- Fast casual chain Zaxby's this month became the exclusive sponsor of Ali Hassan, the professional gamer whose online handle is "SypherPK." Hassan has 11 million followers on digital platforms including Twitch, the livestreaming site owned by Amazon, per an announcement.
- The sponsorship will give Hassan's followers a chance to play against him in upcoming livestreams and to win gift cards from Zaxby's, which has 900 restaurants in 17 states. Hassan announced the sponsorship in a July 2 livestream seen by almost 300,000 viewers. The 12-hour stream generated more than 100,000 hours watched worldwide, according to the announcement.
- Zaxby's agreement with Hassan follows the chicken restaurant chain's sponsorship of the Houston Outlaws and Florida Mayhem esports teams in the Overwatch League and the High School ESports League.
Zaxby's sponsorship of Hassan's livestreamed gaming sessions is part of the fast casual chain's broader effort to reach a target audience of younger consumers who are elusive to traditional media outlets like linear TV. Hassan is one of the most popular professional players of "Fortnite," the battle royale game from Epic Games, with 3.5 million followers on Twitch and 4.2 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. That large and dedicated following gives Zaxby's a way to reach a mass audience as Hassan plugs the brand and offers a chance for viewers to win prizes and play against him.
With many people stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, viewership of Twitch's livestreams has surged. Twitch saw a 52% jump to 2.49 million average concurrent viewers in April from the prior month, while total hours watched climbed 47% to 1.79 billion, according to TwitchTracker. Those numbers have receded in subsequent months, but they remain elevated compared with the pre-pandemic trend. Time spent on Twitch creates more opportunities for brands like Zaxby's to reach a target audience.
Zaxby's is among the brands that are sponsoring popular gaming streamers and esports events. Last month, Verizon signed a three-year sponsorship of the Legends Championship Series (LCS), the North American professional gaming division of Riot Games' popular "League of Legends" title. Carmaker BMW in April started sponsoring five esports teams in what was billed as a "major expansion" of its ambitions in the category. That same month, eyewear maker Zenni announced a sponsorship deal with the Houston Outlaws and Pittsburgh Knights esports teams.