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Esports could be the way apparel brands can differentiate themselves from rivals, says Sportcal, a GlobalData company

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Partnerships with esports teams and organisations are likely to be the next key area of focus for apparel brands thanks to the sports appeal to the millennial and Gen Z audience, says Sportcal, a GlobalData company.

A recent Sportcal report titled ‘Sponsorship in the Apparel Sector’ has highlighted that deals struck by apparel brands in esports more than tripled in 2019 with adidas most active with 20%. Nike struck the largest deal by partnering with the League of Legends Pro League in a deal estimated to be worth over $7m per year.

Conrad Wiacek, Head of Analysis and Consulting at Sportcal, comments: “Esports continues to defy expectations. With brand sponsorship already a crucial part of the sports revenue, it is perhaps no surprise to see that esports has followed traditional sports in exploring the viability of kit deals.”

While esports are not yet reaching the level of some of the biggest deals in sport, with Nike and adidas spending a combined total of in excess of $600m per annum on just the top five deals in the sector alone, the fact that apparel brands are looking at the esports sector as a potential opportunity to reach the hyper-engaged 18-35 demographic should not be underestimated. Non-endemic brands are building a strong presence across esports as they are keen to engage with this group.

Wiacek continues: “While Nike and adidas make for natural partners, esports is appealing beyond the traditional ‘kit suppliers’ with the likes of Louis Vuitton building partnerships in this space. With nearly half the esports audience based in Asia, many brands see esports as a way of reaching this fan base. While Louis Vuitton is already present in China specifically, the ability to partner with esports engages both the younger audience and the countries growing middle class.”

With kit suppliers already using technology in their products – for example, all NBA jerseys now come with Nike iD, allowing fans to listen to playlists curated by their favourite players – esports potentially presents the most exciting opportunity for further development in this area.

Wiacek concludes: “As brands look to differentiate themselves through storytelling and emotional narratives as a way of differentiating themselves from the competition, developing technological solutions to engage this modern audience could be a game changer for the sector as well as a means to engage with a modern audience.”