January 13, 2023 | By Alexander Lee

Header image depicts two women in a car.

Ivy Liu

The company announced that BMW had officially committed to reducing its expenditure on esports partners starting in 2023.

BMW has ended esport[s] Engagement starting [the beginning] “From 2023 on,” Torsten Julich said, a BMW Corporate Communications representative. He was previously the spokesperson for BMW Esports. “In the future our emphasis will be more on individuals than ever before.”

Julich stated that BMW’s “i Vision Dee”, a concept car that features a head-up display unit capable of projecting images on its windshield, would play a key role in the company’s shift marketing strategy. However, he didn’t elaborate on exactly how games could be streamed or played on the display. Esports News UK first reported the news about BMW’s withdrawal from esports in December.

BMW has invested millions in partnerships and events with various esports organizations since 2020. The jerseys of many prominent teams, such as Cloud9, Fnatic and G2 Esports all have the BMW logos. According to GEEIQ, BMW has partnered 11 different esports organizations between 2020-2023.

These esports partnership can have a wide range of value depending on their scope, but typically they are tens to thousands (for single activations) or millions (for partnerships that involve naming rights or original content).

Some of these content partners still include BMW logos. Fnatic could have seen BMW in the December player announcement, which indicates that BMW’s relationship with the team is still valid. The company will not be exploring any new partnerships in esports as it moves into 2023.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the German automobile manufacturer has stopped gaming. Digiday was also told by a representative of BMW that the company’s attention has not shifted to esports but rather other aspects of gaming, such as casual gaming at home and metaverse.

BMW has decided to withdraw from esports, a sign of growing skepticism by non-endemic brands about the potential marketing benefits associated with esports partnership.

While esports groups offer access to large audiences, marketers are realizing that individuals can provide the same engagement level for a fraction of the cost. Individual influencers are a great way to help gamers who can still be sensitive about ads being in their entertainment.

Esports organisations are dependent on partner revenue for survival, and BMW’s departure from esports will be a bad thing. In an effort to get out of dependence on brand revenue, many orgs have begun exploring other revenue streams like original content or record labels. The industry may not be ready for a bigger brand exodus, however.

Jason Chung is a New York University professor who directs the esports initiative. He said that it was important to communicate that value to others as well as to investors. How do we translate this when we are aware of the many issues we face, just in terms structure? Esports are still considered a marketing tool for publishers, so the issue has never been really dealt with in an enlightened manner.