Kellogg’s pulls Overwatch sponsorship over ‘troubling’ Blizzard allegations
Another sponsor has pulled its endorsement from Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League. On Friday, the Kellogg Co. confirmed that it “will not be moving forward” with OWL partnership programs this year. The move is Kellogg’s response to allegations of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment at Overwatch publisher and developer Blizzard Entertainment.
“We find these allegations troubling and inconsistent with our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion,” Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner said in a statement to Polygon. “While Activision Blizzard has announced plans to address the challenging issues it faces, we will not be moving forward with any new programs this year, but will continue to review progress made against their plans.”
The Kellogg Co. and the Overwatch League announced a multiyear partnership in 2019, agreeing to “multiple activations through 2021, including co-branded packaging, sweepstakes, and merchandise.” That partnership included packaging for Kellogg’s products, including Cheez-It Grooves and Pringles Wavy, featuring Overwatch League branding and Overwatch character images. (Kellogg’s also manufactured Overwatch Lúcio-Oh’s cereal in 2018.)
As of Friday, logos for Cheez-It Grooves and Pringles Wavy had been removed from the Overwatch League’s partners page.
Kellogg’s decision to distance itself from the Overwatch League follows similar moves from other league sponsors T-Mobile, Coca-Cola, and State Farm. On Thursday, State Farm told the Washington Post that it was “reevaluating [its] limited marketing relationship with the Overwatch League.” Coca-Cola likewise said it was “tak[ing] a step back for a moment to revisit future plans and programs.”
In July, Activision Blizzard was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which alleged that the company created a “frat boy culture” that allowed gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment to proliferate. Several top executives, including former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, were named in the lawsuit for knowing about and enabling the alleged behavior. The DFEH said it conducted a two-year investigation into Activision Blizzard before filing the suit.
Immediately following the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard made an official statement in which it said the lawsuit included “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” Activision Blizzard executive (and former George W. Bush homeland security adviser) Frances Townsend called the lawsuit “truly meritless and irresponsible” in a statement that’s since been criticized by current and former staff. Thousands of Activision Blizzard employees signed a letter asking for Townsend to step down as the executive sponsor of the women’s network. Following the letter, Activision Blizzard employees in California and elsewhere walked out of work in protest of leadership’s response.
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