SINGAPORE - Mastercard announced a multi-year global sponsorship deal with the popular League of Legends eSports title on Wednesday (Sept 19), the company's first such tie-up with an eSports partner.
League of Legends is one of the world's most widely played and followed eSports games, with about 100 million unique monthly users and its most-watched match pulling in over 80 million live unique viewers.
Mastercard is also League of Legends parent company Riot Games' first global sponsor. There are about 380 million eSports fans worldwide, according to market researcher Newzoo.
The deal will see Mastercard work with Riot to offer live-event activations and fan experiences across three major annual League of Legends tournaments: the Mid-Season Invitational, the All-Star Event, and the World Championship.
"eSports is a phenomenon that continues to grow in popularity, with fans that can rival those at any major sporting event in their enthusiasm and energy," said Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard's chief marketing and communications officer.
"This deal made a lot of sense for us. We're a global brand and League of Legends is a global phenomenon so the scale is there. In-game purchases are a big part of eSports, and we are a payment solutions company."
Rajamannar declined to reveal the exact value of the deal but said it was "very comparable" to Mastercard's other global sponsorships in music and traditional sport with partners like the Grammy Awards and golf's British Open, one of the sport's four Major tournaments.
"We're thrilled to team up with Mastercard on this ground-breaking partnership that will provide meaningful and long-term value to our fans," said Naz Aletaha, head of eSports partnerships at Riot Games. "Mastercard is among the first of world-class brands to take such a big step into eSports at the global level, and we're proud to have them support League of Legends eSports events alongside their other premier sports and entertainment sponsorships."
Fan engagement efforts are set to kick off immediately in the South Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese markets ahead of the 2018 League of Legends World Championships in Seoul next month.
The first experiences available on Mastercard's Priceless platform include the opportunity to watch a game at the championships with a pro player from VIP seats and behind-the-scenes tours of rehearsals.
Mastercard is also planning to launch a co-branded League of Legends credit card early next year.
Said Rajamannar: "We took two years to fully understand this space because we wanted to be clear how the consumers think. And what we found out is that they want brands to be authentic, organic and creative. So this collaboration is not just about how many cards we must sell but a long-term effort to engage consumers."