Earlier this summer, Niantic Labs announced a "Local Business Recovery Initiative" for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. One thousand small businesses across the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, and Japan would receive a one-year sponsorship as a Pokémon GO PokéStop or Gym at no cost. Players were encouraged to submit recommendations for the sponsorships.

Niantic received over 38,000 recommendations, and now the list has been narrowed down to the target 1,000. The companies in question had to meet certain criteria, such as being "small and local" (meaning they operated five or less storefront locations), and also had to conform to local health and safety regulations. In a blog post, Niantic highlighted some of the winners.

  • F.M. Light & Sons - a family owned Western wear and apparel store in Steamboat Springs, Colorado which has been in business since 1905.
  • CIBER LEKAR - a game and hobby shop in Guanajuato, Mexico owned by a husband-and-wife team who are deeply involved in the local Pokémon GO community.
  • Blitzkrieg Chop - an inclusive hair shop in Worthing, West Sussex UK that serves the local alt, punk and nerd communities by hosting Pokémon GO community days, art pop-ups, and offers free head-shavings for charity.
  • Five Girls Baking - a family-run bakery and café in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada that’s been supporting its community during the pandemic with free bread for those in need.

As part of Niantic's Sponsored Location Program, the businesses will be empowered to run promotion campaigns, take part in in-game events, and could potentially appear as points of interest in other Niantic games.

Food For Thought

Without being able to see the full list of businesses, it's hard to tell how evenly these sponsorships are spread out. In theory, each nation would average out about two hundred locations, which doesn't sound like a whole lot when dealing with the North American nations. It would be interesting to get a better idea of where these sponsorships are being placed, and tracking how effective they are in stimulating surrounding businesses.