Sponsorship in esports comes in many different forms. Video advertising, logo placement on live-streaming shows may be some that can still be done by third-party organizers. But from the variety of sponsorships, there is one variant that can be said to only be the monopoly of the game developer, namely in-game sponsorship.
On the international scene, there is Riot Games which recently announced it will do so. Through in-game sponsorship placement, the League of Legends esports scene was made to be like a sports match.
Quoting from the Esports Observer, the in-game sponsorship placement system named Summoner’s Rift Arena will start in the Summer Split season.
Until now there are two brands that have taken the spot sponsor of Summoner’s Rift branding arena, namely Mastercard and Alienware. Furthermore about this sponsorship system, it is said that Riot Games freed 12 regional LoL leagues held in various parts of the world to have their respective sponsors. This means, Mastercard and Alienware do not necessarily appear in all existing LoL leagues when taking the sponsored spots.
Riot also made this sponsor’s visuals visible only to the audience. Players cannot see the sponsor’s banner in the game, in order to maintain the integrity of the competition. To assess how effective this form of sponsorship is, Riot also collaborated with Nielsen. Still from Esports Observer, Riot Games said that this form of sponsorship would be one of the most effective and valuable branding.
Naz Aletaha, Head of Global Esports Partnership Riot Games said. “From face-to-face matches, to online shows, we struggle hard to define esports as modern sports by innovating how audiences enjoy the experience of watching League of Legends. For the first time in League history, we provide an immersive experience by putting the brand on the battlefield of League of Legends through SR Arena Banners, which gives a sense of sponsorship on the sports field. ”
Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Mastercard added. “Mastercard has become a global partner of League of Legends, because the game connects many people in different parts of the world who have a passion for the game. The evolution of this sponsorship helps us to reach out to fans in a contextually more relevant way, through the activities they really love, which is watching League of Legends esports. ”
This form of sponsorship might be one of the first to be undertaken by a team of developers of a global esports game. Previously, Dota 2 had allowed this, but in a slightly different way.
In Dota 2, the in-game sponsorship laying system was made open-source by Valve, which allowed the competing teams to put their team logos and sponsors into an in-game banner, which could be seen by the audience.
The question is, how does such a sponsorship system impact the experience of watching esports fans? Will the experience get worse, better, or have no impact at all?