Frontline Marketing

Delaware North Latest Non-Endemic To Enter ESports

John Gaudiosi|

Global hospitality and food service company Delaware North has entered into a strategic partnership with eSports team, Splyce. Delaware North owns and operates TD Garden, home to the Boston Bruins. The company’s flagship subsidiary, Delaware North Sportservice, operates food, beverage and/or retail services in more than 50 professional sports venues, with clients in the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and MLS.

Splyce filed teams and players across the world, competing in League of Legends, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, StarCraft 2, Gears of War and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Splyce has won nine titles to date.

Todd Merry, chief marketing officer of Delaware North, told [a]listdaily that Delaware North and Splyce have found an opportunity to leverage each other’s strengths to build synergy across brands.

“Between the Bruins, TD Garden and the numerous other properties in the DN portfolio, they are able to provide solid infrastructure and support to a growing business in Splyce,” Merry said. “At the same time, we open up an audience demographic that is almost impossible to reach through traditional means—the coveted 18-34 age bracket, while also providing an emerging sponsorship sales property that many brands are hungry to activate with.”

Marty Strenczewilk, CEO and president of Splyce, told [a]listdaily that among other things, Delaware North will assist the team with identifying and mobilizing on monetization opportunities, providing access to state-of-the-art sports infrastructure and staff to open up advantages in competition, and bring sports management and leadership to help bring common sports practices to eSports.

Delaware North is one of the largest privately-held hospitality and food service companies in the world. Founded in 1915 and owned by the Jacobs family for over 100 years, Delaware North has global operations with 60,000 employees at high-profile places such as sports and entertainment venues, national and state parks, destination resorts and restaurants, airports, and regional casinos that serve more than 500 million guests annually. Delaware North has an annual revenue of about $3 billion in the sports, travel hospitality, restaurants and catering, parks, resorts, gaming and specialty retail industries.

Merry said that almost three years ago, chairman Jeremy Jacobs asked his team to work on a research project around the future of sports. They compiled two sets of research about a year apart and both included eSports as an important trend.

“We had been watching the industry for about 24 months and we saw the interest from fans growing in leaps and bounds and the landscape changing quickly,” Merry said. “We began to look more closely at the business side of eSports and became converts to the opportunity that it offered. Specifically for Delaware North, we feel there are a number of areas of synergy including sponsorship and marketing, events and content.”

This move comes on the same day that the NBA officially entered eSports through a partnership with 2K Sports to launch a 2018 NBA 2K eLeague. That move comes in the wake of teams like the Sixers and Heat acquiring eSports teams.

“Some of the early transactions helped validate what many had begun to believe—that there was opportunity here,” Merry said. “They also presented a number of different ways in which brands could integrate with an eSports organization. Almost every move to date has been slightly different. All credit to the teams that did make the early moves, some of them found good deals as first movers.”

Strenczewilk said Splyce is already working on a handful of projects, including: leveraging the Bruins/TD Garden’s sponsor relationships to begin looking at opportunities for Splyce, working with a Delaware North property to host a boot camp for one of its teams to allow them to better prepare for upcoming events, and helping its staff in areas like merchandizing, social media, and web development work with the experts at DN to trade best practices and enhance what they’re already working on.

“We provide a new perspective on how sports and media is delivered to the next generation of fans,” Strenczewilk said. “Traditional sports lives and thrives on TV, while eSports owns digital in a way that traditional sports is just scratching the surface of. Splyce will be able to help DN learn our best practices for reaching the younger audience, activating to that audience authentically in a digital space, and provide new property to monetize with that has access to an audience that they may not have reached as strongly before.”

Merry said Delware North chose Splyce because it’s a strong brand with very good management.

“While one of the relatively newer brands in the space when you look at what they have accomplished so far it says a lot about their potential when paired with a partner like Delaware North,” Merry said. “And it didn’t hurt that their founder was just down the road from our headquarters in Buffalo—we found a shared set of values in the team at Splyce.”

Merry sees this as an opportunity to get a seat at the table and begin to understand the event side of eSports better.

“That helps us serve our clients on the sports side more effectively as they add eSports events to their venues,” Merry said. “But more than just events, we see this simply as a great investment in a rapidly growing industry that will be around a long time. We firmly believe that the next generation won’t feel the need to call this eSports. League of Legends, DOTA 2 and the rest will simply be ‘sports’ to the Gen Z fans.”


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