Astro Gaming Cranks Up Its Style With Adult Swim And Cartoon Network

Astro Gaming has been the official headset for PAX conventions for the past eight years, but the recently concluded PAX West stands out because of the partnership that was announced between the audio company, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network. To promote the new line of products, Astro revealed special limited edition headsets and themed speaker tags at PAX West featuring the shows Rick and Morty, Adventure Time and Steven Universe. Additionally, Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland was at the event to meet fans and sign autographs.

Cristopher “Soup” Lee, Astro Gaming’s director of partnerships and licensing, spoke to [a]listdaily about revealing the partnership with Adult Swim and Cartoon Network at PAX West, and how it marks the start of bigger things to come.

Cristopher "Soup" Lee, Astro Gaming director of partnerships and licensing
Cristopher “Soup” Lee, Astro Gaming director of partnerships and licensing

How did the partnership to create Adult Swim and Cartoon Network-themed speaker tags come together?

We’re huge fans of Adult Swim and Cartoon Network, and Rick and Morty is a personal favorite. When we found out that the Adult Swim and Cartoon Network creators and crew were fans of Astro, it was only natural for us to combine our forces and work on something really special together for the Astro headsets.

How did you decide on which TV shows to feature with the PAX West limited edition headsets?

We wanted to feature them all! Adventure Time, Steven Universe and Rick and Morty are all such amazing shows that appeal to a wide variety of different fans and gamers; we wanted to get something out there for everyone who loves those shows, and there’s no better event than PAX to do it! These limited sets were just the beginning—we’ve got even more stuff planned for the future.

How do the Astro Gaming, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network brands match together?

We have a lot in common, actually. Sound is important to our fans; whether you’re gaming, watching a show or listening to music, Astro products deliver on that premium audio experience. We’ve worked very closely with both the Cartoon Network and Adult Swim teams to create these tags using their amazing art and iconic characters so fans can customize their Astro headsets and have the best of both worlds (sound and style), whether on the go with A38s or at home gaming on A40s. We also brought Justin Roiland, the co-creator and voice of Rick and Morty, out to PAX West for a meet and greet and signing to continue to tell that story of how closely we work together on these products.

What does it mean for Astro to be the official headset for PAX?

We’re family. Astro has been the official headset of PAX since 2008, so we’ve had a long and strong relationship with Penny Arcade for not only West but all the PAX shows for many years. In addition to the 300+ headsets we provide for the PC Freeplay area at PAX, we also have our headsets featured in over seven different partner booths at West. PAX has always been a great way for us to engage with our fans directly and let them experience the quality and comfort of our products while also delivering an immersive audio experience with partner games and content at the show.

AT_LE_A40What are some of the products that were shown?

PAX West is the official unveiling of our partnership with Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. We’ve got Rick and Morty, Adventure Time, and Steven Universe limited edition speaker tags, A40 TRs, our Mixamp Pro, brand new headset stands, as well as our licensed mod-kits and we’re also demoing the upcoming A50 wireless headsets that you can experience in our booth which feature the all new A50 mod-kit system and new charging base station for PC, Xbox and PS4.

How many different ways were there for attendees to experience Astro Gaming audio products at PAX West?

Not only can attendees try our products at the Astro booth but also in the Freeplay area, as well any of our PAX West partners’ booths. We had over 500+ Astro headsets on the floor at PAX for fans to try out. As the official headset of PAX, our headsets will continue to be available for people to try out at all the other PAX shows in case you couldn’t make it out to PAX West this year.

What would you say sets Astro products apart from the competition?

Astro has always been a leader in the space. At our core we’re gamers, some of us are even former professional gamers, so when Astro came together it was to solve glaring issues with gaming headsets on the market like comfort, quality, style and communication, and we delivered. Astro has been building on that promise to give fans that premium audio experience that is immersive and comfortable.

Audio is important to us and our partners, so we work very closely with the development teams to create these products that truly deliver the best-in-class audio gaming experience for their content. With the mod-kits and custom speaker tags, fans have even more freedom to customize their Astro gear and really express themselves making these products their own. Gaming is a lifestyle and Astro will continue to highlight that story with our partners, products and fans.

How Pizza Hut’s Packaging Innovation Is A Ploy For Football Fans

Pizza Hut is kicking off the NFL season by courting football-starved fans with some old-fashioned cardboard delight by introducing them to a playable flick football pizza box.

