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01/28/21: RLCS fuels Ford deal; VALORANT Challengers’ Aim Lab partnership; NiP’s rebrand

Medias First Morning Read

Thursday January 28, 2021

Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief.
The Rocket League Championship Series fueled up a deal with Ford to serve as the presenting sponsor for all of the RLCS X Winter Majors. The RLCS X Winter Split launches on Feb. 5, with Majors then running every weekend of February on Twitch. Events will include the Oceanic Winter major, the South American Winter Major, the European Winter Major and the North American Winter Major, which wraps up the slate on Feb. 27 and 28.

“We wanted a sponsor that reflected that same amount of drive in their own work and products,” Psyonix said in the announcement. “That’s why we’re proud to announce Ford as the presenting sponsor for all RLCS X Winter Majors! Ford is a sponsor that’s built tough and committed to helping us make sure the Regional Majors have something for everyone.”

NASCAR revealed that the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will return in 2021. NASCAR and iRacing jointly announced that a new-look Pro Invitational will see NASCAR Cup Series stars compete virtually in a 10-race schedule that will complement NASCAR’s real-life racing schedule. FOX Sports will broadcast the first five races of the series live in primetime on FS1. NBC Sports will air the final five races of the series, with its schedule and details to be announced at a later date. “The success of our eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series was underscored by an industry-wide effort to entertain fans during the early months of the global pandemic,” said Tim Clark, NASCAR senior vice president and chief digital officer. “This year the Pro Invitational will return with a schedule of midweek races that will bridge the gap between our real-world races each weekend.”

Electronic Arts and the NFL revealed the celebrities, NFL Legends and current Pro Bowlers competing in the Pro Bowl: The Madden NFL 21 Edition Presented by Verizon. The event will stream on the NFL YouTube, Twitter and Facebook as well as EA Madden NFL Twitch on Sunday, at 5p. The event will feature Snoop Dogg, Deshaun Watson, Derrick Henry and Keyshawn Johnson competing for the AFC, while Bubba Wallace, Marshawn Lynch, Kyler Murray and Jamal Adams will play for the NFC. Michael Strahan and Charissa Thompson will host the Sunday event with streamers Ninja, FaZe Swagg, AustinShow and AMP also hosting live watch parties on their channels.

ESL Gaming struck a two-year partnership with Blizzard Entertainment to operate the esports ecosystem for Hearthstone. game title, impacting some of the largest Hearthstone tournaments like the Grandmasters and the Hearthstone Masters Tours and will entail a total prize pool of $3 million per calendar year. “We are delighted to strengthen our relationship with Blizzard through this two-year Hearthstone partnership” said Michael Van Driel, Senior Vice President Game Management at ESL Gaming. “Operating the game ecosystem is a great move for ESL and Hearthstone, fans around the world can look forward to an exciting two years ahead.

ESL Gaming also laid out its 2021 plans for esports tournaments and DreamHack festivals, including DreamHack’s first live, in-person festival since the pandemic in DreamHack Atlanta in November. The year sees the majority of ESL and DreamHack esports competitions scheduled to be played in a studio setting without a live audience with ESL One Cologne currently slated to serve as the first in-person competition with an audience in July 2021, pending local regulation and guidelines. “Like many other industries, we have had to react and change our plans so that we can ensure the safety of our community while still delivering the same world-class action,” said Ulrich Schulze, SVP Product Management at ESL Gaming. “2021 will look different as we continue to follow the latest health guidance relating to the pandemic, but we are also excited at what prospects are on offer with this calendar. We are committed to returning players to a LAN environment and are currently aiming to have fans back in their seats for ESL One Cologne. Of course, this is dependent on the very latest guidance and we will release further information relating to the status of all tournaments in due course.”

