After helping produce one of the video gaming world’s most resonant moments earlier this year, rap artist Drake is now formally moving into esports, becoming a co-owner of apparel and competitive gaming franchise 100 Thieves. The news was announced by the team Tuesday upon the completion of its Series A fundraising round. Entertainment mogul Scooter Braun, best known for representing superstars Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, will join Drake and 100 Thieves founder and former professional gamer Matt “Nadeshot” Haag as co-owners.
This March the Grammy-winning Drake teamed up with streamer and recent ESPN the Magazine cover boy Ninja to play the wildly popular battle royale title Fortnite live on Twitch. Joined by rapper Travis Scott and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the quartet shattered Twitch’s record for concurrent viewers on a single streamer’s feed, peaking at 630,000, and also trended on Twitter. (Note: Twitch is owned by Amazon, whose CEO, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)
The audience ballooned when Drake tweeted the link just before 1 a.m. Eastern to his 36.8 million followers. Such a spike raises the question of how 100 Thieves and esports at large can benefit from the involvement of a celebrity with such a large, worldwide reach.
Drake, an avid gamer, is not the first high profile celebrity to invest in the world of competitive gaming, but his involvement lends further mainstream visibility to esports and the video gaming world. Athletes (such as Shaquille O’Neal and Alex Rodriguez), traditional sports owners (like the New England Patriots' Robert and Jonathan Kraft; the Washington Capitals'/Wizards' Ted Leonsis) and teams like the New York Yankees and Cleveland Cavaliers have all invested previously, hoping to tap into a burgeoning economy projected by esports business analytics site Newzoo to approach a billion-dollar valuation this year.
Also Tuesday, Nike named China’s top League of Legends star, Jian “Uzi” Zihao, as its first esports ambassador, signaling another global brand making a push into esports. MasterCard became a global events sponsor of Riot Games' League of Legends circuit in September, starting with the world championships in Seoul. The event in the past has packed New York’s Madison Square Garden, Staples Center in Los Angeles and even Beijing’s Olympic stadium.
With teams competing in popular gaming titles like League of Legends, Call of Duty, Fortnite and Clash Royale, 100 Thieves is one of the fastest-rising brands in the industry, according to Forbes. The brand had previously partnered with Drake during his “Scorpion” tour and had also been planning clothing collaborations with him, according to Engadget.
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