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BMW’s Expands Esports Involvement With Five Team Deals

German auto giant BMW Group announced it will significantly expand its esports marketing involvement, with platform and partnership deals involving five big esports organizations: Cloud9, Fnatic, FunPlus Phoenix, G2 Esports and T1.

The deals “will include content development across social media, information sharing and technology transfer with its engineers and designers on hardware and software,” according to a BMW release. “BMW Motorsport is also continuing its simulated racing activities to build on success from 2019.”

BMW SVP consumer and brand Jens Thiemer said the company plans to use its “design and innovation skills to help shape the discipline in the long term. Our esports involvement is an important milestone providing, for the first time, a new intersectionality with a dynamic and fast-growing community. We consider esports a promising, growing addition to our marketing activities.”

The five teams – based variously in Germany, the United States, China, South Korea and Britain – have between them about 200 esports athletes competing in such games as League of Legends, Dota2, and Fortnite. Though in-person events tied to those tournaments are on hold during the pandemic, millions of online fans continue to watch big contests involving top teams for these and other titles.

As part of the sponsorships, BMW will generate its own social-media content about the teams on platforms such as Twitch, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, in part using the #UnitedInRivalry and #UnitedAtHome hashtags. BMW also will provide each of the teams with customized official vehicles featuring team logos and other design elements.

The expanded BMW sponsorships comes as many other parts of traditional auto racing are embracing esports to partly fill the void caused by closures of live racing worldwide.

What’s different is that the racing groups’ esports contestants are all professional drivers for their various circuits, in a fashion not too different from the recent NBA and University of Kentucky esports tournaments using the NBA 2k game, featuring some of their top basketball players.

Not incidentally, Variety just reported that the NBA and Microsoft will partner to create a new direct-to-consumer OTT streaming service that also will incorporate some lessons learned from the video game space. Expect to see more such video game-influenced sports offerings as leagues and partners try to create stickier and more compelling content beyond traditional live games.

Meanwhile, NBCsn partnered with NASCAR on the Short Track iRacing Challenge this month, featuring such prominent real-world drivers such as Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt also hosted billionaire racing legend Roger Penske this past week on his regular podcast. Penske talked about not only watching the NASCAR esports events with interest, but also the Indie car equivalent, because a couple of his sons are involved there. BMW-backed drivers swept the top three positions in the recent IMSA esports race set at Sebring.

Formula One, the biggest global racing circuit, has launched a series of virtual Grand Prix events, featuring half a dozen F1 drivers. The China Virtual Grand Prix will be held Sunday in Shanghai, where the physical version of the race had previously been scheduled. Drivers will join remotely, and the race will be shown on the official Formula 1 sites on YouTube, Twitch, Weibo and Facebook.