T1 signs exclusive sponsorship and endorsement deal with CAA Sports

By Trent Murray
CAA has made a esports representation coup: an exclusive deal with T1 Entertainment & Sports.T1 Entertainment & Sports

CAA Sports will now represent esports organization T1 Entertainment & Sports as its exclusive representation for sponsorship and endorsements. The new deal also grants CAA individual rights for League of Legends star Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, arguably the most popular esports figure in the world.

The deal came together in part due to T1 CEO Joe Marsh’s longstanding relationship with CAA Sports APAC President Adrian Staiti. “I was his intern in my first job at Comcast. I worked for him when I was a kid. He's been based in Singapore since 2011, and he was the first call I made once we did the [joint venture],” Marsh told Sports Business Journal. 

Comcast Spectacor and SK Telecom launched T1 Entertainment & Sports as a joint venture in 2019, building on the legacy of SK Telecom T1’s longstanding success in League of Legends as the only team to win three world championships. At that time, T1 tapped Marsh as CEO of the new venture.

“When we got here, and [with] me coming from a marketing and sales background at Comcast, I wanted to build out that apparatus.” Marsh said. “At that time, Adrian Staiti was running Sportfive out of Asia.” During its deal with Sportfive, T1 secured partnerships with global brands such as BMW, Nike and Samsung. “Adrian is now president of APAC for CAA [Sports]. He left last year, and it was just serendipitous. Our Sportfive deal ended, and it was an opportunity to go with the literal biggest sales agency in the world.”

Marsh said that the decision to move to CAA involved far more than his relationship with Staiti. “The enticing factor was — obviously, I like working with Adrian — but the fact that we have access now to CAA globally, I met with their L.A. office ... there's so much they can bring, they have so much talent that can be in and around the gaming space.”

CAA has been active in the esports and gaming for several years, signing Fortnite star Tyler “Ninja” Blevins in 2020 and representing L.A.-based esports organization 100 Thieves. The agency also recently signed top Valorant streamer and former Counter-Strike: Global Offensive champion Tarik.

Now CAA has added the most prominent professional gamer in the modern era. Faker has been at the top of League of Legends since 2013, becoming the biggest star of the biggest esport. Individual deals for Faker have already been part of T1’s sponsorship strategy, adding individual partnerships to its recent deals with partners such as Razer. CAA will now be able to bring deals to Faker outside of his capacity as a player for T1, further building his brand as a leading esports celebrity.

While T1 fields players and teams in a variety of games, such as Valorant and Super Smash Bros., Marsh aims to keep the company and its new partner focused on deals that cover the full scope of its portfolio, rather than piecemealing out its various teams. “The expectation is to do global deals ... I think you want global partners that have local presence.”

T1’s list of partners includes Nike, Samsung, BMW, Red Bull, SteelSeries, Razer, CELEBe, DouYu, Secretlab, SKT 5GX, Hana Bank, HP Omen and Erom.

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