Helmets to Headsets: Boise State athletic teams go head-to-head in virtual competition - East Idaho News
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Helmets to Headsets: Boise State athletic teams go head-to-head in virtual competition

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The following is a news release from the Idaho Transportation Department.

BOISE – If you can figure out this sentence, you may be younger than a millennial: “COVID-19 restrictions prompt Learfield IMG to use Twitch to pit BSU athletes against each other as IRL competition halts.”

If you’re like me and need a bit more explanation, I’ve got you.

Let’s start with what we all know – COVID-19. Coronavirus Disease 2019. We can’t seem to escape the effects of this global pandemic just yet. Sporting events have been hit particularly hard.

Enter Learfield IMG. The Office of Highway Safety has partnered with Learfield, a college sports media and tech company that represents Boise State, Idaho State University, and the University of Idaho athletic departments. The partnership includes signs in stadiums, commercials during broadcasts, and digital promotions of Boise State Athletics.

This year, Learfield pitched the idea to OHS of sponsoring an eSports event where BSU’s football team took on the men’s basketball team in a virtual video game contest.

Now, finding the place to host this eSport event is where Twitch comes in. Twitch is a gaming platform that’s wildly popular. Think YouTube for gamers. Streamers broadcast their gameplay by sharing their screen with fans and subscribers who can hear and watch them play live.

This new endeavor allowed sports teams to compete virtually in a time when IRL (in real life) events are limited.

Now that we’ve set the stage, how did it play out?

The two teams battled it out in Madden and NBA2K. In the end, the football team ironically won NBA2K, and the basketball team clinched the Madden victory. The tiebreaker fell to a battle of strategy and tactics in Call of Duty. It was close, but the football team came out on top.

The event wasn’t just about fun and games. OHS was able to use this contest to promote seat belt safety with its new “Rules to LVE By” campaign. Announcers read messages about the importance of seat belts and videos were shown during breaks in the action. Former Boise State star Leighton Vander Esch even called in to talk about seat belts from his NFL training camp outside of Dallas.

Viewership reached 122,401 unique views during the live event and rebroadcast the following week with 829,402 minutes of viewing time.

“We feel like this sponsorship was a huge success,” said John Tomlinson, OHS manager. “With the shifting times, we’ve had to look for new ways to reach the public and continue to share our safety messages. Seeing the reach this eSport event had is pretty rewarding.”