Just over one year into existence, and the Drone Racing League has signed its first title sponsor for its race circuit. The New York-based league has signed a five-year partnership with German insurer Allianz; the companies will produce the Allianz World Championship races later this year.
"It's our largest commercial relationship to date," explained Nicholas Horbaczewski, chief executive and founder of Drone Racing League. "It brings this undeniable proof point of drone racing as a sport."
Founded last year, Drone Racing League has been moving beyond its underground roots to become a global sport. The company recently signed sponsorship deals with Bud Lite, for a simulator program to find pilots, and Toy State, for co-branded toy drones. It has received more than $12 million in funding from investors that include Gary Vaynerchuk, Hearst Ventures and CAA Ventures, the venture capital division of Creative Artists Agency.
"Drone racing, just like the drone market in general, is growing at a tremendous pace and we strongly believe that DRL—with their extensive broadcast reach—has the most potential to reach fans around the world and expose them to one of the most exciting and innovative racing experiences out there," said Jean-Marc Pailhol, head of group market management and distribution at Allianz. His company, which also sponsors the Paralympic Movement and Saracens Rugby Club and counts Ogilvy & Mather as its agency of record, offers drone insurance products for manufacturers, flight schools and drone service consumers. He declined to say how much the drone sponsorship will cost.
After five races last year, the Drone Racing League will add a sixth in 2017. The broadcasts will begin in June in over 75 countries as the company works with the United States' ESPN, U.K.'s Sky Sports and Germany's Prosieben to air episodes globally.
As eSports, or electronic sports, grow in popularity, marketers have been clamoring to get in on the action. Last year, Arby's, Buffalo Wild Wings and Snickers signed on as sponsors of eLeague the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gaming league that airs on Turner Broadcasting.