From Gillette to apparel company Nike, everyone seems interested in signing up esports players as the faces of their brands. The trend is especially pronounced now that media rights are expected to account for the bulk of the offer.
Nike Embraces Esports
One of the largest apparel companies in the world, Nike, has decided to sign a deal with League of Legends player Jian ‘Uzi’ Zihao, who currently represents Royal Never Give Up (RNG), one of the powerhouses of the game. It’s worth noting that KFC recently also signed with the team.
As per the official press release, Zihao will be joining Bai Jingting, an actor and NBA basketball star LeBron James to promote the so-called James’ ‘Dribble &’ marketing campaign which will be part of a future documentary series called ‘Shut Up and Dribble’.
Amazing to see Nike collaborating with Uzi for their ‘Dribble &’ campaign w/ @KingJames.
— Barento Mohammed (@RazLPL) October 17, 2018
Zihao appears in the stylized add, which is shot in black and white, and as he does, his T-shirt reveals the word “Carry”, which is a popular position in the game reserved for the most offensive type of players.
The deal itself is quite significant as it represents Nike’s first foray into the realm of esports, and it seems to be a well-considered move, as Zihao is one of the most famous faces of League of Legends in the world, praised for his aptitude at his game of choice.
In his career, Zihao competed for his home team of China and also went to play at the Jakarta Asian Games, which also became notorious in China after the failure of the broadcast companies to actually air a single minute of esports despite the fact that the country made a very strong showing.
Esports in the Limelight
Endemic and non-endemic brands have been signing one partnership after another featuring esports athletes. Gillette and Head & Shoulders just recently concluded partnerships with members of Russian esports powerhouse Virtus.pro. This however doesn’t exhaust the reach of brands and the ongoing list of partnerships.
— Virtus.pro (@virtuspro) October 2, 2018
From hardware makers, such as Turtle Beach, Intel, Asus and Razer to food & beverage companies as KFC, McDonalds, and Mountain Dew, the world of esports has seen an amazing increase of interest on the part of companies that seek to reach out to a younger audience with plenty of disposable income.
KFC, in particular, have also signed up with Zihao’s team and have effectively began producing RNG branded products to spread the awareness about the latest business deal.
The strength of esports has been quite palpable. Recently, even the financial giant Goldman Sachs has released a new report outlining the future of the industry, such as it is.
In the interactive infographic, the bank has made some interesting predictions based on the data it has managed to glean from the public domain. For instance, Goldman Sachs expects branding rights to constitute 40% of all revenue in esports by 2022.
Sponsorship deals will grow up to 35% which is understandable now that the Overwatch League is shifting towards a franchised, city-based model, which is looking to sign with local stars.
The future for esports is clearly bright and Zihao will be just one of hundreds of examples of great sponsorship opportunities.