NRG Esports is backed by some of the most recognizable names in sports, including Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins. The company continues to forge partnerships with non-endemic brands such as Events DC and BioSteel across its eight competitive gaming teams. Most recently, the esports brand signed a sponsorship deal with Amazon to help the e-commerce giant promote its Appstore and Coins.
The first of multiple events that NRG will be working with on Amazon is the Mobile Masters Invitational (M2) June 23-24 at the Prudential Center in New York, and August 18-20 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in conjunction with KCON, the world’s largest Korean pop culture festival. Following Amazon’s Champions of Fire casual games tournament last year, M2 is a new tournament series featuring top competitors of popular mobile games available on the Amazon Appstore including Summoners War, Vainglory and Hearthstone.
Top professional players and teams from around the world will be participating in all three M2 tournaments. The Vainglory tournament will feature world champion Invincible Armada and top North American teams like NRG, Tempo Storm, and Cloud 9. The Hearthstone tournament will feature popular streamers paired with expert players like William “Amnesia_sc” Barton and Johnnie “Ratsmah” Lee. In addition, Summoners War will feature popular streamers Rinriona and ShreddedPuzzle.
Brett Lautenbach, president at NRG Esports, told AListDaily that this first tournament will be influencer and pro gamer-based, but the concept will expand beyond that. “Amazon’s new and interesting style of doing tournaments will open up original ways to integrate fans into these experiences,” Lautenbach said.
Lautenbach said that the initial focus will be on mobile titles, but the plan is to expand across all of NRG’s esports titles. “Much like our Events DC involvement, we’re focused on event activations with the Amazon Appstore,” Lautenbach said.
There will also be more traditional exclusive video content as part of this sponsorship. “You’ll be seeing some video content we shot behind-the-scenes,” Lautenbach added. “The big focus is on content and live activations, and the links from social media will be secondary.”
NRG is currently working with Amazon on the content generation plans, which will include pop-ups and other events. Lautenbach said the format for these tournaments introduces fresh new takes on mobile gaming, which he believes will connect with fans across the three titles. “Amazon has used creativity with different tournament styles and they’ve been able to find cool new ways to challenge players and the fans still love it,” Lautenbach said.
NRG has also partnered with Asus’ Republic of Gamers brand as a sponsor, which Lautenbach said has been good for the team in securing the best PCs possible to practice and scrimmage for competition. The team is working with Asus to attend big esports and consumer events like DreamHack Austin, where players sign autographs and play games with fans.
Last week in Los Angeles, NRG’s Rocket League team placed third in the world championship. The NRG match received 197,000 concurrent viewers. “Twitch and Psyonix have done a great job of growing this community and esports base in just two years,” Lautenbach said. “It’s a game that’s growing fast as an esport and that’s partly because it’s a concept anyone can understand—it’s like soccer with cars.”
One of the owners of NRG Esports is Andy Miller, who’s also a co-owner of the Sacramento Kings. With the advent of the NBA 2K ELeague, which launches next year, Lautenbach believes the NBA’s entry into esports could be good for traditional esports as well.
“To see the NBA support esports is a step in the right direction,” Lautenbach said. “The Kings are involved, and 2K has built a great community to connect with across NBA 2K.”
How much the NBA (or even the NFL with Madden competitive gaming) will help games such as Super Smash Bros. or Rocket League remains to be seen. Lautenbach said much like any esport title, not every fan crosses over.
“Smash fans don’t watch other esports, for example,” Lautenbach said. “But it would be awesome to see 2K fans come over to other esports that we’re involved with. The more we get gaming out there in the public so they can understand it better, the better it is for the whole esports community.”
Although NRG doesn’t have a League of Legends team, Lautenbach believes the new structure for LCS next year is good for esports.
“There are a certain amount of developers out there that can help build a strong community if they can do things differently,” Lautenbach explained. “All the power to Riot if they can do a permanent partnership—or as Blizzard calls it with Overwatch, ‘franchising.’ I’m excited to see who, if anyone else, picks up on that and moves in that direction. It opens teams up to new revenue sources and it’s great for developers who can work with the team owners they want to work with long-term.”