NEOM aftermath, LCS makes interesting moves | ESI Digest #5

Each week, ESI Digest breaks down the weekly happenings in the esports industry, making sense of things so you don’t have to. As well as being housed on YouTube, ESI Digest is available on all major podcast platforms and is also available in written form below.

This week on ESI Digest, we cover the aftermath of the NEOM controversy, LCS’ sizable developments, Activision Blizzard’s MLB hire, and B Site’s expansion into VALORANT.

Riot Games to reportedly establish ethics committee after NEOM backlash

Riot Games plans to establish an ethics committee and global deals council after the company’s short-lived partnership with NEOM, a Saudi Arabian city development project.

The global deals council will implement a tracker to provide company-wide transparency for “all business development and sponsorship deals occurring in Riot’s global operation.”

Representatives from Riot Games’ social impact division Karma, the Global Esports team, and its legal and diversity and inclusion teams will all be included. The council will report to the developer’s Head of Corporate and Business Development, Brian Cho, and Senior Vice President, Mark Sottosanti. 

BLAST terminates deal with Saudi city NEOM

Danish tournament organiser BLAST has terminated its partnership with Saudi tech city NEOM, which was established on July 28th.

The deal was met with backlash from members of talent and the public when it was announced late last month. It would have seen BLAST work with NEOM to help it become a regional esports hub, advising on the creation of an esports academy as well as the expansion of esports within the wider Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

LCS dines with Buffalo Wild Wings partnership

Riot Games has announced the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) has partnered with major restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings.

This partnership with make Buffalo Wild Wings the official sports bar of the LCS, giving BWW access to LCS trademarks for advertising with games being broadcast through BWW’s OT Network, an in-bar channel delivering exclusive content.

Honda confirmed as first LCS in-game banner partner

Honda will be the first brand partner of the LCS to move into the game itself, Riot Games has announced.

The goal was to replicate the stadium signage commonplace in traditional sports stadiums. On launch, Mastercard and Alienware were the first two partners signed up for the new banner ads. Most regions were left to their own devices when it came to putting brands on the banners.

Activision Blizzard hires deputy MLB commissioner to lead esports

Activision Blizzard made a significant personnel move this week, announcing the hiring of Major League Baseball deputy commissioner Tony Pettiti to lead its esports and entertainment efforts.

Pettiti, who will officially begin on August 17th, will be Activision Blizzard’s President of Sports and Entertainment and report directly to CEO Bobby Kotick.

Flashpoint organiser B Site expands into VALORANT with Ignition Series event

B Site, the tournament organiser behind the FLASHPOINT league for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, has announced its first event for Riot Games’ VALORANT.

The organiser has been tapped to host Pop Flash, the final event in the North American VALORANT Ignition Series for 2020. The online competition will take place from August 26-30th.

ESI Digest is part of ESI Network, a collection of podcasts encompassing the esports industry. For deep dives into the major areas of esports with subject matter experts, check out ESI Focus. For conversations with key personnel and major stakeholders in esports, ESI Insight is the series for you.