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The collision of esports and pop culture can be felt across a number of industries from music to comic books, apparel, and film. This has opened the door for esports organizations and players alike to form mutually beneficial marketing partnerships with giant brand names.
Disney made its first esports partnership in June when Marvel Entertainment and Team Liquid introduced superhero-themed jerseys to promote the home release of Avengers: End Game. On August 2, the entertainment company sponsored NRG Esports and its Overwatch League team San Francisco Shock for Stage 4 of the 2019 competitive season.
“This is the power of gaming and esports,” said NRG Esports CEO Andy Miller, speaking on The Esports Observer podcast. The Marvel Entertainment deal was brokered by esports marketing agency Ader, he said, which has an existing relationship with Disney.
“[Ader] thought we’d be a perfect fit with the Shock rolling through the finals at every stage,” Miller added. “Once we started talking about our star player being named “Super” [Matthew DeLisi] and the content we made, they loved it.”
Miller predicts that more brands like Disney will venture into esports partnerships like the one between NRG and Marvel.
“I think it’s just a great reflection of what’s going to happen in the very near future,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to ignore what everyone’s been building here for the last decade. This is the way to go.”
Disney’s further investment in esports speaks to the continued growth of esports in the eyes of mainstream media. Esports, as a whole, is also experiencing a lift in public awareness thanks to popular television shows.
Fortnite World Cup Solo Champion 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf appeared on The Late Show With Jimmy Fallon, where he was questioned about his training regimen—a far cry from the lack of respect esports received just as recently as 2013.
Riot Games consulted on a recent episode of The Simpsons called “E My Sports” that explored competition through a parody of League of Legends. David “Phreak” Turley, a commentator from the League of Legends North American league, also consulted on the episode.
The TEO Podcast is available on both iTunes and Spotify.
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