The all-new pizza box/game features a playable field on top and comes equipped with goal posts, punch-out football triangles and a score card that all forms after some simple assembly; two medium boxes form a full football field. The boxes are available with purchase of any medium pie, including a one-topping medium pizza off of the chain’s nationally available $5 flavor menu. The box also serves as a contest for consumers to win free food.

“Football season is pizza season. Our intent was to bring a little entertainment to the table,” Doug Terfehr, a senior director for Pizza Hut, told [a]listdaily. “Pizza is the most talked about food on social media. This is a really fun way for people to share even more about their experience with Pizza Hut.”

The brand will use Instagram Live, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to integrate the novelty box. Terfehr said that they envision engagement to live best on social, and that they’ll be marketing the flick football box across all channels, with a heavy dose of videos and social content.

They’ll also present fans with different challenges, like most creative flick, most consecutive flicks and longest flick. Fan are invited to submit videos under the hashtag #PizzaHutHut for a chance to win free pizza. Winners will be chosen each week through October 14.

Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, the most accurate kicker in the NFL history, has been pegged to promote the challenge. Pizza Hut’s clever experiential marketing move effectively steals some thunder away from Papa John’s, the official pizza sponsor of the NFL and the Super Bowl who uses pitchmen like Peyton Manning, J.J. Watt and Joe Montana to promote their pies during the season.

This isn’t the first time Pizza Hut has experimented with their boxes, as evidenced by previous promotions of their cardboard doubling as playable DJ pizza boxes and movie projectors. And if you thought pizza chains were not on the forefront of innovation, think again, because they also introduced a chat bot in July to enable conversational ordering through Facebook Messenger and Twitter.

“We want it to be easy to get our great pizzas, and we are exploring all ways to do that. It’s important for us to meet customers where they are, and to make that experience easy and one that they’ll choose to use again,” Terfehr said. “A pizza box must first and foremost be able to keep a pizza piping hot, but after that, if it can provide a little entertainment, that’s even better.”

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Apple Powers Up With ‘Super Mario Run’ And ‘Pokémon GO’

Apple has teamed up for a “super” new app, bringing Nintendo’s most famous character to iOS. Super Mario Run is an endless runner launching this holiday season in which the iconic video game character automatically runs to the right. Players can tap and hold the screen to make Mario jump, avoid obstacles or hit objects—all while completing as many levels as they can and racking up points. Super Mario Run will also feature “Toad Rally,” a multiplayer mode where players can compete against their friends for the high score, which is earned by collecting coins and impressing Toad characters with “daring moves.” Players can then use their performance to customize their very own Mushroom Kingdom.

The game was presented on Wednesday at the 2016 Apple Event by Super Mario Brothers creator, Shigeru Miyamoto who demonstrated the colorful, one-handed gameplay design.


Super Mario has evolved whenever he has encountered a new platform, and for the first time ever, players will be able to enjoy a full-fledged Super Mario game with just one hand, giving them the freedom to play while riding the subway or my favorite, eating a hamburger,” said Miyamoto.

Super Mario Run does not yet have a price point, but it will be fixed and not the popular “freemium” model, i.e. you will not be prompted to buy in-game items. iOS users will be able to download and enjoy a portion of Super Mario Run for free and will be able to enjoy all of the game content available in this release after paying a set purchase price,” Nintendo stated in a press release.

The title has already appeared in the App Store for users to receive notifications for when the game becomes available. Apple will also release Mario stickers in iMessage for iOS 10 alongside the game’s release. If you don’t have an iOS device, don’t cry in your mushrooms just yet—“We do intend to release the game on Android devices at some point in the future,” Nintendo confirmed.

For those who just can’t get enough of Nintendo on iOS, Niantic’s mobile darling, Pokémon GO will soon be available on Apple Watch by the end of 2016.

“With Pokémon GO on Apple Watch, I will never miss a PokéStop,” said John Hanke, CEO and founder of Niantic. Unlike other versions of the break-out hit, Apple Watch users will not have to break out their phones to interact with the game. According to Hanke, Pokémon GO has already been downloaded 500 million times on iOS, and players have walked 4.6 billion kilometers while playing the game. The Apple Watch version will not only allow players to collect creatures along their path, but it will track their steps and calories burned in real time, too.

