In less than seven weeks, in May, the fifth season of Activision Blizzard’s official Overwatch League starts, kicking off with a large live event in Texas. However, this close to the start, the league still lacks any sponsors. Officials claim there are “ongoing discussions” happening with various partners, but following numerous lawsuits and accusations of sexual harassment last year, it appears companies might still be wary of getting involved.
Due to COVID-19, the Overwatch League hasn’t held a live event in North America since early 2020. So starting the next season of the popular esport league with a large, in-person event is a big deal for Activision Blizzard and various teams and folks involved with the league. It will also be one of the first places Overwatch 2 debuts, the still in development sequel to Blizzard’s popular hero shooter.
But as reported by The Washington Post, as the league ramps up for its big return and a new era of Overwatch, it currently is running without any major sponsors.
Big corporate sponsors like Kellogg’s, State Farm, and Coca-Cola ended their advertising deals with the league following the public reveal of a lawsuit filed on July 20, 2021, by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing after a years-long investigation turned up stories of multiple women suffering daily harassment and abuse while working at Activision Blizzard.
And the Washington Post was told by these companies that none plan to re-start their advertising or sponsorship deals with the league in 2022, though the companies also declined to say if the decision to skip 2022 was due to the ongoing lawsuits Activision Blizzard faces.
Last season, Comcast was the official internet service provider for the league. But now Comcast, which owns the Overwatch League team the Philadelphia Fusion, told the Post that the company also had no current plans to sponsor the league.
The new head of Overwatch League, Sean Miller, told the Post that plans for this new season had been in the works for some time now and that they were open to “amplify those plans” with any future sponsors. When asked about the complete lack of sponsors on the league’s official website, Miller told the outlet that it was currently in discussions with both past sponsors and “potential new ones”
Kotaku contacted Activision Blizzard about the lack of sponsorship
But a few weeks before the league’s big return, it seems companies aren’t quite ready to jump back in. And with more lawsuits coming out and revealing more terrible shit that happened, it seems unlikely any big companies will be lining up to sponsor Overwatch League’s upcoming fifth season.
Earlier this month, for example, a new lawsuit was filed by parents of an Activision Blizzard employee who argue that frequent workplace sexual harassment contributed to their daughter’s suicide during a company retreat in 2017.