Nike has announced it is now the official apparel and footwear partner for the League of Legends Pro League (LPL).
A professional eSports league centred around the PC MOBA gaming title, League of Legends (by developer Riot Games) the China-based LPL is one of 13 Premier Regional Leagues qualified for entry in global events such as the League of Legends World Championship.
The announcement follows a period of rapid success and evolution for the league. In 2018, players from the league won the World Championships, the Mid-Season Invitational, and the Asian Games. That same year, the league adopted a permanent partnership model and became the first esports property in the world to incorporate a familiar “Home & Away” model of traditional sports teams with teams adopting dedicated esports arenas. In 2019, the LPL added SinoDragon Gaming and Victory 500 as permanently partnered teams to its roster, bringing the total up to 16.
A partnership with a household name like Nike will almost certainly result in a massive boost to the mainstream exposure of eSports and -countering those who question its status as one – help solidify its claim to being a legitimate sport.
“Esports athletes share the same determination and competitive spirit as all athletes, they spend their lives preparing for intense competition, working relentlessly to improve their reflexes, coordination, vision, mentality and teamwork,” says Eric Wei, Vice President of Category Marketing at Nike in Greater China. “We are very excited to support LPL teams and players with ground-breaking esports game-day gear and training programs that will help unleash their full potential.”
In their official announcement statement, Nike has also backed the sports label for professional gaming by citing the words of co-founder Bill Bowerman, who famously stated: “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Though eSports as a whole has seen massive growth on a global scale, China is easily the fastest growing market for it. Earlier this month, a report was released showing that China was set to be the world’s global eSports earning leader, and in January Hong Kong opened a HK$30 million eSports complex to boost the economy.