Snapchat Expected To Earn Almost $1 Billion Next Year

There were many that were originally skeptical of Snapchat as a marketing platform because of the high costs and how content expires, but times have certainly changed. Marketers are increasingly looking to Snapchat to reach the valuable millennial and Generation Z audiences. As a result, eMarketer estimates that the social sharing platform will generate $366.69 million in ad revenues this year and $935.46 million in 2017.

Snapchat’s Discover feature currently generates about 43 percent of the platform’s revenue. However, eMarketer expects that things will shift to Stories next year—a feature that makes up 37.8 percent of the company’s US ad business. Snapchat gains 95 percent of its ad revenue from the US, and eMarketer reported last year that about 45 percent of those users are millennials.

“To engage those often hard-to-reach consumers, Snapchat has expanded its advertising portfolio over the past year to include a wider array of video ads, and more sponsored geofilters and sponsored lenses,” said Cathy Boyle, eMarketer principal analyst.

A recent report from Bloomberg revealed that Snapchat saw more daily use than Twitter. So marketers have been getting very creative with Snapchat’s features, particularly the animated lenses and filters, despite the temporary nature of the content. Furthermore, the platform has been steadily expanding its capabilities. In August, Sony Pictures was the first to use 360-degree video within Snapchat to promote the horror movie, Don’t Breathe.

Snapchat also saw its first multi-level video game featuring tennis pro Serena Williams. Gatorade launched Serena Match Point last month—an 8-bit tennis game that’s timed to coincide with the US Open.

Promotions on Snapchat are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and are certain to become more so with the introduction of behavioral targeting features on the ad network. However, nothing beats the classics, as Kim Kardashian had some fun with her son, Saint West on his 9-month birthday using Snapchat lenses and sharing them with fans.


How ‘Call Of Duty’ Furthered Its Commitment To ESports With ‘COD’ XP

INGLEWOOD, California—Activision wrapped up an epic four-day Call of Duty fan celebration on Sunday by crowning Team EnVyUs as Call of Duty World League champions.

Team EnVyUs overcame top European team Splyce in front of a sold-out crowd at The Forum to take home a cool $800,000 prize. The purse was part of a winning share that totaled a whopping $2 million, the biggest in the game franchise’s history.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 12.56.51 PM

The competition featured more than 1,000 teams and the finals was the culminating centerpiece of the COD XP fan celebration, which further showed COD’s commitment to eSports.

Rob Kostich, executive vice president of Activision and general manager of the Call of Duty franchise, told [a]listdaily that COD XP was the biggest event in the game’s history and that it was the most fan support they’d ever seen.

“This whole event is a massive undertaking constructed for our community, and is a celebration around the entire world,” said Kostich. “COD XP is like a theme park that leapt out of a video game and into the real world. It was built really for two purposes—to celebrate our eSports season with COD World League and multiplayer for Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare: Remastered. The really important thing for us was to make sure that we not only have a great experience for the people who are here, but for those around the world who’re not.”

Fans in attendance, among them athletes like Michael Phelps, Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Derrick Rose and Karl-Anthony Towns, were the first to play Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer mode, out November 4. COD carried the conversation on social by allowing fans to directly broadcast their gameplay live on Facebook with their custom capture RFID set-up.

In addition to revealing new Black Ops III downloadable content and other game reveals, Kostich and the Activision crew had an arsenal of activities for fans at The Forum to engage with, including zombie laser tag, paintballing in a life-sized Call of Duty: Black Ops Nuketown multiplayer map (broadcast on Twitch), zip lining across the parking lot, and of course, tents featuring several hundred gaming stations.

Fans on-site were also able to play the first Call of Duty PlayStation VR experience to feel what it’s like to pilot and dogfight a Jackal, the personal fighter jet in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

COD competitive fans viewed more than 1.1 billion minutes of content across 100 million tune-ins going into the weekend, so for those who were not there in the flesh, Kostich said that the conversation was carried through a litany of trailers and downloadable content reveals on social and digital channels.

Hip hop artists Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa took a break from their High Road Tour and wrapped up COD XP on Sunday with an hour-long concert crooning to crowd favorites like “Nuthin But A G Thang” and “Black And Yellow.”


PAX West 2016: The Future Is Virtual And Diverse

PAX West, formally known as PAX Prime has wrapped its 13th year and 25th PAX event to a sold-out crowd. Open to the public, the Penny Arcade Expo is famous for its hands-on video game demos, publisher displays and of course, a whole lot of cosplay. The yearly event brings fans and developers together before the holiday release season and reinforces hype for titles that were announced during E3. Tens of thousands attended the annual event, although exact metrics are not yet available.

