Last month another non-endemic sponsor entered the esports scene in a big way. Domino’s Pizza announced that the company entered a multi-year agreement with Gfinity, an esports competition company and content provider.
Gfinity runs an Elite and a Challenger series for the esports FIFA, Street Fighter V, and Rocket League (the most recent season of the Gfinity Challenger Series began on July 30). The tournaments are the biggest and most organized esports competition in the U.K. The company also runs a version of the Elite series in Australia, although Domino’s does not sponsor that event.
Photo Credit: Dexerto
According to the press release, Domino’s will be the presenting partner for the U.K. version of the Gfinity Challenger and Elite Series. The pizza chain will be given an in-show presence throughout the 80 hours of live FIFA, Rocket League, and Street Fighter V broadcasts with the tagline “Delivered by Domino’s.”
Domino’s will also receive custom-made content, broadcast and digital assets, player shirt sleeve branding, social media activations, ticketing and hospitality. The arrangement guarantees that Domino’s will be the only sponsor from “the quick service restaurant sector.” The deal will run through December 2020.
“We are delighted to have entered into a multi-year strategic partnership with Domino’s,” said Garry Cook, Executive Chairman of Gfinity. “It is a testament to the continued growth of esports and the quality of the Gfinity Elite Series. ESports has become the entertainment of choice for brands looking to connect with young adult consumers. It is exciting, it is growing, and it is full of opportunity. We look forward to working with Domino’s to create new and innovative ways to bring even more excitement and interest in the Elite Series.”
In return, Domino’s will promote the Gfinity Challenger and Elite Series across all of its “extensive channels.” The chain also intends to promote any compelling player stories that arise during the competitions.
Photo Credit: The Esports Observer
According to Gfinity, this is “the biggest commercial deal in the company’s history.” Within the last 12 months, Gfinity has signed sponsorships agreements with companies like HP Omen, Turtle Beach, and UNILAD.
Domino’s is said to have put “significant investment” into this deal, and it is getting a lot in return. Big name teams compete in the Elite Series, including Team Envy and Fnatic. Not only will Domino’s branding be seen all around these teams, it will be a part of their jerseys according to the agreement.
Seeing as how Domino’s is also creating content around the tournaments, it’s clear that both Gfinity and Domino’s see a benefit from this relationship. Domino’s receives exposure to the valuable esports audience, while the Gfinity tournaments will be promoted across a wide variety of Domino’s channels.
This partnership marks the first time the pizza chain has ventured into the English-speaking esports market; however, the company does have agreements in other areas of the globe. The brand was a jersey sponsor for the League of Legends team Dark Passage in Turkey. It has also sponsored Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2) and fighting game tournaments in Malaysia. In fact, the company recently placed an ad for an esports project coordinator executive in Malaysia, so the brand appears committed to esports in the region.
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It seems safe to say that, with this most recent agreement with Gfinity, Domino’s appears dedicated to esports in general. Having one more non-endemic sponsor make this large of a commitment is yet another great sign for the industry.
As essential as endemic sponsors are, there is a point where they become a limitation. This is due to the fact that the audiences line up so narrowly between endemics and the events they sponsor that there is little opportunity for growth. There is no question that the early sponsorship of esports by endemic sponsors helped the sport survive, but it didn’t help it grow. What is essential for growth is new eyes, and one way to encourage newcomers to give esports a chance is to activate them through products or brands they trust. This is where non-endemic sponsors become key.
Convincing non-endemic brands to give esports a chance is becoming easier, but that was not always the case. Many non-endemic brands were (and some still are) worried that they will have to do a lot of challenging work trying to find their audience and understand the esports ecosystem. But the recently released Nielsen Esports Playbook, refutes this thinking. The Nielsen Agency found that 58 percent of esports fans in the United States have a favorable view of brand involvement, while only five percent perceive it negatively.
Additionally, it doesn’t matter if the brands are inherently used throughout the course of an esports event or simply appear as sponsors, the brands receive favorable opinions from fans due to their involvement.
When asked about non-endemic sponsors, only 15 percent of this audience had a negative view of these backers. Also, what they considered non-endemic is somewhat fluid. Technology companies, energy drinks, and snack foods were frequently categorized as “semi-endemic.”
As the Nielsen Esports Playbook illustrates, the fans are more than willing to hear a brand’s story. The esports industry has seen sponsorships by several non-endemic brands, including Turtle Wax, Coca-Cola, and Mercedes-Benz, for several years. The trust of the audience is already there – brands just have to discover how their story fits.
Photo Credit: The Esports Observer
For companies worried about making the leap to esports sponsorship, it is recommended to partner with a company that has experience in the industry and understands the intricacies of the esports scene.
The esports audience is an attractive one. It has an average age of 26 and is growing at a tremendous pace: 38 percent year-on-year growth according to the research firm Newzoo. However, this group is notoriously tricky to reach through conventional advertising. They communicate over social media, use ad blocking software when searching online, and stream entertainment while blocking (or blocking out) commercials.
Having an “in” through esports is a huge benefit to most brands. However, it is also a relationship that cannot be forced or rushed. Even the whiff of inauthenticity can spoil the potential relationship, so patience and thoughtfulness are required. It is important to convey that your brand’s involvement will add value to the industry as opposed to interrupting its progress.
The involvement of non-endemic brands, like Domino’s Pizza, is a sure sign of the expanding esports industry. If you are interested in discovering how your brand can comfortably fit within the esports scene, give one of our eGency Global experts a call at 972-323-6354.