March 4, 2019

Nike creates special jerseys for China's League of Legends teams

Nike sportswear esports league of legends gaming in China

Nike is at it again. The sportswear giant is now China’s League of Legends (“LoL”) Pro League official apparel provider, making it the latest and arguably most prominent brand to enter e-sports. Whilst e-sports have attracted sponsorship for years, the Nike deal ushers in new credibility and scale for the competition genre. This will likely be a welcome change from the company’s more controversial recent publicity.

Nike Goes Beyond Normal Sponsorships

Compared to standard sponsorship deals, Nike will be sponsoring the league as a whole. This means it’ll include sneakers, apparel, and team jerseys which will be revealed during the League of Legends Championship in Paris later this year. E-sports leagues are increasingly emulating traditional sports leagues, taking their knowledge and building upon it to create scalable and valuable franchises. For reference, traditional sports teams have expanded into e-sports, along with nationwide leagues. For example, the NBA has a joint venture with Take-Two Interactive, which includes some of the leagues biggest teams.

More Than A Game

Nike is taking the partnership one step further by introducing new physical training programs. As a result, this becomes significant for a few reasons as it:

  • Legitimizes e-sports and gaming as an actual physical activity which requires physical training
  • Puts League of Legends on the map as the first truly cross-functional league, where top athletes need optimal fitness to be at their best
  • Enables Nike to push its more standard merchandise to a greater audience

In many ways, the training programs are the most consequential piece of the puzzle as they bridge Nike’s core business with its new ventures. For instance, just as many people use to clamor at how golf was not a real sport (Tiger Woods might have something to say about that), e-sports will very much be on the same trajectory to credibility.

The Big Picture

Whether you are into e-sports or not, the Nike deal will have a ripple effect for fans across the world. More importantly, it shows that large brands see the bigger picture. In addition, it will position themselves as willing to engage with up-and-coming segments to expand their empires. As the gaming world continues to expand, we’ll be on the lookout for the next megatrend to get large corporates excited about new possibilities.

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