Of the many video game attractions, publishers took the opportunity to announce additional content coming to Gears of War 4Mafia III and Halo 5: Guardians just to name a few, plus additional details for a plethora of upcoming games like Dishonored 2Forza Motorsports 3South Park: The Fractured But Whole and Friday the 13th. PAX is the perfect forum for communities to come together and discover new games or get their hands on demos to try for themselves.

The Future Is Virtual

VR MarketingNot surprisingly, virtual reality was a major focus for brands at this year’s show, as it was during E3 and Gamescom. On the main convention floor, brands like Sony, Intel and Nvidia demonstrated their latest virtual reality technologies. A few blocks away, headset makers HTC and Oculus hosted a special “VR Village” at the nearby Westin Hotel. Alienware is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year by introducing its first-ever VR-ready notebooks: the new Alienware 13, Alienware 15, and Alienware 17. A pre-alpha build of Rock Band VR was made available to the press, as well, putting gamers right on stage.

The Future Is Diverse

The video game and tech industries are still largely a “boy’s club,” but are slowly moving toward a more diverse and accepting community. PAX West hosted its third “Diversity Lounge” at the event, which featured booths representing the LGTBQ communities and GeekGirlCon, among others.

“Gaming companies need to recognize the value in embracing diversity and the best way to do that successfully is to make sure your workforce is diverse,” said Diversity Lounge organizer Benjamin Williams. “There is a lot of work to create parity in gender and for racial minorities in the gaming industry profession.”

The Future Is Embracing The Past

Nostalgia plays a major role in purchasing decisions, so it’s no surprise that a number of retro-inspired or remastered games would make an appearance at this year’s PAX West. Gearbox Software announced Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour, a re-release of the original classic with a brand-new, eight-level episode coming to Xbox One, PC, and PS4. The game will be available on October 11, and is available for preorder now.

During the “VR Village” event, players were treated to a remastered version of Rez Infinite, the 2001 music-based rail shooter made originally for Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. Square Enix hosted a celebration of Tomb Raider‘s 20th Anniversary and eccentric game developer, Suda51 announced a remastered PC version of Silver Case.

A recreation of the famous “Video Armageddon” set. (Source: GeekWire)

The folks at Penny Arcade closed out the event with a bang, going “totally wizard” with a recreated set from a 1989 video game film. Penny Arcade director of events Ryan Hartman created a full-sized replica of the “Video Armageddon” tournament finale set from The Wizard, hosting a Super Mario Brothers 3 tournament in keeping with the film’s story. Hartman “had been dreaming of this one for a few years,” he said after the show. “The 25th PAX made the most sense.”

Follow H.B. Duran on Twitter @ThatHBDuran

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Listen Up: 5 Examples Of Effective Podcast Marketing

Approximately 46 million Americans ages 12 and over are now listening to podcasts each month, according to a report by Edison Research and Triton Digital. While it’s not unusual to hear spoken promotions for a podcast’s sponsors during the show, an increasing amount of brands are creating their own podcasts as well. As with all branded content, reaching the consumer on a personal level is the key to success, and for these brands, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

EBay: Open for Business

EBay’s Open For Business podcast is about creating a business from the ground up. Hosted by John Henry, entrepreneur and founder of Cofound Harlem, each episode explores topics ranging from hiring employees to telling your brand’s story. It also speaks with business owners who have survived the experience. Open For Business even explores why immigrants make up a disproportionate amount of the country’s business owners. You’d think that a podcast by eBay would be about auctions and how to list items to sell. Instead, the global auction house is appealing to the American spirit of making one’s own way in the business world.

Investigation Discovery: Detective

Lt. Joe Kenda.
Lt. (Ret.) Joe Kenda shares his experiences on “Detective”

If real-life murder mysteries get you excited, Investigation Discovery continues the action with exclusive detective interviews that you can’t see on the TV shows. The network’s podcast, aptly named Detective, delves deeper into cases that investigators will never forget. The first season focused on Lieutenant (Ret.) Joe Kenda of the Colorado Springs Police Department and star of Investigation Discovery’s Homicide Hunter.

Kenda’s serious yet entertaining storytelling paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to stare into the face of tragedy, solve the case and somehow manage to keep his sanity. Season two features interviews with Detective Garry McFadden, a 27-year veteran of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. McFadden stars on the new show I Am Homicide.

