Dedicated online slot fans may be familiar with the Playtech series of superhero slot machines, all of which were licensed by Marvel Comics. For a long time, these slots were some of the most popular in the industry, only to change completely, adopt a Greek God theme, and then avoid any mention of superheroes and Marvel.
What many players don’t realize is that this was a forced change, one that resulted from Playtech’s partnership with Disney (the owners of the Marvel brand) coming to an abrupt end. Simply put, Disney decided they didn’t want to associate their brand with online gambling anymore, and so they pulled the plug.
One of the most surprising things about this is that Playtech was partnered with Disney in the first place, but believe it or not, strange partnerships like this happen all of the time in the online casino world, as noted by information-hub Webxcon, and it’s those partnerships that we will address in this guide.
1. The UFC and PokerStars
When you think of the UFC, you probably think of brutal striking, skilled ground-work, and bloody Octagons. You may think of famous figures like Dana White, Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Conor McGregor, and Khabib Nurmagomedov. You probably don’t think about a patient, slow, and high-stakes card game.
But believe it or not, it’s a connection that made perfect sense to both the UFC and PokerStars, as PokerStars recently became the official UFC poker partner.
These days, it’s not entirely unusual for connections like this to be made. Major sporting events and teams seem to have a partner for everything (some of the strangest have been highlighted in this guide) and it’s not a stretch to assume that UFC fans might like a game of poker or two.
To make it work, PokerStars even launched some UFC-branded tournaments, including UFC KO Poker, which follows a Knockout/Bounty format.
2. Official Everything
To show you just how strange official sponsorships can be, let’s take a look at one of the world’s biggest clubs, Manchester United. Every fan knows that Man Utd is sponsored by AON, Adidas, and Chevrolet. After all, these brands have featured on the clubs shirts and in the case of Adidas, actually provide those shirts.
What many fans might not know, however, is that Manchester United also has all of the following sponsors:
- Official Carrier of Manchester United = Aeroflot
- Official Tyre Partner of Manchester United = Apollo Tyres
- Official Chocolate Partner of Manchester United = Cadburys
- Official Denim Partner Manchester United = True Religion
And this is just scratching the surface. Sure, these sponsors can and should exist to provide exposure on the team’s shirts, advertising boards, TV channel, and programmes, but does one of the world’s biggest sporting teams really need an official partner for chocolate, wine spirits, and denim?
As weird as those sponsors are, wait until you see the list of sponsors for Barcelona. The Catalan club has an official bank partner and even an official motor oil partner, but more strangely, it also has an official shampoo, soft drinks, car battery, and roller hockey partner.
3. Scientific Games and 21st Century Fox
SG is one of the world’s best-known slot creators, responsible for brands such as WMS and Barcrest. 20th Century Fox is a film studio and media powerhouse. These things don’t have a great deal in common, but in 2015, they began working together as SG acquired licenses to create slots like The Simpsons.
In fact, similar deals have been struck between 20th Century Fox and a number of other iGaming brands, which is why we have slots based on everything from Avatar to Family Guy.
As strange as this seems initially, it gets stranger, as 20th Century Fox is owned by Disney, which seems hellbent on rejecting all forms of online gambling connected to its brand. Somehow, these partnerships slipped through the net.
4. Strange Stadium Names
Stadiums, just like sporting leagues, teams, and players, have sponsors. Some of these sponsor names have become synonymous with the teams and the areas, while others flop. The Emirates Stadium, for instance, is one of the best-known in the Premier League, and one of the few sponsored stadiums that fans have universally accepted.
Bet365, the globally recognised sports betting site, sponsors the Stoke City stadium, while travel group King Power is Leicester City’s sponsors. These things make relative sense, but the same can’t be said for all stadium names.
For a number of years, Leicester’s ground was sponsored by Walkers, a potato chip (crisp) manufacturer synonymous with the area. In Australia, the North Queensland Cowboys rugby stadium used to be known as the 1300 Smiles Stadium after a sponsorship with a local dentist, a business that many of those players no doubt visited after some particularly hard-hitting tackles.
Even stranger is the Sacramento Kings’ stadium, which was known as the Sleep Trian stadium for 5 years following a sponsorship with a local manufacturer. A comfortable night’s sleep is generally not the image you associate with a loud and proud stadium crowd, but the sponsors clearly saw things differently.
Conclusion: Why These Partnerships Exist
Money. It may not be the answer to all of life’s problems, but it’s certainly the answer to why so many strange partnerships exist. Manchester United create space for “official chocolate” sponsors because brands like Cadbury offer them sizable sums. And brands like Cadbury do this because they want to be associated with one of the world’s biggest clubs.
Having a connection to a major brand is even more important for an online casino, sports book, or slot developer. It’s why we have seen brands like MGM and DraftKings rush to establish partnerships with major sporting leagues in the United States, including the NBA, NFL, and MLS.
These partnerships generate huge sums of money for one company and provide endless opportunities for another. That’s why they exist, and as the online gambling industry shifts its focus to the United States, the land of consumerism, sponsorships, and wealth, we’ll likely see more strange deals being signed and more bizarre partnerships being formed.