By Nicole Norfleet Star Tribune
The owners of the Vikings debuted their new esports franchise Tuesday in a hat tip — quite literally — to Norse mythology and their Vikings football brand.
The logo of the new Minnesota Røkkr (pronounced “rocker”) team portrays a menacing figure clad in a horned helmet and shadowed in dark purple, blue and black.
The Røkkr team of gamers is one of a dozen teams that will play in Activision Blizzard’s new esports league for its popular first-person shooter game “Call of Duty” early next year.
The Minnesota Røkkr will train near the Vikings’ practice facility in Eagan and host the launch of the league in a three-day event in Minneapolis aimed at bolstering local awareness of the professional gaming industry.
“We wanted a name that would be unique. … We also wanted to find ways to create subtle ties to the Vikings,” said Brett Diamond, chief operating officer of WISE Ventures Esports that manages the Røkkr franchise.
The Wilf family launched the WISE Ventures investment fund last year. The Wilfs are part of a wave of Minnesota sports team owners who have recently entered into the growing professional video games, or esports, world as more sports fans embrace streaming platforms and gaming.
The Minnesota Timberwolves along with Minnesota United FC have esports teams who play for their video game equivalents.
The “Call of Duty” league and season will debut at a large three-day launch event at the Minneapolis Armory. All 12 teams will come to Minnesota for the matches that will take place from Jan. 24 — 26. The event is expected to draw thousands of fans.
“We do think it’s a pretty big deal,” Diamond said. “It will be by far the biggest esports event that has been in this market.”
The Minnesota Røkkr team was announced Tuesday in a video on Twitter with more social media and digital marketing planned as the season ramps up.
Franchise leaders considered about 50 names before settling on Røkkr, an old Norse word for “twilight” which is commonly associated with Ragnarøkkr, the end of the world or “Twilight of the Gods” in Norse mythology, Diamond said.
The logo, created by the Vikings in-house design team True North Creative, depicts a figure ready to join the mythical battle of Ragnarøkkr with a glint of blue along the right side representing moonlight. The logo is reminiscent of the Vikings’ own Norseman mascot as well as reflective of the North theme that is popular in the region.
WISE Ventures is constructing a nearly 11,000-square-foot headquarters and training facility scheduled to open in January on the Viking Lakes campus in Eagan. Besides being used for training, film study and other practice, the facility will also host high school and college esports teams and watch parties for some of the Røkkr team’s away games, Diamond said.
Over the last two months, seven players, five starters and two substitutes, have been signed including: Justin Fargo-Palmer (with the gamer name SiLLY), Adam Garcia (Assault), Adam Brown (GodRX), Alex Carpenter (Alexx), Obaid Asim (Asim), Kaden Stockdale (Exceed), and Devin Robinson (TTinyy).
All of the players as well as the head coach Brian Baroska and analyst and assistant coach Jake Trobaugh will eventually live in Minnesota.
The season for the esports league starts in January and can last eight to nine months. Starting players for teams like the Røkkr can earn well into six figures per season.
Similar to other sports teams, esports franchises work to attract sponsors. The average age of a “Call of Duty” fan is 26 years old, which is younger than the traditional sports fan, and means Røkkr could offer “a unique opportunity for brands to connect with a hard-to-reach audience,” Diamond said. Sponsorship opportunities can range from brand partnerships during the launch weekend to other home events as well as brand integration through social media and digital channels.