GE: The Message

The Message is an eight-part science-fiction thriller series about cryptographers who try to decipher a message from an alien. Since launching last year, the series has been downloaded more than five million times and became No. 1 on iTunes.

“It opened up a new story medium for us, something we hadn’t done, and with a new audience,” says Andy Goldberg, GE’s global chief creative officer. “Not necessarily a different audience—they may be engaging with us in other ways—but sometimes when you engage with an audience in a different form it takes on a whole new association, which is good. Creatively what I love about it, is it was something we hadn’t done before, and many brands shy away because in a way it’s such a throwback to old school radio. It’s branded GE Podcast Theater for a reason, but at the same time it’s not like there’s a GE ad interrupting the middle of the story.”

“We developed this idea of doing branded content, and I was like ‘branded content has been done before. That’s been going on for years,'” Goldberg continued. “When we looked at the podcast space, we felt it was getting past the stage of [only] interviews with Serial-type podcasts happening and people tuning in over and over again. And it was a bit of a throwback in how old storytelling would happen, and I think that intrigued me a lot.”

Umpqua Bank: Open Account

What better way to empower bank customers than to educate them about money? Last September, Umpqua Bank launched Open Account, a podcast created by former MTV correspondent SuChin Pak that “gets honest” about money and why there is a culture of silence around finance and financial literacy. By December, the first three episodes had been downloaded 70,000 times, the highest number of downloads of any other new podcasts launched at the same time.

Slack: Slack Variety Pack

Collaboration company Slack hosts a podcast called Slack Variety Pack, which has been described as “Office Space meets Monty Python.” The idea is to present “stories about work and life, told in a very human voice,” explains Bill Macaitis, Slack’s chief marketing officer. “Funny, inspirational, serious, innovative. It was something we hadn’t seen a lot of podcasts doing.”

The bi-weekly show aims to represent both the serious and silly sides of work collaboration, from how to be productive at a hockey game to kids wondering why grandparents don’t reply to emails. Slack Variety Pack wrapped its 28th episode in May, but alludes to future “podcast adventures.”

Follow H.B. Duran on Twitter @ThatHBDuran

Op-Ed: The Growing Power Of Television Ads For Games

Television ads used to be the big leagues for games, the place where the top-selling (or those that aspired to be top-selling) games would go to find a massive audience. Primarily, we’d see ads for console and PC games. Then, as Facebook became the platform for massive growth in games, TV ads for social games became popular. Once mobile games became the high-growth segment of the games industry, TV ads for games shrank.

Now television advertising for games is on the rise in a big way, according to Its report on 2015 showed enormous growth: “Ad dollars spent on TV by the video game sector increased 47 percent last year vs. 2014,” the report states. “During 2015, 65 brands placed 406 different spots on US national television just over a quarter million times, adding up to an estimated media value of $629.2 million. That’s up significantly from 2014 when 52 brands ran 298 different spots, spending an estimated $427.4 million to air them 154,500 times.”

The investment in television advertising isn’t trivial for publishers. The biggest brands spent heavily to get good exposure. “Supercell, for instance, spent heavily on Clash of the Clans,” noted the report. “It was the only game maker to hit the $3 million mark in estimated media value on a single day for its TV ad placements, in fact, it did that multiple times (during the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals). The company ran 29 unique commercials throughout the year with a cumulative estimated media value of $59.8 million.”

More than half of television advertising for games occurs in the last four months of the year, according to This year looks to be no exception, as the summer months see a slowdown in ads. July had only $23.4 million in advertising, led by Machine Zone, with King in second and PlayStation in third place. We’ll see a boom for the holidays, not only with important console software launches, but with console hardware new arrivals and the potential for VR hardware advertising as well.

Why the surge in TV ads for mobile games? The answer is simple: It works, and it’s more cost-effective for the right product than install ads, especially for reaching the right demographic. A What’s App’ning study examined TV spending and app traffic for 60 mobile apps across ten categories including games, between October 2014 and December 2015, using comScore, Nielsen and Think Gaming data. “Fully 77 percent showed a direct correlation between TV spending and app traffic,” the study noted. “When TV ads ran, unique visitors went up 25 percent; when TV didn’t run, unique visitors dropped 20 percent.”

