Subaru of America is making its first foray into esports. The car manufacturer will host a $20,000 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive invitational thanks to a recent partnership with Damage, a new esports agency.
The invitational will bring in eight North American teams from May 13 to 14.
Other than that, we know very little about the tournament. Subaru hasn’t announced any teams (but has promised they will be the “top eight” in North America). And it’s difficult to determine how Damage and Subaru will compete against (or fit into the schedule with) other tournaments, in what seems like a never-ending, year-round calendar of events for CS:GO. The small prize pool will hardly attract big-name talent.
In its announcement, Subaru made clear it sees a lot of value in the esports audience.
“Our goal is to build brand affinity with a highly-engaged, dedicated millennial community that shares our core values,” said Eric Park, the Zone Retailer Marketing Manager at Subaru of America. “Millennial esports fans have a fierce dedication to the games and its players.”
But the event as a whole bears all the hallmarks of the type of stumbling first step several other non-endemic brands have taken in the industry. For all the opportunities esports provides big companies—including exposure to an elusive and valuable young demographic—there are plenty of pitfalls.
About a year ago, for instance, Bud Light announced a group of esports all-stars at DreamHack Austin. The list was ridiculed by the esports community. Many of the players seemed like they were pulled randomly out of a hat—half of the Halo competitors had already retired.
There’s one thing the Subaru event is very much doing right, however. During the Invitational, Damage and Subaru of America will donate $1,000 to Anxiety Gaming, a non-profit organization with aspirations of de-stigmatizing mental illness and an emphasis on “recovery from depression and anxiety among gamers.”
You’ll be able to watch the invitational on Twitch from May 13 to May 14.