Blizzard May Lose Multiple Overwatch League Sponsors Amidst Scandal
Activision Blizzard, the studio behind Overwatch and the Overwatch League, is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), following a two-year investigation. The lawsuit has accused the company of toxicity at the workplace, gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Amidst the recent scandal, multiple Overwatch League sponsors are reportedly reassessing their relationship with the company. T-Mobile and Kellogg’s, two of the biggest sponsors of the Overwatch League have already cut sponsorship and other companies like Coca-Cola and State Farm may do the same.
Kellogg’s and T-Mobile’s stance against Activision Blizzard
The Kellogg Co. and the Overwatch League formed a multi-year partnership for “multiple activations through 2021, including co-branded packaging, sweepstakes, and merchandise.” The sponsor told Polygon that it finds the allegations “troubling and inconsistent with our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.” While Activision Blizzard has announced plans to address the internal issues, Kellogg’s will not be moving forward with any new programs with the company in 2021, and will continue to review progress made against the company’s plans.
T-Mobile has also reportedly distanced itself from the Overwatch League with its branding being quietly removed from all Overwatch League websites and social media posts. Other sponsors like Coca-Cola and State Farm may also take similar decisions.
Multiple Blizzard executives step down amidst controversy
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack has stepped down from the company and will be replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra as co-leaders. Jen joined Blizzard in January as executive vice president of development, where she’s been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Mike joined the company in 2019 as the executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology. He was formerly a part of Microsoft’s Xbox division.
Fran Townsend, executive sponsor of the Activision Blizzard King Employee Women’s Network, has also stepped down following her controversial response to the lawsuit. She said that the lawsuit painted a “a distorted and untrue picture” of Activision Blizzard, which immediately led to an uproar from existing and former employees who wanted Townsend to relinquish her role.
Activision Blizzard CEO, Bobby Kotick sent out a company-wide email stating that the company’s response by Fran Townsend was “tone deaf.” He has promised organizational changes to address the issues raised by the employees. The company is working with law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of company policies and procedures to ensure that it has the best practices to promote an inclusive workplace.