Deutsche Telekom, the German parent of telecommunications company T-Mobile, will sponsor SK Gaming as it returns to competitive League of Legends and begins the application process for a potential franchise spot in the European League Championship Series, as first reported by German website SPONSORs and confirmed by ESPN.
Deutsche Telekom will provide SK Gaming's League of Legends team with telecommunications infrastructure and a six-figure amount in sponsorship for the rest of the year, sources said. If SK Gaming is accepted to the EU LCS, the deal between SK Gaming and Deutsche Telekom will increase in value, according to sources, although specific numbers were not disclosed.
SK Gaming announced its return to competitive League of Legends on Friday and has signed five European players that will compete in the League of Legends Premier Tour, which includes teams from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
If accepted to the EU LCS in the fall, SK Gaming will be required to pay $13.2 million in franchise fees. It will in return receive a permanent slot in the league within its home region.
The sponsorship deal between Deutsche Telekom and SK Gaming is a first for the telecommunications company, although its American subsidiary, T-Mobile, has sponsored esports teams and events within the past two years. In 2016 and 2017, T-Mobile was a sponsor for the Overwatch World Cup, and the company also sponsors the Overwatch League. On the team side, T-Mobile announced a deal with Overwatch League team the Houston Outlaws in May; it has previously sponsored Cloud9 and Team SoloMid in late-2017.
SK Gaming, which is based in Cologne, Germany, has not owned a team in League of Legends since May 2016, one split after it was relegated from the European League Championship Series. The team failed then to qualify again for the amateur league at that time, the European League Challenger Series.
SK Gaming is best-known for housing one of the best Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams in the world, a Brazilian squad led by Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo. According to multiple media reports, however, SK will lose that team later this months, as it moves over to Immortals under the MiBR (Made in Brazil) moniker. SK Gaming has reportedly signed another Brazilian Counter-Strike team, Não Tem Como, according to a May report by DBLTAP.
EU LCS franchising comes after its sister league, the North American League Championship Series, did the same in 2017. That league removed four of its existing teams -- Immortals, Phoenix, Team Dignitas and Team Envy -- in favor of three teams affiliated with NBA teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, and one of esports' most popular endemic teams, OpTic Gaming.