The nascent NBA 2K League has scored another win – perhaps it’s biggest yet – with the new sponsorship by State Farm Insurance. State Farm is the first non-endemic sponsor of the NBA 2K League.
“As a longstanding partner of the NBA and the WNBA, State Farm has a proven history of authentically connecting with fans and has demonstrated a commitment to esports,” said Brendan Donohue, Managing Director of the NBA 2K League. “We’re excited for State Farm to engage with our NBA 2K League community through helping create unique content and compelling storylines about our players.”
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State Farm will become an official partner for the entire NBA 2K League after sponsoring the NBA (the company’s commercials featuring NBA superstar Chris Paul run during most NBA broadcasts) and other traditional sports leagues for years.
Through the partnership with the NBA 2K League, State Farm will promote its brand in three distinct ways:
- State Farm’s brand will be showcased in virtual courtside signage during the next two regular-season tournaments and the NBA 2K League finals in August, 2018.
- State Farm is the presenting sponsor for pregame segments on Twitch and social media channels called “Game Mode,” featuring highlights and player’s strategies.
- State Farm will also sponsor a weekly show featuring match highlights called “Game Time” that will be available on the NBA 2K League’s website and social media outlets.
The NBA 2K League partnership is just State Farm’s latest 2018 investment in esports. In January the company signed up to become a sponsor of Riot Games’ revamped North American League of Legends Championship Series analyst desk and in March they committed to the fifth season of Psyonix’s Rocket League Championship Series.
“It’s clearly an opportunity to complement our traditional sports opportunities, because the fan of esports is not always a stick-and-ball sports fan,” said Ed Gold, the Advertising Director for State Farm. “At the same time, the demographics are significantly younger than most of the traditional sports, which is certainly appealing to a brand that wants to reach a younger audience.”
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That esports audience, primarily comprised of millennials, is becoming an attractive one to brands like State Farm. Just a few years ago, millennials were seen as being saddled with loads of debt while they sat around playing video games eating Ramen noodles from a cup. Today, the tech-savvy group has risen above this cliché and are raising families and buying homes.
According to Pew Research (based on population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau as of 2016), millennials will surpass Baby Boomers (those born after World War II) as the nation’s largest living adult generation in 2019. Additionally, according to recently released data from the National Center for Health Statistics, about 1.3 million millennial women gave birth for the first time in 2015. In total, millennial women accounted for 82 percent of U.S. births in 2015.
In addition to needing new home and renters insurance, this group will be updating their cars to accommodate all these new family members — which makes them the primary audience for State Farm’s services.
Similarly, the NBA 2K League is benefiting from State Farm’s sponsorship. Previously sponsors for the league included four technology companies: Dell, Twitch, HyperX, and Intel (which the league’s New York studio is named after).
State Farm, however, gives the league three big boosts of credibility:
- First, it is a sponsor that is not tied directly to gaming or technology.
- Second, it is a major national brand name that is familiar to most consumers (and certainly sports fans who are used to seeing the brand sponsor traditional sporting events).
- Third, it is enabling the NBA 2K League to create new content (with the “Game Mode” and “Game Time” shows), which will help fans engage with the sport and could create new exposure for other esports fans.
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The NBA 2K League has seen individual teams grab non-endemic sponsors (for example, Grizz Gaming has a deal with the American Navy and Cavs Legion has sponsorships with Rocket Mortgage and Hot Pockets), but State Farm is the first league-wide, non-endemic sponsorship.
The only question hovering around the League right now is its viewership numbers. For the May 1 opening day, NBA 2K League viewership on Twitch hit a high of 13,703 spectators. Over the next few weeks, those numbers gradually fell into the high-four figures. The Overwatch League, in comparison, ranged from 126,000 to 203,000 during the same time period.
“I think that we’re all going to learn whether players of console games will become fans of the esports leagues that utilize that game,” said Gold. “I think it’s a learning experience for all of us: game makers, leagues, teams, partners, everybody.”
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Some of the viewership drop could be explained by the NBA 2K League’s overlap with the actual NBA finals. Now that the tournament is over, it will be interesting to see if there is any change for the League’s numbers. Is there a chance that NBA fans, casual fans of NBA 2K, or both will become fans of the esport and the NBA 2K League?
According to Donohue, the current viewership is in line with the League’s projections; “pretty close to what we expected,” he said.
Even though the NBA 2K League is a young esport, it has the backing of the entire NBA – and the potential to draw on its decades of marketing experience. The growth potential for the League is massive. Even though the current financial terms and durations of the NBA 2K League sponsorship deals have not been disclosed, speculation is that they are multi-year deals priced in the mid-to-high six figures.
“We’re enthusiastic about esports,” said Gold, “and the NBA 2K League was an exciting way to extend our working relationship with the NBA.”
While the NBA 2K League is not even half way through its first season, it is landing some significant sponsors. The clout that comes with this State Farm deal is likely to encourage other brands to follow. If you are interested in sponsoring an esport player, team, league, or event or want to land a big fish like State Farm to sponsor your esports’ ventures, give eGency Global a call at 972-323-6354 and discover how we can help.