Riot Games has announced a partnership with automotive company BMW for the upcoming European League of Legends Championship Series Finals, set for this weekend in Paris. The announcement accompanied a video featuring a team manager, a pro player, and a branded BMW M3.
While this is far from the first automotive sponsor for the esports scene—Mercedes-Benz sponsored ESL Hamburg, Astralis has a deal with Audi, and Subaru hosted a CS:GO invitational—it is notable as a single event sponsorship, rare in esports. Most sponsorships typically last an entire season, or for successive circuits.
Of course, it’s not hard to blame BMW for wanting to get in on the action. Automotive brands have been sadly lacking at major esports tourneys thus far. For an industry that heavily sponsors traditional sports—in 2015, it was reported that auto makers spent a third of a billion dollars on sporting sponsorships in the US—esports seems a natural extension. Testing the waters with a popular, low-risk event like the EU LCS Finals should yield positive results for BMW, if short-lived.
It’s also worth noting that simple sponsorships aren’t the only strategy that car manufacturers have used in esports. One Hearthstone event awards a Ferrari to Chinese players if they can beat those from other countries. And, for the truly nostalgic, there’s always Evil Geniuses‘ wonderful HyperX ad series that featured StarCraft pro Greg “IdrA” Fields casually driving around a Bugatti Veyron, one of the fastest and most expensive cars in the world.