Samsung hosted a booth where patrons could test their skill and attempt to post the best Fast Clear time, making the final leaderboard which resulted  in winning a 1TB Samsung 980 Pro SSD.

Overall, the brands that activated at the LCS Spring Finals capitalized on this marquee event by offering fans social experiences and activities!


Crypto Gaining More Traction Within the Emerging Industry of Esports

Like the Consumer Electronics and Technology categories, Crypto has found itself intertwined with Esports through partnership deals. Since the headline-making deal between TSM and FTX, which included naming rights and a price tag of $210m, Crypto brands have continued to find new and innovative ways to capitalize on the Esports audiences propensity towards digital literacy; a driving factor in the adoption of the category.

As a new and emerging technology, the primary focus of most Cryptocurrency brands is maximizing exposure opportunities and to demonstrate the long-term significance of crypto adoption. This is reflected in the most commonly bought assets across the category. Social media content, jersey signage, and naming rights deals for properties & events have been key in increasing brand awareness and visibility.

As Cryptocurrencies find additional traction in the mainstream media, expect to see even more partnerships with Esports teams and influencers. The category’s connection to Web3 will also allow both parties to leverage activations such as NFTs, the Metaverse, and other gaming platforms that utilize blockchain technology like Tribe Gaming and Heroes of Mavia or Misfits Gaming and Block Born.

7-Eleven & Rocket League Partnership

7-Eleven’s latest deal with Rocket League includes branded customization for user’s cars that can only be unlocked through real world purchases at participating stores. There are also promotions/contests for players to participate in, a 7-Eleven-themed vehicle to unlock, and 7-Eleven has even changed the name of their Blue Raspberry Slurpee to “Blue ROCKETBERRY”.

The partnership also includes naming rights for the upcoming North American Regional Event, now named the 7-Eleven Slurpee Cup. The trophy will feature odes to a 7-Eleven Slurpee with color changing features.

Inspiration from the Rocket League campaign came from a previous 2021 campaign, dubbed the #CarsOF7ELEVEN, that saw the brand’s Instagram and TikTok accounts grow 208% over the course of a few weeks last fall.

Over the next year companies will look to leverage and create similar campaigns using titles like Rocket League, Fortnite, Roblox, and others to create seamless activations blended into the game in order to reach younger audiences that are typically resistant to traditional marketing efforts.

As the Metaverse becomes more prevalent, companies and properties alike are looking for ways to leverage sponsorships in the space. Finding ways to blend advertisements and product placement into the games themselves, in addition to enhancing the sponsorship through real world activations.

Rocket League is a perfect example of a traditional title that has leveraged in-game customization with sponsors. While they haven’t made the full leap to NFTs, they have run a series of promotional campaigns which include branded vehicles, in-game signage, decals and upgrades, and even unique game modes.