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Mastercard joins Riot Games in first ever esports partnership

Mastercard has inked its first ever esports partnership with US developer Riot Games, maker of the hugely successful League of Legends series.

Under the multi-year partnership, Mastercard will become the first ever global sponsor of League of Legends.

As part of the deal, Mastercard will serve as League of Legends’ exclusive global payment services partner, and will enjoy brand exposure at its three annual international tournaments: the Mid-Season Invitational, the All-Star Event and the World Championship.

Mastercard will also offer unique onsite activations and promotions at events, including behind-the-scenes tours, VIP seats and access to gaming areas used by professional players.

Launched in 2009, League of Legends is the world’s highest-grossing online game, having racked up a total revenue of over $2.1bn in 2017.

League of Legends is also the world’s largest online game, with over 100 million monthly users, and a global live audience of over 80 million viewers during international events.

League of Legends is owned by Chinese conglomerate Tencent, which acquired a 93 percent stake in Riot Games for a reported fee of $400m in 2011.

The deal builds on Mastercard’s longstanding sponsorship presence on both sides of the Atlantic: in Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the Uefa Champions League.

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The partnership is understood to be a three-season deal, from 2019-20 to 2021-22, and builds on AXA’s existing Global Partner agreement with Liverpool.

The deal is the largest ever sponsorship investment in UK women’s sport and comes less than a year after the league went fully professional in September 2018.

Under the five-year global deal, Oppo will become the first Official Smartphone Partner of The Championships, Wimbledon, as the event is officially known.

US sportswear brand Nike is paying about $7.5m (€6.7m) per year to sponsor China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL), according to industry sources.