Chicago Huntsmen & Popeyes Chicken

Popeyes is making its first splash into esports, with the popular QSR chain signing a deal with the Chicago Huntsmen of the Call of Duty League.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Popeyes will get assets including a chest jersey patch that players will wear during competition, along with digital and social media integration on Huntsmen channels. That starts with the fried-chicken chain being title sponsor of the Huntsmen’s six-team Call of Duty: Warzone exhibition tournament that it will stream this weekend.

Moreover, the sides are looking into the possibility of getting special Huntsmen menu items and other features added to Popeyes official app as part of the deal, as well as chicken sandwich trials.

The deal, which Scout Sports & Entertainment brokered, has been in the works since before the coronavirus pandemic began, but the timing is fortuitous for Popeyes because the stick-and-ball sports that it sponsors are either out of season or shut down by the lockdown. Popeyes works with Horizon Media, which Scout is a division of.

The Huntsmen revealed the Popeyes-sponsored tournament today in a tweet, but The Esports Observer is first reporting the overall deal that it is part of.

“They’re trying to target different fans at a time when they didn’t have media running with other sports, so they understood that esports and gaming is a massive growing space and they needed to be in it somehow,” said Nico Amantia, senior account executive at Scout, who set up the deal. “They have a lot of investment in basketball and college football, so they wanted to bridge that gap (until live sports returns) and dive into esports fans, which they hadn’t been hitting at all. This is a new audience and very intriguing for them.”

The coronavirus crisis has impacted the key performance indicators for the deal to a certain extent; because delivery has become an even more important part of QSRs business amid the shutdown, driving that segment of the business has become a more important part of the sponsorship. Still, Amantia said that Popeye’s still wants to build general brand awareness and affinity in esports.

NRG Esports President Brett Lautenbach said that the deal not only fills an important sponsorship category for the organization but that it also does so with a trendy brand. Popeyes chicken sandwich became a national sensation after it debuted and eventually sold out midway through 2019, resulting in long lines and big sales at locations across the country.

The Call of Duty League is in its first year as a franchised, geo-located model, and the Activision Blizzard-owned property moved to only-online events a couple weeks into the season due to the pandemic.

This sponsorship is just with the Huntsmen for now, but Lautenbach said that naturally NRG is open to growing it to some of the other teams and gamers under its umbrella.

“It’s awesome,” Lautenbach said of becoming the first property in esports to align with Popeyes. “I remember after our first calls and Nico was talking to (co-CEOs Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez and Andy Miller) about the possibility we might be able to work with Popeyes, and their eyes lit up.”

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