Activision Blizzard Overwatch League Licensing Strategy Mirrors Traditional U.S. Sports Structure
Activision Blizzard is expanding licensing for the Overwatch League with new licensees coming on board following its signing of a big agreement with sports ecommerce powerhouse Fanatics late last year.
New licensees include Starter (activewear), New Era (headwear), Outerstuff (outerwear), Funko (figures), G-III Apparel (apparel) and Upper Deck (trading cards). Before building the licensing program, Activision Blizzard had sourced most products itself.
Activision Blizzard’s centralized approach to licensing out all its teams’ logos is occurring in the league’s second season that ends with finals in September, and which has featured the first matches outside the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles. As it does with other professional sports leagues, Fanatics is responsible for e-commerce and recently handled concession sales during a Dallas Fuel home series. And licensee Baozun recently launched ecommerce in China.
Activision also is readying a Call of Duty eSports league. Five franchises have been awarded and a licensing program will accompany the launch of the league, the timing of which hasn’t been released.
“The fan experience is at the center of the leagues and we are going to find the right path for delivering products,” says Activision Consumer Products President Steve Young. “That may include doing some of the products ourselves, but the primary opportunity is through licensing.”
For the time being, licensing will be focused on teams, as eSports players seek to establish their own brands, says Young. Ecommerce is the primary sales channel; brick and mortar distribution has yet to be established.
“Our primary focus is on e-commerce and we think eventually there could be an interesting [brick and mortar] retail opportunity,” says Young. “The fact we have city-based teams makes the retail opportunity for the Overwatch League even better because you have the ability to curate assortments that are specific to cities.”
The focus on e-commerce tracks the league’s main demographic–18-34-year-old fans more accustomed to buying products online than in stores. That same target audience is attractive to licensees of other traditional sports leagues which have an older fan base, says Young. “One of reasons licensees are interested is we deliver a different fan and audience than they can reach through traditional sports,” says Young.
Activision Blizzard, Steve Young, Consumer Products Group President, 310-255-2254, firstname.lastname@example.org