IBM enters esports with Overwatch League data and sponsorship deal


Global technology and data services firm IBM has entered into an analytics and sponsorship deal with Overwatch League, which runs through the 2022 season.

The deal is IBM’s first foray into esports and kicks off with the company presenting this weekend’s in-progress Overwatch League Grand Finals competition.

IBM enters esports with Overwatch League data and sponsorship deal
Credit: Overwatch League

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Brandon Snow, Chief Revenue Officer of Activision Blizzard Esports, commented in a release: “We’re constantly striving to give fans the ability to more meaningfully engage with the Overwatch League, and teaming up with IBM enables us to do just that. IBM’s cutting-edge AI and machine learning, underpinned by cloud technologies, will help enable us to bring interactive and innovative engagement opportunities to our fans and teams. This is a fantastic benefit to our viewers, and we’re very excited to be announcing it during the biggest event of our season.”

IBM is currently developing various data-driven solutions for the league using its IBM Watson artificial intelligence and cloud-based infrastructure. The firm will create tools to help the league process in-game data, produce more accurate ranking information, and create predictive analysis elements for broadcasts. The data-powered tools will be available to the Overwatch League starting with the 2021 season.

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The league has 20 city-based teams and intended to host “homestand weekends” across all of the team’s respective markets in 2020, but had to curtail the plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the season’s games were played online instead, and while the IBM-presented Grand Finals will also be played online, the participating teams all travelled to South Korea to compete on the same server.

Noah Syken, Vice President of Sports & Entertainment Partnerships at IBM, added: “We’re thrilled to bring our world class Cloud platforms and Watson portfolio to one of the leading eSports platforms in the world. The solutions we’re partnering to create can help the organizations, players, and fans enjoy an even more immersive, engaging experience. We look forward to working with the Overwatch League, to bring innovative solutions at scale, to broad and relevant audiences.”

Esports Insider says: This is a big get for the Overwatch League, and for IBM, it’s clearly more about the opportunity to use its powerful AI and cloud-based infrastructure to develop esports data tools than to be a presenting partner or sponsor. SAP was the first of the big data and analytics giants to make an esports play and now IBM is following suit.

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