- Telecom giant Verizon and tax preparation software TurboTax announced they are official sponsors of Twitch Rivals, an esports tournament series that pits popular videogame streamers against each other. The next event in the series will be the Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl on Jan. 30 in Miami, three days before the Super Bowl, per information shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Verizon is showcasing next-generation 5G mobile service as the presenting sponsor of the tournament's "Pick of the Draft" and most valuable player awards. The Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl tournament, which features streamers competing in the battle royal game "Fortnite," has a $500,000 charity prize pool.
- The esports tournament comes as the defection of Twitch streamers like Richard Tyler Blevins, better known by the alias "Ninja," to other platforms is taking its toll on the livestreaming platform, which is owned by Amazon. Twitch's total hours watched declined to 2.3 billion minutes in Q4 from 2.6 billion in the prior three-month period, per Newzoo data cited by Streamlabs.
Verizon and TurboTax's sponsorship of the Twitch Rivals tournament aims to connect with the growing audience for esports entertainment. Verizon is highlighting its 5G service, which likely will appeal to esports audiences who want a high-speed connection to watch livestreams or to participate in popular multiplayer games like "Fortnite." By hosting the tournament in Miami during Super Bowl week, event organizers can build on publicity for the big game among football fans gathered in the city.
Verizon and Turbotax are among the growing roster of sponsors of livestreamed esports events, whose viewership is starting to rival the audiences for traditional professional sports. The global audience for esports is 443 million people, greater than viewership for the NFL, MLB and NBA, per research from Green Man Gaming. The number of esports athletes available for possible sponsorship more than tripled from 8,000 to 25,000 in the past five years, the report said. In the U.S., esports viewership will jump more than 50% by 2023 to reach 46.2 million viewers, eMarketer forecast in March.
Similarly, Snickers last month became the presenting sponsor of the Madden NFL 20 Club Championship, an esports tournament hosted by video game maker Electronic Arts (EA). Pizza Hut was the first brand to win naming rights to a virtual football stadium when EA and the NFL last summer introduced the Madden Champion Series for players of videogame "Madden NFL." AT&T, Axe, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Mercedes-Benz and Tillys are among the brands that are already esports sponsors.