Pizza Hut, the global restaurant chain, has become the first brand to be awarded naming rights to a virtual football stadium, as part of an arrangement with the National Football League (NFL) ahead of this year’s Madden NFL 20 Championship Series (MCS).
As part of the esports series, launched in collaboration with the gaming title’s producer, EA Sports, four major tournaments will be competed at the virtual Pizza Hut Stadium within the game in a deal that extends the restaurant’s existing NFL partnership.
Marianne Radley, Pizza Hut’s chief brand officer, said: “Pizza and sports go hand in hand, and esports is no exception. Pizza Hut has always been a trailblazer in the gaming space, from the days of tabletop Pac-Man in our restaurants, to now, becoming the first-ever brand to have an official virtual stadium rights deal in esports.
“The goal of all our partnerships is to create 360-degree fan engagement and we are thrilled to join forces with EA sports to create memorable experiences that connect fans to their favorite sports like never before.”
Pizza Hut is joined by the Snickers chocolate bar brand as a series partner, with the latter seeing its branding associated with highlight plays across the competition.
Both companies will see their deals activated across events designed to coincide with key dates in the NFL calendar: season kick-off, the play-offs push, the Super Bowl and the draft.
Rachel Hoagland, the NFL’s head of gaming and esports, said: “We view esports as a key accelerant to growing the NFL. It enables new ways for young fans to engage in the sport through Madden NFL competition.
“Competitive Madden unlocks great potential as the authenticity it provides enhances engagement and the connection between our 32 NFL Clubs and football fans around the world.”
Qualifying rounds begin at the Madden NFL 20 Classic, held between 30th August and 1st September ahead of the 2019/20 NFL season at the Esports Stadium Arlington, in Texas. Play will be streamed on the Madden NFL Twitch and YouTube channels.
That is followed by the Madden NFL Club Championship between 18th and 21st December, ahead of the Madden NFL 20 Challenge between 30th January and 1st February next year, during Super Bowl weekend. The Madden NFL 20 Bowl, which coincides with next year’s NFL Draft and marks the conclusion to the MCS season between 23rd and 25th April.
Matt Marcou, Madden NFL’s competitive gaming commissioner, added: “Last season was a monumental year for the Madden NFL Championship Series as millions competed and we achieved record viewership.
“In continued partnership with the NFL and its 32 clubs, we intend to accelerate player and spectator growth by aligning closely with the NFL calendar. Football fandom and Madden NFL engagement feed off each other and we’re confident this connection will further inspire our players and spectators.”