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By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

February 9, 2017 | 4 min read

The Drone Racing League (DRL) has snagged a lucrative five year sponsorship with German insurance company Allianz that will help propel the sport to a new level solidifying the newcomer as a contender in a sector that is becoming ever more complex with the emergence of eSports.

The DRL is a year-old sporting body of around 20 staff that has made its name organising aerial arena races where 16 high-speed drones, guided by pilots wearing virtual reality headsets, navigate neon-lit racecourses at speeds exceeding 90mph.

Helping to legitimise the brand's global ambition however is a five year sponsorship from German insurance company Allianz, a vote of confidence that the sport will continue growing. The league, now has to its name the bond with the insurer, a previous partnership with Bud Light, meanwhile it's tied down broadcast deals with ESPN and in the UK Sky Sports put forward a neat $1m.

Nicholas Horbaczewski, chief executive and founder of DRL said that the sport had a tremendous first season, now, its set to air in 75 countries in 2017.


He said that Allianz is an "incredible brand" that's an "innovative leader in sports sponsorship which will in itself help us grow". The insurer will meanwhile derive the benefits of integrated branding opportunities, initially through the 'Allianz World Championship'.

Dubbing the agreement more of a partnership than a sponsorship, he said that DRL is still in the "early stages of building a new sport" and Allianz's global footprint can only help it penetrate more markets. Additionally, the insurance firm's sponsorship of arenas across the globe opens up new potential race tracks to the league.

"Allianz is bringing world-renowned brand credibility and a proud history of innovative sports partnerships, including an extensive tradition in auto racing, and an undeniable proof point that the sport of the future has arrived."

Although Allianz is a primary partner, there will be opportunities for brand integrations along the way, emulating the strategies of more conventional racing circuits. The sport is not too dissimilar from iconic futuristic racing video games like Wipeout (pictured) and F-Zero X, furthermore, the crafts are piloted by drivers wearing VR headsets, however, its very much seperate from eSports and gaming. Horbaczewski, reinforced that it is a "sport, a racing sport, a digital sport physical world".


It's unique in the respect that its new audience comes from many walks of life, hardcore eSports fans, Nascar and F1 viewers, not to mention drone enthusiasts and techies. It defies categorisaion and has no primary sporting rival, said Horbaczewski.

Jean-Marc Pailhol, Allianz SE's head of group market management and distribution, hit home the long-term intentions of the partnership when asked where he would like to be at the close of the five year deal.

"When we decide to enter a partnership, it is not a short journey , we hope we support DRL enough that [in five years] we will have no choice but to continue our partnership. We are not looking at the end.

"Drones are already an important part of our business so we’re excited to align with DRL as they harness the latest technological advancements and reimagine what racing in the 21st century looks like."

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