Kraft Heinz’s Crave and Bud Light join the Toronto Ultra

The brands join a growing list of Overactive Media sponsors looking to tap into esports.

It’s been a busy week for Overactive Media as it continues to make strides towards becoming a global sports media entertainment company.

In addition to going public on the TSX Venture Exchange on Wednesday, it has also partnered with Bud Light as the official beer for its Canadian Call of Duty team, the Toronto Ultra, and signed Kraft Heinz Canada’s Crave Frozen Meals as a sponsor.

The most recent announcement is an exclusive partnership between Crave and the Toronto Ultra. The frozen meal brand joins TD, Bell and EPOS – the team’s official headset brand – as a jersey patch partner, but it also includes a first-of-its-kind in Canadian esports jersey patch position in-game. “For the Call of Duty playoffs, you will see Crave on our Call of Duty kit inside the game itself,” explains Tyler Keenan, Overactive Media’s VP, global partnerships. The branding appears on the avatars in the game experience itself, not just on the shirts of the gamers playing IRL.

Brian Neumann, associate director, meals, beverages, desserts and infant at Kraft Heinz Canada, tells MiC that the focus for Crave when it launched in 2018 was brand awareness. But when Neumann took over on the brand this past May, he shifted the focus to brand loyalty, especially with younger consumers, and the esports space was a natural fit.

Neumann says the partnership allows the Crave brand to drive more relevancy with younger consumers by showing up where they are. It’s primarily a digital relationship, he says, “but we’re going to be investigating throughout the year,” to find new media opportunities it hasn’t tried.

“It’s definitely a different approach for us at Kraft Heinz, and Crave specifically.” The added layer of going in-game “is a large investment for us,” Neumann says, noting that he can’t say what percentage of the brand’s overall budget it represents, but it “shows our commitment to the space.”

Kraft Heinz Canada brought Carat on as its media AOR in 2021. The brand also held a media transformation lab in March, where partners identified unique business challenges and were tasked with providing media solutions. Coming out of it, Neumann says there were a lot of good insights around Twitch and gaming, and Carat came back with an opportunity to partner with the Toronto Ultra. It’s a season-long partnership out of the gate, throughout the playoffs with further activations in the fall, Neumann says, at which point it will revisit the partnership for renewal.

Co-branded content is being created around the partnership, with a launch video coming out this week that will be part of a larger digital buy featuring pre-roll on Twitter in front of game highlights. It will also be running some contests over the summer, as well as creating a sizeable amount of social content around the team’s progress through the playoffs over the summer.

Back in May, Overactive announced a number of new partnerships, including a multi-year deal with Red Bull, the expansion of its partnership with Bell Media, TD Bank, and partnering with other brand sponsors, including Canon, Universal Music Canada, SkipTheDishes, Jack Link’s and EPOS. Overactive also unveiled its new headquarters and esports training centre and launched its rebrand at the same time.

Back then, Bud Light was briefly mentioned, filling fridges for when Overactive’s esports teams were actually allowed back inside. The partnership was formalized earlier this week, focusing on creating custom content and celebrating big moments with Ultra fans.

The partnership also features a limited-edition playoff beer can in collaboration between the two organizations. It will be designed and sold publicly to celebrate Toronto Ultra’s playoff run through the CDL Champs, and visuals of the new can and details will be launched in early August.

“Our content will primarily live on Toronto Ultra channels so that we can easily connect with fans and deliver fun behind the scenes as Ultra heads towards the playoffs,” says Mike D’Agostini, senior marketing director, Bud Light Canada.

“Esports and gaming has been a key passion point for Bud Light for five years now. It’s a major part of our consumers’ daily lives, from watching their favourite team or streamer, or just playing with their friends. Those are all occasions that our brand can engage in.”

The relationship and opportunity rolled out naturally over a couple of years, D’Agostini says, as it looked “for the right opportunity to bring a partnership to life. COVID definitely impacted our ability to integrate in-person events, like watch parties, but we believe the content plan we’ve developed will allow us to still achieve our main objective, which is to entertain the fans.”

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The Call of Duty season has five stages, says Keenan. Similar to golf, he says it’s broken out with three weeks of play, with a major where a team is seeded based on its performance to date, accumulating points leading up to the playoffs. The league is currently in week two of stage five, the last phase of the season, with the Toronto Ultra sitting in third, battling for second to get preferred bracketing in the round-robin elimination final later in the fall.

Global viewership is up approximately 18%, Keenan says, over last year, and he expects upwards of 300,000 viewers tuning into the finals on YouTube. The round one match in April featuring the Toronto Ultra against Optic Chicago, was reportedly the most viewed match of the season, with an AMA of 140,000.

Chris Overholt, president and CEO of Overactive Media, tells MiC that he sees Toronto as a destination market and global hub for esports, indicating that it’s currently the fourth largest esports market in North America. He also says there’s opportunity and excitement around the naming rights for the new 7,000-seat gaming venue at Exhibition Place – where it plans to host over 200 esport events a year – scheduled for completion in 2025.