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 12x12 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.

In light of National Video Games Day this past Monday, let’s take a look at some unique recent activations in the gaming/Metaverse industries.

As digital entertainment continues to evolve at lightning speed, game titles and Metaverse platforms are changing the way brands reach a younger demographic. Savvy marketers are upping their investment in virtual activations, signage, and digital assets to diversify their reach and stake a claim within these emerging virtual settings in innovative ways.

In NBA 2K23–released September 9th and the latest addition to the best-selling NBA 2K series–league partners like MTN DEW, the official soft drink of the NBA, are organically integrated within the game, expanding the breadth of their overall partnerships with the league.

Metaverse platforms like Decentraland offer brands, properties, and agencies an opportunity to invest in the Web 3.0 space and begin engaging the next generation of consumers in a dazzling new digital realm.

Netflix, for example, teamed up with Decentraland in July to promote the release of its movie “The Gray Man,” creating a labyrinth that users navigate by proving their knowledge of the film’s plot. The virtual event also rewarded players with “The Gray Man” wearables. The same month, CBS became the first American network to enter Decentraland with its hit comedy “Ghosts,” creating an immersive experience that allows fans to experience the show and its haunted mansion as never before.

Meanwhile, the MTV Video Music Awards debuted a virtual experience on online game platform Roblox this year, and added a new category to the awards show to recognize the best musical performance in the Metaverse. And in May, Spotify became the first music streaming brand to publish its own game on Roblox with the launch of “Spotify Island,” a unique experience that involves K-Pop music in the gameplay.

QSR in Esports

July 27, 2022

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.

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 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 Esports, Cloud9 Esports, Inc., and Team Liquid.

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 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.

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!

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’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.

As the gaming industry continues to grow, Microsoft has acquired Activision Blizzard in a deal expected to close in 2023 valued at nearly $70 billion. During the announcement Microsoft touched on gaming industry issues, doubled down on streaming and Netflix-style game libraries as well as giving speculation about the "Metaverse."

Activision Blizzard consists of many different corporate components which most notable includes Activision Publishing, King and Blizzard Entertainment. The famous Call of Duty franchise is developed and handled fully by Activision Publishing while mobile games such as the addicting Candy Crush Saga are developed and published by King. Blizzard Entertainment oversees the companies Esports activities which include Major League Gaming as well as the Overwatch League which is run by the Major League Gaming entity.

According to the SponsorUnited Technology Sponsorships Annual Report coming out next week, the four top sub-categories within Esports are Web/Apps, Audio Visual & Wearable, Technology - Multiline & Computers, Tablets & Consoles. Logitech has the most total deals of any brand buying within Esports while 91% of Riot Game's digital deals are with Esports influencers. Speaking of influencers, did you know that Activision Blizzard has a deal with one of the Kardashians? Yes, Khloe Kardashian has an endorsement deal with Activision Blizzard where she promotes the mobile game Candy Crush Saga on her social media channels.

Microsoft currently has 15 sponsorships with Esports leagues or tournaments and will be getting deeper into the industry with their acquisition of Activision Blizzard who has over 20 deals with Esports influencers. Over 65% of Microsofts current deals are outside of the five Major Pro Sports in the US.

Logitech is the most active technology brand in esports leveraging over 100 partnerships with esports leagues, teams, and influencers.

Los Angeles leads the way in terms of most Logitech sponsorship deals per market, followed closely by the New York market. Interested in learning more about Logitech along with other tech brands and their sponsorship portfolios? The SponsorUnited Technology Sponsorships Annual Report is coming soon!

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