Van Wagner and eight of its NCAA conference partners are launching the Collegiate Esports Invitational were any enrolled student in a member school of the America East Conference, Big South Conference, Big West Conference, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Southland Conference, Sun Belt Conference, West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference will be able to compete in Rocket League. Van Wagner is partnering with Mainline for the online-only event which will feature each conference playing host to a single-elimination qualifying tournament from Feb. 2-5. The two finalists from each conference will advance to the Collegiate Esports Invitational Championship tournament February 6-7 making up the 16-team championship bracket. Van Wagner’s official Twitch channel will carry the finals of each conference tournament as well as the entire Collegiate Esports Invitational Championship bracket.

Speaking of the collegiate scene, Red Bull Campus Clutch is on deck to become the biggest global university esports event ever, offering students an opportunity to in VALORANT. Teams from more than 50 countries will have the opportunity to develop and prove their skills against players from all over the world.

Supercell lined up plans for Brawl Stars Championship 2021, running via four phases with the world finals set to serve up the top 16 teams from all 7 regions. The 1st phase of Brawl Stars Championship 2021 will begin on Feb. 20.

Thirty three-person teams are finalized for the Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl II, with a trios Fortnite competition running on Feb. 4 as teams of NFL pros, top Fortnite players, and content creators compete for a share of a $1 million prize pool to go to their favorite charity. Twitch Rivals marketing partners for the Streamer Bowl II include Capital One, Verizon, Samsung, Doritos, Old Spice, Turbo Tax, and State Farm.

Motorsport Games updated its joint venture agreement with its strategic partner, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest in a move that will see the Le Mans Esports Series create, develop and publish video games, in addition to esports, based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans and FIA World Endurance Championship. “The 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual in 2020 was the perfect illustration of what the partnership between Motorsport Games and the ACO can create,” said Dmitry Kozko, CEO of Motorsport Games. “We are delighted to extend our agreement to include the creation of endurance video games based upon the 24 Hours of Le Mans and FIA World Endurance Championship, while also extending the length of our partnership and increasing the scope of our esports offering.”

FGC staple Combo Breaker announced that the annual event will again be cancelled due to the pandemic. The event was cancelled last year as well and was set to resume in May in Illinois. However, organizers announced that this year would instead see a new multi-day digital festival that would run over Memorial Day Weekend.

Panda Global is teaming up with for The Smashers Gambit, a double elimination chess invitational on February 6-7. The tournament will bring professional Super Smash Bros streamers and chess players together in celebration of chess as an esport. There will also be an exhibition match between the top two Smash Bros. Melee players in the world in HungryBox and Zain will have two weeks to learn the game before they face-off on Feb. 6 at 9p. The event will be streamed on Panda’s newly signed chess player, Anna Cramling’s twitch channel where she will host the matches alongside Smash figurehead, Kris “Toph” Aldenderfer.

Team Liquid is extending its 10-year run with Alienware, inking an extension that will see Alienware continue to supply hardware for Team Liquid and mark the longest partnership between a gaming company and esports team. The renewal will see new programs established to push the industry in three areas: fan engagement, player performance and community opportunities. “Ten years ago, I was introduced to a team at Alienware – the same team that I work with today – after an event during my Curse days,” said Team Liquid’s co-CEO Steve Arhancet. “I didn’t know it at the time, but that conversation would go on to help shape Team Liquid, and with it, my entire life. Alienware and Team Liquid have been partners for a decade because we dream hard and work even harder. In our next chapter, we’re going bigger than we ever have by introducing programs that contribute to fans and players, starting with our Liquid+ launch, and open up the esports industry to underrepresented voices.”

Immortals Gaming Club announced that Progressive Insurance signed on as the Official Insurance Sponsor of its Immortals League of Legends Championship Series team and will partner on a series of unique collaborations that celebrate esports and its passionate fans through activations that will bring together Immortals talent and the Progressive brand including special virtual gaming events and custom content. “Immortals’ LCS team is excited and proud to partner with Progressive Insurance,” says Jon Tuck CCO of Immortals Gaming Club. “Progressive is a leader in its field and aligns well with Immortals’ competitive spirit. We look forward to partnering with Progressive to bring our fans fun, unique content gaming content as well as the competitive coverage our fans crave.”

