- Women-first social networking app Bumble is teaming with esports organization Gen.G to create an all-female esports team, the companies announced in a press release. The Team Bumble esports group will play in tournaments and be staffed by "Fortnite" players and several gaming influencers.
- The two companies also have plans to release custom merchandise for the "Fortnite" team and other Gen.G championship groups. As part of the push to empower women in esports, Bumble created a "gaming" badge for app users to add to their profiles and a search filter for users who want to connect with other gamers.
- Bumble also revealed a social media element of the partnership: It's now the official partner for Kristen Valnicek (@KittyPlays), Gen.G's head of new gaming initiatives. As part of the partnership, Bumble will leverage #TeamKitty, a network of female gamers organized by Valnicek. The two companies plan to develop custom content and host activations together through this handle and hashtag.
Bumble counts more than 65 million users worldwide, a massive audience that perhaps has yet to be tapped in the emerging esports world — a space that's increasingly being mined by marketers. Esports' reach grew to 380 million people this year, up 14%, according to NJ Games, which forecasts viewership to hit 557 million by 2021. More than a third (38%) of those viewers are women. Through the new partnership, Bumble and Gen.G are pushing a message of empowerment in the gaming community and creating an environment for women to connect with other women to play esports.
Bumble has made female empowerment a major part of its brand proposition and marketing message. The dating and social networking app, which requires women to make the first move, is backed by Serena Williams. Williams, a global adviser for the company, helped to create Bumble's first Super Bowl campaign, which was developed and produced entirely by women.
Large brands sponsoring leagues and teams has also grown more common as esports becomes increasingly lucrative. AT&T was a founding sponsor of a mobile esports league called the ESL Mobile Open, created by esports organizer and producer ESL. Hershey sponsored a livestreaming esports event on Twitch, and Anheuser Busch recently filed a trademark to be the "official beer of esports."
Chief among the growth of esports is "Fortnite," which passed $500 million in revenue on iOS devices earlier this year. Even as it's seen decreased attention amid the rise of other games, it remains a target of savvy marketers that want to reach millennial and Gen Z consumers in the gaming world. Wendy's last month returned to Twitch to play the game with its digital avatar, livestreaming the action to promote the launch of Baconfest.