After announcing one of the largest sponsorship deals esports has ever seen last year, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Betway have ended the deal prematurely. The main reason for this is due to NiP’s entry to League of Legends, where Riot Games‘ restrictions on sponsors are well known.
The split doesn’t see the complete end of the agreement, as the two companies will work together in the realm of CS:GO, where the two sides have kept up relations. Most notably, a few hours after the announcement Betway set-up a 10-man “PUG” community match, advertising possible NiP involvement.
— betway esports (@betwayesports) August 15, 2017
The issue comes from the LCS’ rulebook, which prohibits sponsorship from gambling companies appearing on team apparel. This was a major feature of the NiP/Betway sponsorship, as they had a fairly prominent placement. The rule in question is 7.2.4, which explicitly bans gambling under point (iii), for any services or products “Containing any material constituting or relating to any activities which are illegal in any League region, including but not limited to, a lottery or an enterprise, service or product that abets, assists or promotes gambling”.
Through Riot Games’ rulesets, they’ve forced one of esports’ most notable and largest sponsorship deals to fall flat on its face. In a region where online gambling is perfectly fine, regulated and legal, most consumers seem okay with gambling sponsors littering teams in both traditional sports and esports. The replies to the tweet when NiP announced the split were of disappointment, something of a rarity to a world traditionally suspicious of traditional betting companies. This is partly testament to the work Betway did to reach out to the community, in the form of interviews, ‘frag clips’, tournaments and community-focused ‘aim maps’ in CS:GO.
Esports Insider says: It’s a disappointing day when such a deal is forced to close prematurely. In what appeared to be the first steps to esports companies welcoming the lucrative world of gambling, it’s struck down by NiP’s new regulators. One step forward, two steps back as always.