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BlizzCon is widely recognized as Blizzard Entertainment’s annual festival of announcements and esports, organized around its own properties for a dedicated fan base. But it’s not only Blizzard paying to put on the show.
The company has built a network of partnerships that are embedded into the event and the esports broadcasts to assist financially, in product supply or a mix of both. We explored the BlizzCon show floor to examine the various ways some partners activated their presence to catch the eye of Blizzard fans.
There seems to be a split between endemic and non-endemic sponsors in terms of the ways in which they integrate, which makes sense, and Blizzard has built a line-up of partnerships that balances organizations from across both categories.
Amongst endemic businesses, BlizzCon featured MSI, HyperX, Nvidia, Samsung, Corsair, Cisco, and Intel. From the wider business market there was also Facebook Gaming, Coca-Cola, and T-Mobile.
On The Show Floor
There are a lot of halls at BlizzCon, with stages featuring different panel discussions and esports across the Anaheim Convention Center venue. In a few of the main halls, near the game demonstration areas, you find one or two partner booths to explore.
Corsair’s booth featured plenty of new hardware on display, but a few extra features made it stand out for passing fans. A custom PC case mod tied into the Diablo IV launch at the show, a dark church design built around a high-end system. If the case mod catches the eye, the big RGB light throne might draw people deeper into the booth. A long queue seemed to be a constant feature of the Corsair claw machine. Fans had to accept quests that took them around the booth or even out into the wider show. On completion they earned coins, and three coins would win a turn at the claw machine. Prizes ranged from badges and lanyards to keyboards, mice, or headsets.
MSI had a similar booth to Corsair, with plenty of hardware on show and even a quest mechanic of its own to distribute prizes. As MSI is also a sponsor of World of Warcraft guild Method, a number of meet and greet and signing opportunities also took place throughout the event.
HyperX had the simplest of the three endemic booths, with peripheral hardware on show but few other added features. The big standout feature was a 3D audio booth where attendees could test the new surround sound headphone features being championed by HyperX in its Cloud Orbit S headsets.
Coca-Cola recreated the Panorama Diner from Overwatch map Route 66, the diner where attacking characters start the game. Free Coca-Cola and food were on offer throughout the event, but most people wandering through seemed more excited by the design of the booth space – a loving recreation of the in-game diner, with various little Easter eggs hidden around the area to excite fans.
Facebook Gaming had one of the true standout engagement opportunities on the show floor, with constant queues to interact with its ‘Payload Tour’ experience. A circular green screen, a rotating floor plate to stand on, and some game weapon props worked together to create clever motion video gifs that dynamically put fans into a number of Overwatch map moments. The queue for this partner activation was the longest at the show for anything that wasn’t a game demo or other direct Blizzard tie-in space.
One less overt partnership was with Lego as part of a mural that fans could participate in building. Small sections had been designed so that they could be randomly assigned to a fan and they could find its corresponding place on the mural wall. As the event progressed the image started to take shape until by the Saturday afternoon the image was complete – an artwork drawn from the Overwatch 2 intro art revealed at the show.
Beyond the booths, Blizzard also required hundreds of gaming PCs to give fans a chance to sit down and play demos of the newly announced games. As part of that hardware support, each section of game demo PCs had a sign explaining to attendees exactly what hardware was being used. MSI monitors. Samsung SSDs. Corsair and HyperX supplied peripherals. Nvidia and Intel delivered the processors.
The supplied PCs did not take a ‘one size fits all’ approach, with each demo zone running hardware that suited the differing needs of each game. Hearthstone, for example, is a less demanding game so it was on machines with Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics cards and Intel i7 seventh-generation processors. For Diablo IV, systems used ninth-generation Intel i7 processors, Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics, and a 2TB Samsung SSD.
There is one of the BlizzCon halls that acts as its esports arena for the two biggest championships on the Blizzard calendar – Starcraft II‘s World Championship Series and the Overwatch World Cup. In here, Coca-Cola and T-Mobile were two of the most notable sponsors involved. All partners seemed to receive advertising space on the live events streams as per usual arrangements in the regular season of Overwatch League.
A key moment that let one sponsor stand out here was when T-Mobile had a live chat with the hosts to discuss its sponsorship of the Overwatch World Cup MVP voting system, giving them an added piece of integration.
All in all, it felt like Blizzard has found a mix of brands that do integrate well with its annual live show. Importantly, good ideas seemed to have been well developed in order to not just be there and show things to the public, but to make sure they caught the eye of fans and gave them something that added to their BlizzCon experience.
Esports Rising – Nov. 14 | Who Is Attending?
Esports organizations in the likes of Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, Gen G. Game developers, including Riot Games and Blizzard. Non-endemic sponsors such as adidas, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Jack in the Box and more. Sponsored by Lagardère Sports, and presented by Sports Business Journal / Daily, with support of The Esports Observer.
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