Red Bull has been forced to drop sponsorships with heavyweight eSports organisations Cloud9 and Team SoloMid, after a dispute with Riot Games regarding a potential conflict of interest. The news comes as a minor setback to Red Bull’s Media house (RBMH), as Riot impose their authority on the European Challenger Series newcomers.
Red Bull’s North American division has been prolific in its sponsorship of some of eSports biggest team organisations, events and professional players. The energy drinks brand currently sponsors a number of major fighting game events.
According to ESPN eSports, RBMH will move to negotiate a contract with current North American League of Legends Challenger Series team, Tempo storm. The current deal basis is reportedly valued at $3 million, as part of a multiyear contract.
Red Bull’s decision to drop Team SoloMid and Cloud9 comes just days after the organisation’s challenger series team were forced to revert back to their former name, from ‘Red Bulls’ to ‘Team RB’.
Little clarification was provided by either Riot Games or Red Bull, explaining that the decision was made as a result of “certain formalities not yet being locked”, though it now appears that a conflict of interest was indeed the reasoning behind the name change.
Notably, the team’s logo – featuring the trademark red bull associated with the energy drinks brand – has been wiped from all official Riot Games eSports platforms.
Due to certain formalities not yet being locked, Red Bulls of the EU Challenger Series will be referred to as Team RB until further notice.
— lolesports (@lolesports) 18 June 2017
Red Bull initially launched their sponsorship of Team SoloMid and Cloud9 in December 2015, though this agreement now presents a conflict with Riot Games’ sale of sponsorship rules.
Riot have previous prescedent in their favour for enforcing the severance of Red Bull’s sponsorship deals, having previously barred technology company Curse from fielding Team Curse and promoting their Curse Voice platform through a partnership with Team SoloMid.
Naturally branded as Red Bulls, the squad captained by veteran support player Raymond “kaSing” Tsang, had enjoyed a promising start to their competitive venture.
The roster, previously operating under the name “R.B.” enjoyed a successful run through the EU Summer Open CS Qualifiers to secure a slot in the Challenger Series for the forthcoming split.
It’s not known yet how losing the Red Bull sponsorship, will affect the finances of Cloud9 and Team SoloMid, though with the franchising of the NA LCS set to be implemented next year, it is speculated that the two heavyweights may well be compensated by Riot Games.
Red Bull will wish to maintain positive relations with Riot Games moving forwards and may need to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops in order to do so.
With additional franchising potentially on the horizon for the European region, Red Bull will be keen to avoid any further conflict.