For over 20 years, telecom companies have been among the biggest sponsors of esports. The trend started when South Korean companies Korea Telecom (now KT Corporation) and SK Telecom started sponsoring Starcraft teams in the late 1990s. The rivalry between those two organizations has now become esports’ biggest.
In the West, Cloud9 and TSM have signed deals to represent companies like T-Mobile. On Thursday, European organization Team Vitality announced one of the biggest telecom sponsorships ever: It will partner with French multinational telecom Orange.
This is a big deal for esports because Orange is one of the biggest telecom companies anywhere. The company has a global customer base of 263 million, with 202 million of those being wireless customers. This dwarfs the subscriber number of telecoms like SK (under 27 million as of 2017) and T-Mobile (just over 75 million in Q2 2018).
Orange is also notable because of its international presence with operations in nearly 30 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It’s also partially owned by the French government, which would make Team Vitality one of the first esports teams to be indirectly sponsored by a nation.
Team Vitality competes in numerous esports titles but is best known for its League of Legends team, which just finished third in the EU LCS and will be competing at Worlds this year. The organization also sponsors teams in F1, Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite, and other titles. With this partnership in place, it’ll also represent not only Orange but the whole country of France.