The study listed some specific examples, including how Pet Rescue Saga saw a 40 percent difference, averaging 2.5 million unique visitors when spending $1.1 million a month, but falling to 1.8 million unique visitors the months when ads didn’t run. Game of War, which typically spends $9 million/month on TV, saw its unique visitors fall 25 percent, from 2.5 million to 2 million, when TV ads didn’t run. Clash of Clans, which averaged $4.5 million per month in TV ads during that time, lost 17 percent of unique visitors when off-air, with the total falling from 11.9 million to 10.2 million visitors.

It was a cost-effective investment for these game publishers. “Brands’ estimated monthly revenues far exceed their TV investments,” the study noted. “For example, Clash of Clans averages $36 million in monthly sales vs. $4.5 million in TV spending; and Game of War averages $24.6 million in monthly sales for its $9.1 million in TV ads.”

The prime target of these TV ads for games are live sports, where the viewers aren’t likely to record the shows and skip over commercials and represent a great demographic for the right type of game. “For many of these raiding-strategy games, if you can target an audience that “delivers more men 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 who are in upscale households ($100,000+) than any other cable network,” according to a Prime Media Productions report discussing ESPN and a mostly male and the hard-to-reach 18-49 demographic. “Well why not go after them?” said Carter Dotson in a TouchArcade article about TV ads for mobile games. Dotson also points out that ESPN is losing viewers so that venue may be losing some of its appeal to game advertisers.

Damon Danieli of Appuri believes that we’ll see even more TV advertising for games, as publishers figure out ways to track the performance of their TV ad spend versus app installs. “Top-tier mobile gaming companies have a User Acquisition (UA) team responsible for managing their Cost Per Install (CPI) campaigns . . . These companies are becoming hyper-local and temporal in their segmentation criteria in order to see lift from campaigns shown in regions and different times. Statistical rigor is applied to see if there are significant lifts in the organic traffic or if it is just noise,” Danieli wrote.

“Companies are building very sophisticated systems for combining all sources of user acquisition, temporal data such as media campaigns running, properties of their player and in-game behavior,” Danieli continued. “Appuri helps these companies by providing the post user acquisition data platform, churn prediction and retention management. From this platform, they can determine the per-unit cost, retention and LTV while campaigns are running and bring up or tear down those sources to maximize revenue. Adding this to their own inventory management system for serving up ads from non-competitive games gives these companies the ability to effectively arbitrage their user acquisition cost.” This accounts for the way sophisticated publishers like Machine Zone, King, and Supercell continue to increase their TV ad spend because they have the data to show that it works.

The Growing List Of Professional Athletes Taking On ESports

There was a time when the only link between traditional sports and video games came from titles like Madden, FIFA and NBA 2K. As the eSports industry nears $1 billion and viewership grows into the millions, traditional sports news outlets and athletes alike have taken notice because a bevy of pro ballers are entering the lucrative world of eSports. It’s not just about the money, although that certainly doesn’t hurt—after all, these athletes are in it to win it. Here are some key players in the traditional sports realm who aren’t afraid to embrace a new age of competition.

Rodger Saffold

The Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman and entrepreneur is the proud owner of the team Rise Nation. Rise Nation has competed in global Call of Duty competitions against major contenders OpTic and Evil Geniuses and are branching out into other games like Overwatch as well. “I put myself out there, too, to use me and my following to help raise awareness of what eSports is, to try to get the NFL kind of involved, you can use me . . . you get eSports, you get the NFL and now we’re taking over,” Saffold told [a]listdaily. “That’s the whole part of this; we’re taking over. We’re literally growing at an alarming rate—almost too hard to handle.”

Rick Fox

In December, the three-time NBA champion bought an eSports team previously known as Gravity Gaming and renamed it Echo Fox. The team focuses on League of Legends, among other titles. “The deciding factor [to invest into eSports] was cellular,” Fox told [a]listdaily in an exclusive interview. “Once I walked into a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden, everything in those two days spoke to me as a professional athlete. I knew it was the next generation.”

Mark Cuban

The Dallas Mavericks owner is literally betting on eSports through the startup Unikrn in which he invested in. The billionaire, who also appears on Shark Tank, has invested in a platform focused on betting in the growing competitive gaming industry wherever it’s legal. “There is no reason to try to legitimize eSports to anyone,” Cuban told [a]listdaily. “ESports is a real industry. People can choose whether to connect to it themselves. The participation numbers and the online viewership numbers speak for themselves. What matters is that people who love eSports really get into it. They watch clips and matches. They play the game. There is no need to try to convince those on the outside.”