The LA Galaxy and JLab Audio inked a new and expanded, multi-year agreement. As part of the renewal, brokered by AEG Global Partnerships, the Carlsbad, CA-based company will remain the exclusive headphone and microphone partner of the LA Galaxy and will also become a new official partner of the Galaxy’s eMLS team. To kick things off, JLab Audio will donate over $100,000 worth of ear buds to the LA Galaxy Foundation.

MOUNTAIN, which develops gaming peripheral devices, is jumping into the esports market by becoming the official keyboard, mouse, and mousepad partner across all teams at Misfits Gaming Group. “Misfits Gaming Group is one of the most exciting esports organizations and their vision very much aligns with what we are doing at MOUNTAIN”, stated Tobias Brinkmann, CEO & Founder of Mountain. “We have been working on our gaming peripherals for the last two years with the focus on releasing user-centric products that allow gamers to perform at their very best. Our Everest keyboard and Makalu 67 mouse have been developed from the ground up to enable gamers to perform at their peak, and we’re really excited to see them in action.”

This week, Stream Hatchet analyzed the 2021 Call of Duty League Kickoff Classic that took place last weekend with all 12 teams competing in one best of 5 series. The league is entering its second year which is also its second year exclusively streaming on YouTube Gaming, the fastest growing live streaming platform last year. The peak viewership of the 2021 Kickoff Classic also from last year’s Launch Weekend; an already impressive growth rate considering the 2021 Kickoff Classic was a preseason event whereas the 2020 Launch Weekend was the first regular season event of the League’s inaugural season.
* The Chicago-based franchise (Chicago Huntsmen now turned OpTic Chicago) were part of both top matches from each event. Some of the most popular players, like Seth “Scump” Abner among others, were rostered on both Chicago teams and have some of the largest followings in the league.
* The LA Thieves is the franchise from extremely popular esports organization 100 Thieves, founded by Call Of Duty legend Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag. This will be the first year the LA Thieves participate in the Call Of Duty League as the organization announced the franchise spot and branding only a few months ago. The hype around the team likely contributed to the high overall peak viewership.
* Although the 2021 Kickoff Classic was only a preseason event, it set the tone for upcoming viewership for the Call Of Duty League once the regular season is underway. Expect big matches between popular teams like OpTic Chicago, LA Thieves, and defending champs Dallas Empire to spark even higher peak viewership during the season.

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VALORANT Challengers North America locked in its first partner with the signing of Aim Lab as the official FPS training partner of VALORANT Challengers NA. The FPS/TPS training solution currently has over eight million players around the world. As part of this collaboration, Aim Lab will create specialized training programs for VALORANT esports to help aspiring competitors hone their skills.

Ninjas in Pyjamas unveiled a rebrand of the team’s markers, featuring a “completely new visual design where the old logotype, the Shuriken (a weapon used by Ninjas) is modernized and the previous team colors (black/gold/white) are replaced.” “For us who work at and play for NIP, being a Ninja is something special, it’s more than just a brand and we kept that in mind while creating this new narrative to deliver an unforgettable experience for our fans and partners all over the world.”

Evil Geniuses is entering into a new esport, locking in its squad for VALORANT. The new team is helmed by former Counter-Strike 1.6 and Global Offensive pro and caster Christine “Potter” Chi. “Evil Geniuses approached me with the opportunity to create something special and help define the emerging VALORANT scene,” said Potter, captain of the EG Valorant team. “We’ve put together an amazing squad of veterans and young guns, and I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

Berlin International Gaming (BIG) is joining the roster of Counter-Strike squads landing a spot as a BLAST Premier Member Team following a competitive bidding process. Robbie Douek, CEO of BLAST, said: “BIG are highly respected in the industry and have been one of the most successful esports organizations over the past 12 months – making them the perfect addition to BLAST Premier as a Member Team. Last year’s highly successful circuit came to a record-breaking conclusion on Sunday and we are excited for BIG to be a part of our plans for 2021 as we continue to deliver world-class Counter-Strike to all corners of the world.


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