As esports continue to grow, brands are paying more and more attention, and learning how to sponsor different components of the esports ecosystem to get in front of the elusive tech-savvy, younger male demographic which makes up much of the esports fan-base.
Esports events have seen sponsors from Intel, to Nike, Coca-Cola, Mercedes Benz, and more. We're now witnessing the first sponsorship of a virtual in-game esports stadium: Pizza Hut Stadium.
Pizza Hut Stadium will be the official venue of the Madden NFL 20 Championship Series, which will kick off August 30, 2019.
The tournament will take place at North America’s largest esports facility, Esports Stadium Arlington in Arlington Texas. $190,000 is on the line along with first and second place earning a spot in the Madden NFL 20 Bowl.
"The idea behind virtual stadium rights is to develop an opportunity that's in the image and in the essence of what you would see in the actual NFL, so we wouldn't want to stray from a traditional NFL experience," said EA Sports' eSports Sponsorship Alex Nuñez, via Dexerto.
"We wanted to mirror what you had experienced if you were to go to an actual NFL stadium where the concept of stadium rights already exists and you're used to seeing brands within the stadium. We're trying to create an extension of that in our world."
A major critique of esports sponsors has been their inability to authentically integrate into the experiences which esports industry participants value. Brands have at times taken sponsorship and activation tactics from traditional sports, and used them for esports. This often hasn't yielded good results.
Sponsoring an in-game stadium is following in the footsteps of traditional sports, however as Madden is a game which emulates traditional sports as close as possible, the familiarity with this type of sponsorship may work well for Madden fans, and the fans and players who will partake in the Madden NFL 20 Championship Series.