The global esports audience has soared past the 450 million mark this year and that has turned the leading lights into genuine superstars. They have seven-figure bank balances, huge social media followings and vast global fan bases.
They are true icons and they need to look the part, so esportswear is evolving in a number of exciting ways. These are some of the best examples of when esports meets apparel:
Cloud9 teams up with Puma
Cloud9 is one of the world’s biggest esports franchises and it has just launched a striking apparel collection in partnership with Puma. It includes men’s, women’s and unisex items retailing at $28 to $75, and fans can buy it on C9’s website.
“Tapping into the world of esports, and its broad, dynamic consumer audience, is critical to our marketing strategy moving forward,” said Adam Petrick, the global director of brand and marketing at Puma, which recently hired rapper Jay-Z as a creative director.
C9 competes in multiple esports and its teams are often among the favorites in the betting odds at Unikrn at big tournaments. It has a large fan base, and they can now show their support by purchasing hoodies, leggings, T-shirts and jackets, featuring the iconic C9 logo.
Many leading esports teams now sell jerseys, and it is easy to imagine them lining the walls of Foot Locker stores alongside traditional sports teams’ apparel in the near future, such is the growing popularity of the esports sector.
Nike sponsors LPL
This year saw sportswear giant Nike become the official apparel provider for all 16 clubs in the League of Legends Pro League in China. It had already made some foray into the world of competitive gaming, including a high-profile deal to sponsor exciting Brazilian CS:GO team FURIA.
Yet the LPL deal is much bigger and it gave Nike creative freedom to work its magic on 16 different jerseys. LPL is one of four main League of Legends tournaments in the world, with the others taking place in Korea, Europe and North America.
China is on a roll when it comes to LoL and one of its leading lights, Invictus Gaming, won the World Championship last year. Nike recently unveiled 16 stylish kits, all featuring its iconic tick along with a a single-button collar and a chevron across the chest, but all featuring different colours and details.
Invictus received a single gold star above the team logo on its white kit to commemorate its Worlds win, while FunPlusPhoenix received golden dragon scales on its jersey.
“Since its inception, Nike has always believed that in all sports, a strong body and will will make athletes better,” said Nike in a statement. “As China becomes a new e-sports cultural center, Nike is pleased to support the next generation of athletes and establish a long-term cooperative relationship with e-sports to contribute to the future development of sports ecology.”
100 Thieves rolls out stylish lines
Esports team 100 Thieves has placed itself firmly at the forefront of the fashion game by launching a number of apparel collections that have sold out in minutes. It dropped an eagerly anticipated spring collection earlier this year and sold the lot for $500,000 within just five minutes after the sales went live.
Its limited-edition hats, sweaters, jackets and T-shirts are extremely stylish and they have reached an iconic status. That is one of the main reasons why rapper Drake and entertainment mogul Scooter Braun bought a significant stake in the franchise, along with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
It is an esports team, but also an extremely successful lifestyle brand. This summer it hired Doug Barber as its head of vice president of apparel. He was formerly head of brand for Reigning Champ and helped launch successful collaborations with Kith, Adidas, and the NBA, while creating Reigning Champ’s retail stores in Vancouver, Toronto and Los Angeles.
“I was a fan of 100 Thieves from afar and couldn’t help but notice its incredibly passionate fanbase,” said Barber. “Building an authentic lifestyle brand for the broader gaming community is an ambitious challenge that I look forward to tackling.”
K-Swiss launches esports shoes
Footwear brand K-Swiss made a successful move into the sector when it launched its $125 MIBR One-Tap shoe, which is designed to enhance esports players’ performance. It features a lightweight, flexible material and it is strives to provide superior comfort, versatility and temperature control.
It has a cushioned sole with a bi-directional air vent, and it offers a wool-lined insole for colder climates. It is supposed to be snug and offer a “slipper-like feel” to ensure maximum comfort during long games and training sessions.
K-Swiss president Barney Walters said half of its stock sold out within the first hour of launch. “Gaming content on Twitch has more viewers than HBO, Netflix, Hulu and ESPN combined, and the viewership of some of the big esports tournaments are double the viewing audience of the NBA Finals,” he said. “There is a massive reach, and it’s among young men, the hardest to reach demographic.”
H4X gains Macy’s listing
H4X has built up a fantastic reputation by selling a blend of streetwear and apparel aimed at competitive gamers. You can finds T-shirts, jerseys, hoodies, hats, joggers and even a posture corrector.
It is the apparel supplier of two of the biggest esports event organisers – ESL and DreamHack. Collaborations within the world of competitive gaming have seen it team up with compLexit Gaming and Call of Duty pro Ian “Crimsix” Porter for special collections. It is also the official apparel supplier of ESL.
Earlier this year it secured a listing in 49 Macy’s stores across the USA, propelling esports even further into the mainstream. You can also buy H4X at Macy’s online store.
“I have been in the fashion industry for longer than I can remember, developing skate brands, surf brands, MMA brands, you name it,” said chairman Jon Gurman. “However, this time is different. The new notion that gaming has inherited top-level professionalism and worldwide support could not prove to be more true.”