Overwatch League sponsors reevaluate support following Activision Blizzard lawsuit

Technology

Overwatch League sponsors Coca-Cola and State Farm are re-evaluating their support of the competition after the game’s publisher Activision Blizzard was sued by regulators over a culture of ‘constant sexual harassment,’ The Washington Post reports. The companies’ statements come as another sponsor, T-Mobile, appeared to pull its branding from the Overwatch League as well as the Call of Duty League, earlier this week.

In a statement, Coca-Cola told the Washington Post that it is aware of the allegations surrounding Activision Blizzard, and said it is “[taking] a step back for a moment to revisit future plans and programs.” However, a spokesperson for the company would not confirm whether or not the company would cease its sponsorship of the league entirely.

Meanwhile, State Farm said it is “reevaluating” its “limited marketing relationship” with the Overwatch League, and that it’s asked that “no advertisements run during the matches this weekend.”

Partnerships like these are an important source of revenue for Activision Blizzard’s esports leagues alongside broadcasting rights and franchise fees. Logos and advertisements for the brands appear prominently during broadcasts, and branded Coca-Cola cups are sometimes seen next to commentators. State Farm and Coca-Cola are among seven brands listed on the partners page of the Overwatch League’s website. The other companies listed did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.

The statements come as earlier this week, viewers noted that T-Mobile’s branding appeared to have disappeared from Overwatch League and Call of Duty League broadcasts. The company’s branding has disappeared from both league’s list of sponsorship partners and has not been appearing in recent Overwatch League tweets. In a recent Call of Duty League match, the New York Subliners team were seen wearing duct tape over T-Mobile’s logo on their jerseys. T-Mobile did not respond to a request for comment.

Sponsors are reevaluating their support in the wake of a lawsuit from California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which alleged widespread harassment and discrimination at Activision Blizzard. Following the lawsuit, employees staged a walkout in protest, and made several demands including an end to forced arbitration in employee contracts.

Two high-ranking employees have left the company in the wake of the allegations — Blizzard president J. Allen Brack and the company’s head of global human resources Jesse Meschuk — while Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has pledged to take “swift action” and will investigate “each and every claim.” However, employees criticized the CEO’s response for failing to address key concerns.