American eSports innovator, Riot Games Incorporated, has reportedly inked a deal that is to see multinational financial services firm Mastercard Incorporated serve as a main sponsor for its League of Legends multi-player online battle arena video game.
Agreement signed despite sexism claims:
According to a Wednesday report from the Associated Press published by Yahoo.com, the arrangement was two years in the making and comes even as Riot Games Incorporated is dealing with claims that it had fostered a sexist corporate culture.
Video games information website, Kotaku, published a story on August 7 that detailed instances of women working for the eSports brand being passed over for promotion while describing unwanted sexual advance cases and occasions where females were questioned about the legitimacy of their video game fandom.
The news service reported that this account subsequently prompted other former employees to step forward with similar claims before the Los Angeles-headquartered developer published a statement on its website apologizing to employees and fans.
Developer to improve corporate culture:
The Associated Press reported that Riot Games has since explained that it intends to improve its corporate culture and has established a team led by Harvard Business School professor, Frances Frei, to address inclusion and diversity. The Californian developer also declared that this panel is to evaluate its ‘core cultural tenets’ as well as its investigative processes and recruiting.
Sponsor not averse to walking away:
Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Mastercard Incorporated, told the Associated Press that he will be monitoring Riot Games Incorporated’s efforts to improve and won’t shy away from cutting ties if these initiatives prove fruitless.
Rajamannar to the Associated Press…
“For us it’s very simple. It’s not just Riot. Any partner that we work with, if there are these fundamental, ethical issues that come about, we won’t hesitate walking away. Things like sexism and all that stuff, we have zero tolerance for it, not just within our own company but with the partners that we work with.”
Deal’s benefits apparent:
However, Mastercard Incorporated remains keen to partner with one of the world’s most-watched eSports as League of Legends regularly chalks up in excess of 100 million players and attracted over 80 million viewers for its 2017 world championship. Naz Aletaha, Head of eSports Partnerships for Riot Games Incorporated, reportedly told the Associated Press that that she is ‘very optimistic about the future’ as the deal ‘validates’ the developer’s spot in the sector.
The news service reported that the sponsorship deal comes amid increasing competition in the eSports sector. The Overwatch League from rival developer Blizzard Entertainment Incorporated recently purportedly premiered with global advertising partners Intel, HP and T-Mobile before taking the unprecedented step of broadcasting its championship match live on ESPN in prime time. In addition, competitor Epic Games Incorporated has hit the 125 million players mark for its Fortnite title only a year after launching.
Game about more than ‘just killing’:
But, Rajamannar proclaimed that his firm decided to go with League of Legends as the game is ‘more fantasy based’ in contrast to other titles that rely on ‘just killing and shooting and the gore, blood spilling.’ He detailed that Riot Games’ advance ‘fits much better with the way we wanted to go’ as the game features ‘more strategy, team spirit and sportsmanship.’