- Pizza Hut is the first brand to win naming rights to a virtual football stadium, while Snickers will return as an official sponsor of EA's Madden NFL esports tournament, per a press release shared with Marketing Dive. The Madden NFL 20 Championship Series (MCS) this year has open registration to draw the greatest number of esports competitors in its history.
- The Madden NFL 20 Classic is timed with the NFL kickoff from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 and will air on the Madden NFL Twitch and YouTube channels, per the announcement. After that, MCS events will happen during key NFL moments, including the Madden NFL 20 Club Championship on Dec. 18-21 before the playoffs and the Madden NFL 20 Challenge from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 before the Super Bowl.
- The series concludes at the Madden NFL 20 Bowl, which coincides with the NFL Draft on April 23-25 next year, when 16 top players will vie for the Madden NFL championship title. EA will host events in Texas at the 100,000-square-foot Esports Stadium Arlington, the biggest dedicated esports facility in North America, per the announcement.
Pizza Hut and Snickers' sponsorship of EA's Madden NFL 20 Championship Series aims to reach younger consumers who are more likely to play video games — or watch other gamers livestream their gameplay on platforms like Twitch — than spend time consuming traditional media like TV.
Naming rights to sports stadiums have existed as a promotional tool for generations, and Pizza Hut's sponsorship of a virtual stadium is another sign of how multiplayer games have evolved into major online gathering places for consumers. The pizza chain may see greater promotional value from sponsoring an esports venue than from putting its moniker on a real-world stadium, especially as game attendance declines for professional sports. Meanwhile, esports events are generating significant publicity, as seen with last weekend's Fortnite World Cup that awarded a cash prize of $3 million to Kyle Giersdorf, an American teenager who won the tournament at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
By hosting esports tournaments during key NFL moments, EA can leverage the publicity surrounding events like opening weekend, the playoffs, the Super Bowl and the draft to entice more gamers to compete in the events and to boost viewership for its Twitch channel. The number of U.S. consumers expected to watch an esports event at least once a month will grow 18% to 30.3 million this year from 2018, researcher eMarketer forecast in March. Esports viewership is set to surge more than 50% by 2023 to reach 46.2 million viewers. Corporate sponsorship of esports tournaments looking to capture these millions of fans is expected to jump 34% to $457 million this year, games researcher Newzoo predicts.
Pizza Hut and Snickers are among the brands that are sponsoring esports events as their audience continues to grow. Nike this month started sponsoring the Brazilian esports organization Furia, following its prior sponsorship of TJ Sports, a joint venture between Chinese video game companies Tencent and Riot Games.
Anheuser-Busch this month filed trademarks for the phrases "The Official Beer of Esports," "The Official Beer of Gamers" and "The Official Beer of Gaming" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). AT&T, Axe, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Mercedes-Benz and Tillys are among the brands that already have esports sponsorships.