Mastercard has expanded its commitment to the world of esports by announcing its latest sporting global brand ambassador: Magnus Carlsen, the highest-rated chess grandmaster in history, and the highest-paid esports player in 2020.
Carlsen–the world champion in classic, blitz, and rapid chess–looks almost certain to continue his winning ways online in 2021. He currently leads the standings for the inaugural Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, which offers a $300,000 grand prize. Effective immediately, the competition is now also sponsored by Mastercard.
Through its latest esports deals with Carlsen and the Champions Chess Tour, Mastercard has curated numerous experiences via its Priceless cardholder offering. Chief among these is the Chess Insights from World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen Experience: Mastercard owners will be able to join Carlsen for a live, virtual event, where he will speak about his passion for chess and take questions from the live audience.
These latest partnerships signal Mastercard’s growing investment in esports. In 2018, it became the first global sponsor of League of Legends’ competitive activities in a multi-year partnership with Riot Games; the company expanded its operations to League’s Championship Series (LCS) the following year, before entering into a deal with G2 Esports soon after.
Thanks to chess’ resurgent popularity among fans and the esports alike, over 27 million hours of the Champions Chess Tour have been watched online so far–more than all the hours of chess viewed on Twitch during 2019, even though the Tour Finals are yet to begin.
When the coveted competition draws to a close between September 25 and October 4, Carlsen will be one of ten grandmasters vying for the ultimate prize, facing off against the likes of fellow virtuosos Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, and Levon Aronian.
Carlsen said: “Expanding the influence of the game of chess has always been close to my heart. To have Mastercard, which brings people and their passions together in meaningful ways, partner with the Tour is very exciting. I’m proud to join Mastercard to bring the sport forward to millions of fans around the world.”
Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, continued: “Teaming up with Magnus–widely regarded as the best chess player of all time–and the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour underscores our enthusiastic commitment to providing cardholders with Priceless Experiences that celebrate the physical and mental sport of chess.
“We’re excited to bring the global chess base closer to the game they love and to engage with new enthusiasts.”
Andreas Thome, CEO of Play Magnus Group–Carlsen’s e-learning and entertainment group–added: “Having one of the most established brands in the sports world partner with us is an incredible moment–not only for Magnus and the Tour, but for the global chess community.”
In becoming a global brand ambassador, Carlsen joins the ranks of fellow Mastercard partners such as four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka, soccer legends Lionel Messi and Crystal Dunn, and ten-time LPGA champion Annika Sörenstam.
It’s not the first time a chess champion has become the face of the game’s esports evolution. In May, Garry Kasparov announced the launch of Kasparovchess, continuing the Russian grandmaster’s decades-long commitment to online chess.