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Riot Games in talks over first LEC presenting sponsor

Riot Games, the esports event organiser and video game developer, is moving closer to securing its first-ever presenting sponsor for the League of Legends European Championship (LEC).

Speaking to SportBusiness on the sidelines of the Host City conference in Glasgow, Alban Dechelotte, Riot Games’ European head of esports sponsorship and business development, said that talks are under way.

Sponsorship rights to the league, which was created by Riot Games in 2013 and recently rebranded as the LEC, are marketed by the Lagardère Sports agency under a ‘multi-year’ agreement announced in January.

Dechelotte said that the property is not yet ready for a naming rights sponsor given its recent brand relaunch and the need to strengthen the positioning for the league “to be unique and innovative”.

However, he added: “We are open to [a] presenting [partner] and we’re actually in discussions for a presenting partner now.”

Any presenting sponsor would sit above the LEC’s four ‘Main Partners’ and eight ‘Official Suppliers’.

Kia, the Korean automobile manufacturer, became one of the league’s Main Partners at the start of this year, while fashion brand Louis Vuitton also came on board at that level in a deal announced in September. Other LEC sponsors include Beko, DXRacer, Foot Locker, Logitech G, Red Bull and Shell.

The model allows flexibility so that companies can come on board to sponsor just the spring or summer finals, or make a longer-term commitment.

Dechelotte noted: “We’ve tried to build a marketing offer that fits all the different needs. Some brands want more exposure, some brands want a yearly partnership and some want to come in for four weeks.”

There are also some regional sponsors, including German coffee brand Tchibo, which only ties its sponsorship to the German broadcast and, in that way, does not pay for rights in countries in which it holds no interest.

Sponsorship deals represent around 80 per cent of the LEC’s commercial revenue streams, ahead of media rights with 15 per cent and ‘gameday’ revenues (ticketing and any central merchandise sales) with close to 5 per cent.

On the power of the audience demographic that entices sponsors, Dechelotte said: “People understand the value of our community…at the end of the day when you’ve got 85 per cent of the audience which is below 25, there’s not a lot of sports at that level of scale that can offer such a targeted audience. It’s truly global, it’s young and it’s digital first, if not digital only.”

Having built up the broadcast exposure for the series – almost entirely via digital platforms – the LEC will be increasingly in a position to command media-rights fees, according to Dechelotte.

He said: “We have been in a growth trajectory where we’re looking for accessibility and exposure. For most of the publishers, esports was a marketing tool to retain the community into the game. It’s only very recently that we transitioned into a world where actually it could be a sport that people are ready to pay for.

“This is a cultural shift that happened in the last three years. We are trying now to find the balance between accessibility and exclusivity. Today we have two non-exclusive global partnerships with Twitch and YouTube and the goal is primarily to get the show in front of as many players as possible.”