The opportunity comes courtesy of Groomed to Game, a partnership among Gillette, esports platform CSL Esports and the HBCU Esports Alliance (HEA), a diversity and inclusion organization created to help more HBCU students work their way into the esports ecosystem. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
While specific tournament prizes are still to be determined, students will compete in Madden’s “The Yard” mode, which features the Gillette Style Zone where players can customize their avatar’s hairstyle, facial hair and equipment. As part of its participation in Groomed to Game, Gillette plans to do product giveaways, give back donations with purchases and even provide free haircuts for students through partnering with campus barbershops.
“This is not a one-off; this is a foundational partnership,” HEA general manager and associate commissioner Rod Chappell said in an interview. “[Gillette] understands we are grassroots and we are talking directly to students and universities. We’re going to pull them through and educate them. So on the back side of this they will then pull in the future pipeline that will support all the esports that’re happening on the individual campuses and collectively.”
Chappell, former lead of strategic partnerships at NASA, founded HEA earlier this year with Marc Williams, the former brand director at Champs Sports who is now the league’s commissioner. The two had been seeking strategies to help HBCUs within esports after meeting at 2019’s White House Initiative on HBCUs.
Before the partnership was announced, Gillette had made inroads in the esports world. The razor company has deals with Amazon-owned Twitch, EA Sports’ Madden and FIFA franchises, and produces a League of Legends esports talk show. With Gillette already being partnered with Madden, their pact with the CSL and HEA fits perfect for both sides since Madden is one of the games HEA plays.
On Gillette’s part, “our partnership with HEA will allow Gillette to support the nation’s HBCUs and help provide access to the esports ecosystem that hasn’t existed previously,” said Greg Via, the personal care product company’s vice president of sport and esports. “Our goals align perfectly in terms of providing opportunities for men, and we’re so proud to partner with HEA to announce and launch this program—not only to extend our gaming and esports programs, but also to support educational development and access to opportunities for HBCU students.”