Mastercard, long an advertiser in traditional sports and entertainment events, such as Major League Baseball, PGA Tour and The Grammy Awards, is making its first major foray into eSports.
The global payments company will become a worldwide partner for Riot Games’ “League of Legends” series, kicking off with the League of Legends World Championship event this fall in South Korea. The company will also have a presence at the "League of Legends" All-Star Event and the Mid-Season Invitational.
Mastercard will work with its banking partners to launch "League of Legends" co-branded cards in 2019.
According to Riot Games’ head of global esports partnerships Naz Aletaha, the game publisher first started talking to Mastercard two years ago, during the 2016 World Championship event at Madison Square Garden.
“MasterCard was looking to take a big step into the eSports space.
They recognized this audience, just like any other sports and entertainment audience, is a passionate one,” Aletaha says.
As part of the deal, the companies will collaborate on “Priceless Experiences” that will offer Mastercard users a chance to do things like watch a game from VIP seats, sit with professional players or attend a rehearsal of the championship opening ceremony.
Mastercard offers similar “Priceless Experiences” for many of its other partnerships.
“Over the past two years, we’ve been educating ourselves on the eSports industry to determine the best path that would enable us to connect with this passionate community in an authentic way,” Emily Neenan, vice president, global consumer marketing and sponsorships at Mastercard tells Digital News Daily.
“Early on, it became evident that partnering with ‘League of Legends’ was the biggest and best opportunity to do this. We will customize it to the League fan base and continue to innovate, especially our Priceless experiences platform, which is built around connecting people with their passions.””
The deal is a global partnership, a first for “League of Legends.”
“When you look at the scale we have built over the last many years, we have eSports that operate in five continents, and we bring together athletes from all of those regions to compete in Olympics-Sized venues multiple times per year,” Aletaha says. “Mastercard, which is also a global brand, they wanted to partner with an Esport that is everywhere they are.”
The sponsorship is significant one for the business of eSports in general. The new deal is a sign that eSports is maturing as a business.
“We have millions of people that tune in every single week to watch their favorite teams compete and play at the highest levels of League of Legends,” Aletaha says. “To have world-class brands like Mastercard recognize that audience, and our sport and the passion around it, is gratifying.”