Gordon Hayward

The Utah Jazz star, another current NBA player and avid League of Legends gamer, recently told Forbes that he’s also looking into the eSports business. “I’m looking into partnering with some people in the business side of eSports. I think there’s all kinds of money to be made in the industry.” He even penned a column on The Players Tribune to make a case for gaming. HyperX, a division of Kingston Technology Company, added Hayward to its roster of champion athletes in May to promote their headphones.

Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov

The co-owners of the Sacramento Kings invested in the new eSports franchise NRG ESports, which specializes in League of Legends. Miller, who previously served as vice president of mobile advertising for Apple, has gone all-in with eSports—the Kings’ new arena was designed for eSports.” He told [a]listdaily: “We wanted League of Legends right off the bat. I researched it and loved the energy. And you can’t deny the size of the audience. It’s massive. We play in front of so many people every week, whether on our own streaming with our guys or on the weekend at Twitch. And then you stack those numbers up against the NBA and NHL and other sports and it’s worth it. So that was a no-brainer for us.”

Shaquille O’Neal

The retired NBA superstar invested in Miller and Mastrov’s NRG ESports along with baseball players Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins. The team participates in League of Legends and CS:GO video game competitions. “It is a result of multiple years of education on our part and other publishers’ parts to let people know that this is not a fad, this is not something that’s going away,” Whalen Rozelle, director of eSports at Riot Games, told [a]listdaily. “There is a large generation of sports fans, a new breed of sports fans whose ‘sports’ are the games that they love to play. While there are some potential pitfalls of having so much mainstream media attention at once, in general, it’s a positive thing and will be good for the ecosystem that we’ve built.” Shaq, now an analyst for Turner Sports, home to televised ELEAGUE competitions, has already filmed eSports promos.

Jeremy Lin

The Brooklyn Nets guard was one of the thousands of fans who packed the KeyArena for five days leading into the Dota 2 tournament final this summer. Lin has been playing Dota since he was 16 years old with his brothers Josh and Joseph. He says he still plays three to four times a week, even during the NBA season, especially on the road, when he’s in his hotel room.

“There’s no ceiling in terms of how big it can get,” Lin told ESPN. “I think e-gaming is going to follow the trends of society, when you look at Pokémon GO and how accessible iPhones and iPads are. Now everyone has access to iPhones and iPads around the world, and that’s going to make e-gaming grow even more. Everyone is investing a lot of money in tech. I have no idea how big it’s going to get, but I do know this is only the beginning.”

Kobe Bryant

rick and kobeThe Black Mamba is an integral part of 2K Sports’ promotion with NBA 2K17, which also recently announced that it would be hosting a new service called 2K Streamcast, where players compete in a Pro-Am for a $250,000 cash prize. When asked if he would consider investing in eSports like many of his industry colleagues, he replied, “It depends, depends if the right opportunity comes along, and I feel like it’s something that we should invest in, and if it’s something we feel like we could add value to, then yeah, that’d be something that we’d consider.”

Fox, Bryant’s former-Lakers teammate, wants to recruit the future Hall of Famer into the business, telling [a]listdaily, “Kobe has an interest [in eSports]. He and I have scheduled a sit down and talk about it. I’d love to get him involved. I’d love to pull him into Echo Fox. That’d be quite the coup because I know the value of his competitive fire, his expertise in terms of just leadership, and understanding how to tackle business. He’s got the time now, so he has an open door with us, for sure.”

Jonas Jerebko

The Boston Celtics forward and seven-year NBA veteran purchased the eSports franchise Renegades—a growing brand that competes in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Call of Duty. The Renegades CS:GO team participated in the inaugural year of ELeauge, a show broadcast through Turner and Twitch.

Wendell Lira

The Brazilian pro soccer player traded his cleats for a controller, making the move from real-life soccer star to FIFA eSports hopeful. Lira cited mounting injuries as his reason for retirement, but also announced plans to pursue a career in eSports. After winning the Puskas Award in 2015, Lira was challenged by 2015 FIFA Interactive World Cup winner Abdulaziz Alshehri to a game of FIFA. Lira destroyed the champ, 6-1. “I had pleasant moments I’ll never forget,” Lira told Brazilian site, following the announcement. “I played alongside big stars, too. I had pleasure being a guy who was actually accomplished at football. And I had the dream of being a gamer, I always had this desire to live it. It is almost impossible to stop playing football to live as a gamer, but God gave me this opportunity. It is not the end of a dream. In fact, God has given me the opportunity to have this job as a follow-up in my life, being happy and continuing with that smile.”


