In the wake of a lawsuit detailing a sickening culture of harassment at Activision Blizzard, the Overwatch and Call of Duty publisher is starting to bleed sponsorships. As spotted by the esports site Dexerto, T-Mobile has apparently pulled support for the professional leagues of both games.
T-Mobile has long been a sponsor for the Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues. And though the telecommunications giant hasn’t officially commented about a rift, most signs suggest one has occurred. Kotaku reached out to T-Mobile but did not hear back in time for publication.
As Dexerto points out, the websites for both the Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues removed reference to T-Mobile at some point in July. On July 21, both sported the T-Mobile logo. By July 31, neither did. The 20th entry period of T-Mobile’s Call of Duty sweepstakes has quietly been canceled. What’s more, team members for the New York Subliners, a Call of Duty team, appear to have taped over the T-Mobile logo on their jerseys, which you’ve gotta admit is hilarious.
On July 20, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed suit against Activision Blizzard, alleging a deep-seated systemic culture of abuse, sexual harassment, and discrimination. One troubling allegation (of many) made mention of a so-called “Cosby Suite,” a possible hotbed of misconduct at BlizzCon 2013. Last week, employees at Activision Blizzard’s campus in Irvine, CA, held a walkout; many more participated virtually in the interest of staying safe in the era of covid-19.
Earlier today, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack formally stepped down from his position. He’ll be replaced by two co-leads: Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, both of whom have been with the company for less than two years. For what it’s worth, Ybarra attended last week’s walkout. That said, both statements issued by Brack and Blizzard notably failed to address the serious allegations levied at the company.
It’s unclear if other top-billed sponsors plan to pull out of Activision Blizzard’s esports endeavors. Kotaku reached out to various sponsors of the Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues. At press time, none had responded.
Update (08/05/2021, 4:32 p.m. ET): Coca-Cola and State Farm are both reassessing their partnerships with Activision Blizzard as Overwatch League sponsors, according to statements provided to Kotaku and The Washington Post.
“State Farm constantly reviews our marketing agreements and adapts to new ways to reach current and potential customers,” a company spokesperson told Kotaku. “While the details of our marketing decisions are proprietary, we can confirm that we are in the process of reevaluating our limited marketing relationship with the Overwatch League and do not have any ad placements with Activision Blizzard or their properties.”
The insurance company has also requested that Activision Blizzard run no State Farm ads during this weekend’s Overwatch League matches.
Coca-Cola, The Washington Post reports, is merely “taking a step back” regarding its Overwatch League sponsorship and wouldn’t comment on whether it plans to pull advertisements.
Update (08/06/2021, 7:24 p.m. ET): According to new reporting by Polygon, Kellogg’s has also pulled its ads from Overwatch League.
“We find these allegations troubling and inconsistent with our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Kellogg’s spokesperson Kris Bahner in a statement given to Polygon. “While Activision Blizzard has announced plans to address the challenging issues it faces, we will not be moving forward with any new programs this year, but will continue to review progress made against their plans.”