Mentioned in this article
Companies:Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Betway, China CITIC Bank, Douyu, DXRacer, Harbin Brewery, HyperX, Intel Corporation, KFC, Li-Ning Company, Logitech, Nongfu Spring, Nvidia, Three Squirrels (三只松鼠), TJ Sports [腾竞体育文化发展（上海）有限公司], Valve Corporation
Dota 2’s The International (TI) 2019 concluded at the Shanghai Mercedes-Benz Arena on Aug. 25. Last year’s TI winner, OG, became the first team ever to win the “Aegis of Champions” (The TI trophy) for a second time, and also took home $15.6M USD of the total $34.3M total prize pool. The moment OG won the championship, a giant version of their logo, complete with main sponsor Red Bull, was projected on the main stage.
TI is a unique esports tournament; Valve only has partnerships with NVIDIA’s GeForce brand and Secretlab, since the tournament already makes three times its prize pool for the game’s publisher (read our TI Esports Essentials piece). Thus, most brands sponsor esports teams instead of the tournament itself. In some ways, due to OG’s victory, Red Bull became the other winner of this premier Dota 2 event in 2019.
The expectations of TI were incredibly high in China. This year, TI surpassed $34M in total prize money, retaining its crown for the “highest prize money in esports history.” Only $1.6M of that prize money is provided by Valve, and the rest is collected from the Dota 2 community by way of in-game digital purchases. In addition, the willingness of consumers to pay inflated prices for tickets from scalpers and resellers was an indicator of TI9’s popularity in China.
Before this year’s event, a number of brands had prepared massive strategies for sponsoring and partnering with Chinese Dota 2 teams. On the one hand, expectations were high from the Chinese Dota 2 community because this was the first time that such a premier Dota 2 event had been held in China in nine years. On the other hand, Chinese Dota 2 teams had performed well in the previous eight-years of TI, winning three championships and placing six times as runner-ups—which for a non-league esport, meant low risks for long-time brand exposure.
TI9: Five Chinese Dota 2 Teams Highlighted 27 Sponsors
In total, five Chinese Dota 2 teams qualified for The International Shanghai: PSG.LGD, Vici Gaming (VG), Royal Never Give-Up (RNG), Keen Gaming (KG), and Newbee.
Although Newbee acquired the full roster of North American team Forward Gaming, thus indirectly purchasing a slot in TI, the sponsorships were shared at and the brand was still owned by a Chinese company.
PSG.LGD, a Chinese Dota 2 and FIFA Online team brand co-owned by French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and LGD Gaming, had 10 active sponsorship deals in this TI. These included betting operator Betway, hardware company IPANSON, shampoo brand Clear, Chinese bottled water and beverage company Nongfu Spring, energy drink brand Monster, alcohol company Harbin Brewery, financial service China Citic Bank Credit Card, traveling service Ctrip, livestreaming platform Douyu, and apparel brand HLA Jeans.
VG had nine sponsorship deals in place during TI9, including HLA Jeans, Douyu, Clear, social media application Bixin, food brand Three Squirrels, hardware brands Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and HyperX, gaming chair brand DxRacer, and betting company Leihuo Esports.
Newbee went into TI9 with six sponsors including Chinese apparel brand Li-Ning, Intel, Nvidia, betting company Raybet, and gaming chair brand Secret Lab.
RNG had five sponsors including Li-Ning, China Citic Bank Credit Card, phone brand Hongmo, alcohol brand Laoshan Beer (title sponsor), and hardware brand Logitech. It should be noted that RNG is the only Chinese team that did not have a betting sponsor during TI9.
KG had three sponsors including betting company Jingbo, Clear, and gaming chair brand AK Player.
The sponsorship value of a Chinese Dota 2 team is performance-driven. PSG.LGD (10 sponsors) won last year’s TI runner up spot and ranked top 6 of the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) 2018-19 ranking list. VG (nine sponsors) won two Dota 2 Majors in the DPC and ranked third place in the ranking list. KG (three sponsors) ranked 12th in the DPC, and was the last to be directly invited to TI9. Although RNG (five sponsors) was not directly invited through the DPC and won the China open qualifier RNG’s League of Legends team has global brand sponsors like KFC and Mercedes-Benz. For Newbee, its original Chinese team did qualify the TI, but the team also won a TI championship in 2014 and took second place at TI in 2017.
Comparison to TI8 Sponsors List
At last year’s TI, Chinese Dota 2 teams had a total of 22 sponsorship deals across six teams, including PSG.LGD (five sponsors), Newbee (five sponsors), VG (six sponsors), VGJ Thunder (two sponsors – the team disbanded after TI8), Invictus Gaming (four sponsors), and TS (no sponsors). After TI8, PSG.LGD became the best performing Dota 2 team in China, and its sponsorship deals doubled.
PSG.LGD won third place at TI9, which was also the highest result for any of this year’s participating Chinese teams. Due to this showing, it’s likely that PSG.LGD will still become a major Chinese sponsorship target for brands in the next year.
The total number of Dota 2 sponsors increased from 22 in 2018 to 27 in 2019, and some sponsors like Li-Ning and HLA Jeans even sponsored more than one team. It is understandable why sponsors increased their investment in teams prior to TI9: due to the event being hosted for the first time in Shanghai, and that a majority of attendees would be Chinese. On the other hand, Chinese teams have performed well in previous TI events, and if one of those teams had won this year, multiple Chinese mainstream media outlets in the country would have provided massive exposure to whatever sponsors backed them. Unfortunately for those sponsors, this did not happen.
In a continuing trend from the last TI, every Chinese Dota 2 team had betting sponsors except RNG in TI9 and TS in TI8. After TI8, Dota 2 publisher Valve discouraged teams from receiving sponsorship deals from betting companies. Alongside betting companies, more non-endemic brands started to sponsor Chinese Dota 2 teams, although most were still hardware companies or gaming chair manufacturers.
For a direct comparison, let’s look at China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL). The league itself boasts 13 sponsors (including Mercedes-Benz, Nike, KFC, Intel, etc.). RNG’s League of Legends squad alone has 12 sponsors, several of which are exclusive to that team. Dota 2’s sponsorship value pales in comparison, but that’s because the LPL is a league esport with a much broader infrastructure. Sponsors appear not only on team jerseys, but also throughout teams’ home venues. Weekly league play also allows for teams and sponsors to provide regular feedback to each other, and with the league organizer; TJ Sports.
TI’s prize money ($34M) is multitudes higher than any single Dota 2 Major ($1M). The total prize money awarded for all Dota 2 Majors and Minors in 2018-2019 was $6.5M, still less than a quarter of TI’s. For most sponsors, signing short-term sponsorship deals makes the most sense. Since Valve has no interest to open the TI sponsorship gate, and the Dota 2 Majors are run by multiple third-party tournament organizers, most of the teams regard the $34M prize money and Aegis of Championship as their key goal, instead of looking for sponsors who might make these teams sustainable businesses.
Editor’s note: Chinese esports outlet Sports Money journalist Ma Lianhong contributed sponsorship data to this article.
Esports Forum at Twickenham Stadium – Oct.9 | Next month during Sports Business Summit TEO is hosting the Esports Forum inviting sports and esports executives to network and discuss the future of sports entertainment.
Credit: Source link