4 OUR THOUGHTS ON Leo Burnett sponsorship team behind the scenes at latest UK eSports event In May, we were lucky enough to attend the Vainglory Spring Season 2017 Unified Championship (catchy title…) at the O2 in London. With this being a fairly new sports platform within the UK, we jumped at the opportunity, keen to see what the relatively new eSports category event would be like . Understandably (as I think most would be), we were hesitant about an event of this ilk; eSports events are a novel entity within the UK, however the increasing momentum within which eSports is gaining provides an exciting prospect for the UK eSports fanbase. Vainglory, for those unaware, is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). Nothing new… you only have to look towards the likes of League of Legends and Dota 2 who have taken the eSports world by storm, as well as Heroes of the Storm (from the same people who brought us World of Warcraft). The difference however with Vainglory is that it is entirely mobile; so iPhones, iPads, and android tablets are the only way to play this game. This makes it even more interesting from a spectator point of view, as you can probably imagine... Released in 2014, it has only really gained traction in the last two years. Vainglory has now held several “seasons” of championships, and thus in its relative infancy, we were lucky enough to get an all access pass to see how it worked. As you might expect, the teams had sponsors including large corporations like Visa and Red Bull. The event itself however, only had a few sponsors to speak of; one might link this to it being the first of it’s kind in Europe (all previous “seasons” being held in North America). You may think this offers a prime opportunity for the team sponsors to get a little extra screen time or brand presence on location, however this was not the case… The hosts operated a clean venue principle for athlete drinks, as they did not secure a drinks partner (we’re told by an employee). So even though there wasn’t an official drinks partner, brands like Red Bull were not allowed to have their cans on stage or team desks. Rights holders protecting sponsorship properties is perfectly common, however seeing it first hand at a newly established eSports brand, protecting an unsold category, is somewhat novel. Is it better to have a clean principle when you have no sponsors, or to allow them to use the space until one comes along? Some may argue that the lack of a sponsor presence would appear that the rights holder has little draw, yet others would say that the lack of branding would encourage other brands to step into the space. It may be telling of the developing sponsorship landscape where events who don’t sell a sponsorship package are holding back other sponsors in order to protect those unsold rights. A principle surely to be emulated by others, as they become more aware of their value as a rights holder. Watch this space, as the sport gains ever increasing momentum within the UK, providing an exciting platform for brands to engage with the increasingly interested eSports public. One can only imagine that larger brands will start jumping at an opportunity like this; one that already holds an unsurmountable number of fans in places like Japan and Korea. Keep a look out for the next eSports event in the UK; an altogether enjoyable experience that we would highly recommend!