The world of eSports hit what could be a rather significant milestone last week as the first-ever branded "virtual stadium" was unveiled. EA Sports and Pizza Hut struck the first stadium sponsorship deal in the history of eSports and, as a result, the Madden NFL 20 Championship Series will be taking place at the newly unveiled Pizza Hut Stadium.
That virtual stadium will resemble a real-world NFL stadium and be heavily branded with Pizza Hut signage and advertisements.
With eSports on the rise, both from a popularity and marketability standpoint, this virtual stadium sponsorship deal will likely lay the groundwork for brand partnerships like it in the future. EA Sports hasn't ruled out the possibility of additional virtual stadium deals for the Madden Championship Series down the line.
One thing that they have seemingly ruled out, however, is selling jersey ads within the game. It is likely that the NFL would have to open that door in real life first. EA Sports wants to keep the Madden experience as authentic as possible, even in the competitive eSports arena.
"The idea behind virtual stadium rights is to develop an opportunity that's in the image and in the essence of what you would see in the actual NFL, so we wouldn't want to stray from a traditional NFL experience," said EA Sports' eSports Sponsorship Alex Nuñez, via Dexerto.
"We wanted to mirror what you had experienced if you were to go to an actual NFL stadium where the concept of stadium rights already exists and you're used to seeing brands within the stadium. We're trying to create an extension of that in our world."
This is a deal that makes a lot of sense on both sides, and honestly it's surprising that it hasn't happened sooner. As eSports continues to grow, more and more sponsors are likely going to want to capitalize by finding different and unique ways to get their brand in on the action.