Tencent-owned Chinese League of Legends Pro League (LPL) announced the new partnership with local clothing brand Li-Ning after its 4-year contract deal with US sportswear giant Nike ended in 2022.
On 1 January, LPL published the news on its Weibo account with Li-Ning sharing the same post soon afterwards. The collaboration means that from now on all teamwear worn by players’ during competition seasons will be provided bythe local clothing brand.
For the past 4 years, all of the esports league’s clothing, footwear and capsule collections were designed by Nike, with professional training for tournament performance included.
According to Sohu, a Chinese media outlet, the expensive Nike-branded kit lacked aesthetic appeal and low sales of peripherals were the main reasons behind LPL’s move to Li-Ning. As a top-level esports team in China, LPL owns a huge, loyal and generally young fanbase which determines its considerable business value and commercial influence.
Now the official apparel provider of LPL, it can be understood that Li-Ning’s effort is focused on giving the brand a youthful image as well as leveraging the esports sensation amongst China’s young generation. Li-Ning has tapped into the esports industry since 2019 by investing heavily in LNG Esports, a Chinese professional esports organisation.
After the League of Legends World Championship in 2018 became “the most watched esports event in history, reaching a peak of over 200 million concurrent viewers during the finals”, it comes as no surprise that the total revenue of global esports tournaments is expected to reach 1.9 billion USD by 2025.
In 2021, China’s esports market size totalled 167.3 billion RMB ($24.3 billion) mainly fuelled by tech giants’ investments and Chinese consumers’ strong purchasing power. Thanks to the development of new technologies such as mobile devices and live streaming, China currently has the highest number of active esports players and tournament viewings worldwide.
Overall, it’s a win-win opportunity for both LPL and Li-Ning as the country’s demand for esports games is enormous and its influence continues to expand. However, efforts still need to be made to cater to Chinese consumers’ preferences as well as raise their awareness in both sportswear and esports industries.