By Conor White
Mastercard is teaming up with "League of Legends" to become the first global sponsor of one of the world's largest esports ー all in the interest of greater connectivity.
"We are looking for passion points where we can create and curate experiences for our consumers," Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard's chief marketing and communications officer, said.
The financial giant will focus on three annual global tournaments: the Mid-Season Invitational, the All-Star Event, which rounds out the year, and the pinnacle of all esports eventsー the World Championship, which begins in South Korea on Oct. 1.
For Rajamannar, the deal arrives at an ideal time. He told Cheddar that "esports is absolutely stunningly big and growing fast."
Mastercard will offer "Priceless" experiences ー behind-the-scenes tours, the chance to watch a game with a "League of Legends" pro player from VIP seats, and even an opportunity to test the gaming PCs the pros will compete on during the World Championship final.
In Rajamannar's view, it's all about interactive ads, the way of the future.
"The traditional model of advertising is dead, storytelling is dead," said explained. "It's all about story-making."
"You create experiences for consumers in the areas they care about, and then they become the storytellers themselves."
The partnership will also diversify Mastercard's world-class sports and entertainment portfolio, which already includes partnerships with MLB, the PGA Tour, and rights to the Rugby World Cup Japan 2019. League of Legends games are broadcast to millions of fans across the world in 18 different languages, and the World Championship event boasts an average 80 million unique viewers.
This is Mastercard's first foray into the esports arena, and though the company knows it has a long way to go, Rajamannar ー along with the rest of the team ー is excited and something on which he's willing to take a risk.
"We are at the beginning of the journey, and it's a big step that we are taking," he said. "We want to be very thoughtful, we want to be very careful and learn along the way."
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