Sponsors for esports, also known as ‘the money people’, are the entities that allow professional gaming to exists in its current form.
Just about everywhere you turn, from major tournaments to streaming platforms to individual content creators, a corporate presence is waiting in the wings to present fans with commercials for products and services that they might like.
In exchange for the opportunity to present their offerings as ‘gamer-friendly’, sponsors for esports provide cash. Cash for prize pools, bounties for streamers, physical prizes for giveaways, and even money that covers the day to day living costs of entire esports teams.
Who are the big sponsors for esports organizations and teams?
It would be impossible to list them all, of course. But we would like to cover some of the biggest and most interesting sponsors in the esports ecosystem:
Betway: In 2016, if you had to guess who was going to jump into the esports sponsorship game, Anthony Werkman’s U.K.-based betting firm would have been a long shot. They were known more for darts and snooker than anything electronic. And yet Betway quickly became one of the most supportive sponsors of esports in Europe.
Not only did they form a comprehensive ESL partnership to help fund the major CS:GO tournaments, but they jumped on board with individual team sponsorships as well, picking up Ninjas in Pyjamas, MIBR, BIG, and BLAST Premier. Though the full price of all this hasn’t been disclosed, it is suspected that the total commitment is easily seven figures.
But their involvement in the esports ecosystem doesn’t stop there. Betway created a new brand, Betway esports, that features interviews and player profiles on its YouTube page. They also added an entire esport betting category to their main betting website. They haven’t just dipped their toes in the water. They jumped into the esports ocean with both feet, while sounding an enthusiastic howl.
Intel: There’s probably no sponsor in esports who has been at it as long, and who has committed so many advertising dollars, like Intel. They started by providing free hardware for LAN tournaments at the turn of the century, and haven’t taken their foot off the gas since. The Intel Extreme Masters has been running since 2006, and not once did the company express a shred of doubt in the future of the esports ecosystem. They were also one of the first companies to offer university students esports scholarships, which might seem like a small gesture, but meant so much to thousands of young gamers over the years.
Since those early days, they’ve doubled down on their position. They provide major funding for ESL One, the ESL Intel Grand Slam, the ESL National Championships, and the Dreamhack Masters. Not to mention supporting countless touring leagues on an international level. How much do they spend? Well in 2018 they signed a three-year, $100 million agreement with the ESL. They also agreed to provide upgraded computer and networking hardware to live stadium events in 2021.
It is safe to say that as far as sponsors for esports go, Intel is one of the biggest and most committed of the bunch. And the face of the esports ecosystem would be drastically different today were it not for their tireless support.
GG.bet: Although they’re somewhat smaller than Betway, GG.Bet is another gambling company to make big waves in the esports ecosystem. They’ve been part of the sponsorship game for over a decade now, and though their teams and events may have shifted over the years, they’re still a big player.
Currently they sponsor the ESL, Starladder CS:GO, and DOTA 2 Maincast. More importantly (at least as far as their brand awareness is concerned), they’re the sponsors of HEROIC, the Dreamhack Open Fall 2020 Champions. As far as smaller teams, it is quite possible that they have ongoing minor deals that don’t make the mainstream news. They’ve done it before.
In mid 2020, GG.Bet was named the official global betting partner of ESL. And while that might seem like a ‘free’ title to throw around, remember they had to beat out Betway for the privilege. All combined, their annual sponsorship bill is easily in the millions or tens of millions. As far as sponsors for esports go, GG.Bet has to be considered a heavy hitter.
Red Bull: It would be a crime not to mention one of the biggest names in professional gaming at so many levels: Red Bull. They made the transition from Extreme sports to esports without breaking stride in the mid 2000s, and have never looked back.
They’re not only sponsors of the LoL European Championships, but they just signed a long-term, multi-year partnership with T1 Entertainment & Sports. They’re hitting the League market harder than ever before. But they work hard to avoid being pigeonholed as a sponsor for esports who only only focuses on the huge viewer counts… for example, their self branded Red Bull Gaming team is vastly made up of fighting game professionals! They’re also the official sponsors of Cloud9, the Vodafone Giants, and G2 Esports just to name a few.
Over the years, Red Bull has changed the esports ecosystem in a surprising, positive, and permanent way. And they’re constantly looking for the next big wave. In 2018, they sponsored the legendary streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins alongside a host of smaller online personalities.
Although some players have all of their expenses covered by their cut from the esports teams that they belong to, countless pro players wouldn’t be able to pay the bills from their tournament winnings alone.
Sponsors for esports can still have a hand in funding these players, through mediums such as Twitch or YouTube Gaming. Because as it turns out, streaming has been a good way for pros to make some extra cash, even as they’re getting in crucial hours behind the keyboard and mouse. Plenty of part-time or retired esports players have equaled or even exceeded their lifetime winnings with regular streaming income.
This is only possible because tens of millions of dollars are spent by sponsors on streamed commercials and bounties. They significantly supplement the subscription and donation dollars that an esports streamer collects. One short sponsored bounty made to a mid-sized audience can match an entire day’s donations, in some cases.
You can read more about streaming platforms in our blog post ‘Esports streaming platforms’