Marshawn Lynch

The former-Seattle Seahawks superstar has the distinct honor of being the first professional athlete to appear in a Call of Duty game. Lynch plays a villainous gun-for-hire who shoots up a Singapore tavern with his gang. The football star is a big fan of video games and had a lot of fun acting out the motion capture scenes for Call of Duty: Black Ops III. “You’re shooting up everything but always fighting for a bigger picture,” he said while ESPN was on scene at Activision. “The whole game is Beast Mode.” In June 2015, ESPN put Lynch on the cover of a special eSports issue, detailing the rise of video games into the world of competitive sport.

Russell Okung

ESports startup company Matcherino found an enthusiastic investor in the Denver Broncos offensive tackle. “I had some interest in the eSports industry for a while now,” Okung told The Seattle Times. “It’s just like people coming to watch us.”

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson

This UFC star loves to play video games and hosts live Twitch streams for a variety of games, but the pasttime is becoming more than a hobby. “Since I’ve started streaming I spend at least 15 hours a week playing games, maybe more,” he said on an episode of The Three Amigos podcast. “My brain needs to be stimulated. I look at streaming like a side project, and I take my side projects and my jobs very seriously.”

AMP Energy Expands Its Twitch Marketing Game

AMP Energy has launched a brand new Tropical Punch flavored drink at 7-Eleven stores nationwide as part of its marketing partnership with the social video platform Twitch. Although it’s the third time the Twitch brand has appeared on a limited edition can, it’s the first co-branded marketing play to feature the iconic bright purple Twitch hue and the first new flavor to be developed by the two companies.

AMP Energy Tropical Punch“The Twitch community has never seen our brand on this type of consumer packaging or in retail stores in this fashion before,” Anthony Danzi, senior vice president of client strategy at Twitch, told [a]listdaily. “It’s a fun step for us to partner with a cool brand like AMP and to have our own brand-inspired flavor on the market.”

To promote the new drink, AMP Energy made 50 giant-sized replica “Sidekick” AMP Energy drinking devices, which include a straw for hands-free drinking. Sonika Patel, senior manager of marketing at AMP Energy, said these Sidekicks were sent to top Twitch streaming and gaming influencers, including Swiftor, Serious Gaming and NobodyEpic.

“We wanted to celebrate the excitement of the new flavor launch by offering something unique and of value to key gaming influencers and streamers,” Patel said. “We have seen cross-promotions from the influencers who received the Sidekick packages, as well as by our partners at Twitch and 7-Eleven.”

Danzi said Twitch created some quick, fun video advertisements featuring some of the top Twitch hosts, including Anna Prosser, Jordan “Soma” Tayor and Mike Ross. The videos appear throughout the Twitch platform and on the AMP and Twitch microsite,

Danzi said the microsite recently served as the sweepstakes homepage for the TwitchCon 2016 promotion—an idea that came from brainstorming sessions between the two companies. It now showcases the new flavor. He said fans can expect the microsite to change periodically as the partnership evolves.

“It began as a program encouraging fans and Twitch broadcasters to ‘level up’ their gaming experience with AMP Energy drinks and included a sweepstakes element for a chance to win a trip to TwitchCon 2016,” Danzi said. “We gave away co-branded gear and put our logo on the AMP Energy cans, which was the first time our logo was featured on any non-gaming retail product. After such a positive response, we’ve now helped AMP develop a new flavor, Tropical Punch, and covered the limited-edition can in bright Twitch purple.”

AMP Energy was late to the eSports game, following brands such as Red Bull and Rockstar. But Patel said the company has benefited from connecting directly with the Twitch community. It’s also now in the game for the long haul.

“AMP’s partnership with Twitch demonstrates our commitment to gamers who are seeking out better-tasting beverages that deliver on their energy needs,” Patel said. “We felt [that] the Twitch logo and iconic purple color on the AMP can would help build a stronger connection to the gaming community.”

TwitchCon 2016, which kicks off September 30 in San Diego, provides another opportunity for AMP Energy and Twitch to work together. That convention is a celebration of gaming featuring the top streamers and the biggest games of the year.