AT&T is the founding sponsor of a mobile esports league called the ESL Mobile Open, created by esports organizer and producer ESL, Sport Techie reported. The year-round league starts its first season on March 18 and is open to any amateur who wants to compete on their smartphone for a chance to win a cash prize of $330,000.
The tournaments will feature mobile videogame titles "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," "Clash of Clans" and "Asphalt 9: Legends." Most of the competition will be on the ESL Play tournament platform, although the finals will be at the DreamHack gaming festival in Dallas on May 31. Twitch and YouTube will host streams of the finals.
AT&T became ESL North America's official telecommunications and mobile gaming sponsor in June. The new mobile esports league is their first major collaboration since then, per SportTechie.
AT&T's sponsorship of a mobile esports league is another indication of the surging popularity of mobile gaming, the fastest-growing category of videogames, thanks in part to titles like "Fortnite" that can be played on any device. Games are the third-most popular category of app after social media and shopping apps, according to a survey by researcher Newzoo. By sponsoring a mobile esports tournament, AT&T can raise awareness of its brand among existing fans and mobile gaming amateurs who have never entered a videogame tournament before.
That audience consists of tech-savvy young people who are forming brand loyalties that may last over the long term. Mobile gamers are receptive to advertising, with 53% of gamers saying ads helped them get updates about products they need or want, compared with 42% of non-gamers, per Newzoo. Almost half (43%) of gamers said they're more likely to buy or use brands that have ads they like, compared with 32% for non-gamers.
Intel, Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz are among the major brands that sponsor esports events to reach audiences that are harder to find among traditional media like TV, radio and print. Corporate sponsorship of esports tournaments is expected to surge 34% to $457 million this year, Newzoo said in a separate report.
The new comes as AT&T is vying with Verizon to be the biggest cellular carrier in the U.S., and has made significant investments in content to push through its wireless and landline networks. AT&T last month overcame Justice Department opposition to its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner and began a managerial shakeup of the media giant. As the new owner of Warner Media, AT&T also has the potential to promote its videogame titles and host meet-and-greets with esports stars at AT&T wireless stores, per Bloomberg News.