By Zane Bhansali
When viewers of Ben "DrLupo" Lupo's "Build Against Cancer" charity stream for St. Jude's Research Hospital saw a $19,000 donation from State Farm, they couldn't know it meant bigger things on the horizon for the massively popular streamer.
But just one short month later, State Farm announced a partnership with Lupo, making him the first esports professional officially sponsored by the insurance giant.
Lupo, who has 3 million followers on Twitch and captains Rogue's Fortnite team, told Cheddar Sports that the deal had been in the works for quite some time before the announcement. "State Farm and Rogue had been talking back and forth for a while, and I knew about it way ahead of time, way before anything was announced," Lupo said. But it wasn't until Lupo and State Farm had a face-to-face meeting that he was able to organize the $19,000 donation to St. Jude's.
"I had a sit-down at an esports conference in Vegas with one of the guys that does all of their advertising and representation deals and all that stuff," Lupo said. "And I kind of told him who I was, and what I did for a living, and what kind of brand I try to represent, especially around the charity stuff."
For Lupo, the charity work that he does with St. Jude's is one of the most important parts of his stream. He ended 2018 with a 24-hour Fortnite livestream that raised more than $611,000, bringing the total amount of money he raised for the hospital in 2018 to over $1.3 million.
"The stuff that we do with the stream to support St. Jude's is big, and I wanted to bring [State Farm] in on that," Lupo said. "That was one of the things that I made sure was clear when the contract was set up." State Farm's $19,000 donation to the "Build Against Cancer" stream was one of the results of Lupo's efforts to ensure that they would be involved with his charity work.
"I was like, 'Yeah, supporting me is great, but I want to be sure that you guys are supporting people that are in great need of support as well,' and St. Jude's and helping kids fight cancer is one of the biggest things, in my head, that I could think of that they could do for us," Lupo said. "It was big."
State Farm's sponsorship of Lupo follows their selection of ReKTGlobal as their agency of record for esports. ReKTGlobal, which describes itself as an "global esports company," is the parent company of Lupo's esports team Rogue. While Lupo is the first individual esports pro that State Farm has sponsored, it previously ventured into the space with league-wide sponsorships. In January of last year, State Farm became the first non-endemic sponsor of the North American League of Legends Championship Series, signed a major sponsorship deal with the Rocket League Championship Series, and sponsored the NBA 2K League.
Lupo teased that he and State Farm have "some secret stuff planned" that he characterized as "far-out," adding "maybe you'll see me on TV, maybe you won't." But at the moment, his greatest concern is making the most of his opportunity.
"I want to give them an appropriate representation within the industry and do them justice. Because it's State Farm!" he exclaimed. "It is one of the largest non-endemic brands you can bring into esports. Being given the chance to do that ー I gotta make sure I do right by them."