Mastercard has become the first brand to agree a global partnership deal with the League of Legends esports series.
The multi-year agreement with the game’s owner, Riot Games, will see Mastercard partner with the publisher to offer live-event activations and fan experiences across three major annual League of Legends tournaments: the Mid-Season Invitational, the All-Star Event, and the World Championships.
The move marks Mastercard’s entry into the esports market, adding to the brand’s portfolio of long-running partnerships with traditional sports rightsholders that include Major League Baseball (MLB) and the UEFA Champions League.
Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer Raja Rajamannar explained: "eSports is a phenomenon that continues to grow in popularity, with fans that can rival those at any major sporting event in their enthusiasm and energy.
"This deal made a lot of sense for us. We're a global brand and League of Legends is a global phenomenon so the scale is there. In-game purchases are a big part of eSports, and we are a payment solutions company."
Naz Aletaha, head of eSports partnerships at Riot Games, added: "We're thrilled to team up with Mastercard on this ground-breaking partnership that will provide meaningful and long-term value to our fans.
"Mastercard is among the first of the world-class brands to take such a big step into eSports at the global level, and we're proud to have them support League of Legends eSports events alongside their other premier sports and entertainment sponsorships."
Financial terms of the landmark agreement have not been disclosed, but Rajamannar confirmed they are “comparable” to Mastercard’s global traditional sport partnerships.
He added: "We took two years to fully understand this space because we wanted to be clear how the consumers think. And what we found out is that they want brands to be authentic, organic and creative. So this collaboration is not just about how many cards we must sell but a long-term effort to engage consumers."
Activation of the deal is set to begin ahead of next month’s 2018 League of Legends World Championships in Seoul, South Korea.
Consumers in South Korea, China and Taiwan will have access to VIP fan experiences via Mastercard’s Priceless rewards platform.
Plans have also been revealed for the launch of a co-branded League of Legends credit card early next year.
The news follows the enormous popular and streaming success of esports’ debut as a demonstration event at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia last month.