Nike signs endorsement deal with first esports player


Nike, the largest apparel and sports equipment company in the world, has just signed Jian ‘Uzi’ Zihao, a League of Legends player for Royal Never Give Up.

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This is the first sponsorship of an esports player for Nike and marks a major step in the company’s esports initiatives.

The partnership is to promote LeBron James’ new documentary “Shut Up & Dribble,” which covers the intersection of sports and social issues.

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Joining Uzi and James in the ad is Chinese actor Bai Jingting. At the time it is unclear if this is just a one-off sponsorship to promote the documentary in Asia or part of a larger esports push for the brand.

Nike has been involved in gaming but their previous initiatives were centered around in-game activations with the sports simulation titles like NBA 2K, Fifa and Madden.

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Those initiatives were basically a given as those games represent physical leagues with large Nike presences. The games would feel weird if the brand wasn’t included in some way.

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A partnership with a League of Legends player is a step towards future partnerships with esports athletes in the most popular esports that aren’t as naturally intertwined with the brand.

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Esports apparel is an interesting, largely unexplored frontier. Adidas has a couple partnerships with esports organizations including Team Vitality and FC Copenhagen esports.

Esports has a large sneaker culture and custom fan-made Nikes have gained a lot of traction on social media.

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Whether this represents an opening of floodgates for major apparel brands in esports or is just a one-off partnership still remains to be seen.