Each month, sports digital agency Mailman shares the biggest esports stories and insights from China’s esports scene, along with expert analysis on why they matter.
Last month saw three major esports tournaments take place across China’s most popular titles, including Dota 2, League of Legends, and CS:GO. These events, whilst taking place overseas, generated new levels of fan following, especially with Chinese team Royal Never Give Up winning its third Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) championship.
However, the star of the show online in China was Evil Geniuses, who surprised the whole community with their performance — especially online with significant growth on its local channels. Beyond these international tournaments, we saw a number of other headlines from the month of May.
Marriott Bonvoy partners with Honor of Kings’ King Pro League
On May 6th, Tencent signed a partnership deal with hotel travel programme Marriott Bonvoy for its top Honor of Kings franchise league, the King Pro League (KPL). Marriott Bonvoy became KPL’s official sponsor, alongside Chinese e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, apparel brand Puma, Castrol, and Bank of Communications.
During the KPL Spring Split Final on May 8th, 24 Marriott hotels across China, including W Hotels, The Westin, and Renaissance, provided KPL exclusive viewing rooms for audiences and fans.
This innovative partnership between the hotel chain and esports league showcases not only the strength of domestic esports leagues in attracting international sponsors, but also new levels of innovation in sponsor activation that is rarely seen in the traditional sports world.
NetEase’s Naraka Bladepoint Pro Leauge signs first sponsor – HP Omen
On May 29th, NetEase announced that its esports franchise league Naraka Bladepoint Pro League (NBPL) signed a sponsorship deal with Omen, the gaming laptop brand of Hewlett Packard (HP). Omen is the first sponsor/partner of NBPL that NetEase has announced so far.
It should be noted that Durex, electronics brand Philips, and Chinese e-commerce platform Jing Dong were sponsors of the Naraka Bladepoint World Championship in January, which NetEase hosted in Guangzhou.
After NetEase announced in April that it would put RMB 5.2M (~£625K) prize money to build NBPL’s esports ecosystem in China, many brands and international teams, including Swedish esports organisation Alliance, have entered Naraka Bladepoint. We expect to see more brands in the NBPL and the league challenge Tencent’s lead in the Chinese esports market.
Short-form video platform Kuaishou buys ESL CSGO co-broadcasting rights from Huya
On May 20th, Chinese live streaming platform Kuaishou announced that it had bought the co-broadcasting rights to ESL’s CSGO series events, including the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Rio 2022 in November. Kuaishou reportedly bought the broadcasting rights from Huya, not ESL, which means Chinese esports audiences can watch ESL CSGO events from both Kuaishou and Huya.
By acquiring these premium rights, Kuaishou is making its first move in the esports space. No longer purely a vertical short-form video platform, Kuaishou is diversifying its content to include live broadcasts as its future growth medium. Despite no Chinese teams participating in this tournament, Kuaishou clearly believes in the strength of esports content to attract new audiences to this video platform.
Mailman is a leading sports digital agency in China. It helps sports organisations & brands to build sustainable businesses in China, one of the world’s most challenging markets. Mailman is an Endeavor China company.