ESL has announced that they have inked a partnership with the United States Air Force, designating the U.S. Air Force as an official partner for Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) North America and ESL Pro League Season 11.

The deal marks ESL’s first-ever partnership with the U.S. Armed Forces for the organizers’ tournaments and leagues. In addition, the partnership also designates the U.S. Air Force as an official partner and supporter of competitive gaming advocacy organization AnyKey.

The partnership will integrate content for the U.S. Air Force in IEM North America 2020 and ESL Pro League Season 11, beginning in mid-March.

“We’re honored to welcome the U.S. Air Force as our first Official U.S. Armed Forces partner for ESL tournaments and leagues. We continue to partner with organizations who share ESL’s values and, as a supporter of AnyKey, we are especially excited to work with the U.S. Air Force to fight toxicity in gaming and to drive awareness of diversity and inclusion in esports,” said Paul Brewer, ESL SVP of Brand Partnerships in a statement.

“The Air Force has a lot in common with gamers, especially the intellectual challenge that both provide. The Air Force and ESL also greatly value integrity—a core value for each of us,” said Maj. Ross McKnight, Chief, Air Force National Events Branch at Air Force Recruiting Service.

ESL also announced a partnership with the U.S. Navy earlier this month for DreamHack Anaheim and DreamHack Dallas, with the Navy hosting LAN stations at those events to interact and compete with the attendees.

These partnerships are part of a concerted effort by the U.S. Armed Forces to better connect with American youth through esports and gaming in order to (not so subtly) increase recruitment from that sector. The U.S. Army notably started its own esports team back in November 2018 to spearhead this effort.

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