- Foot Locker is collaborating with Champion Athleticwear to sell and promote branded apparel from five esports teams known across the competitive video gaming world, according to a press release. The effort is part of a coordinated marketing effort that includes an exclusive in-store tournament on May 18 at Champion's flagship Champs Sports Times Square store.
- At that event, which will be streamed live on Amazon's gaming channel Twitch, fans can buy jerseys, sweatshirts and T-shirts from the collection and compete against their favorite gamers from the teams. The five teams are OpTic Gaming, Counter Logic Gaming, Dignitas, Spacestation Gaming, and Renegades.
- The apparel was first launched on NTWRK, a streaming e-commerce channel, on May 1 and moved to wider distribution online and in select stores on May 2.
The Foot Locker partnership with Champion points to how brands that have traditionally been associated with traditional sports marketing are taking a closer look at esports. Video gaming competitions are growing so fast that marketers are scrambling to climb aboard. More than 30 million people will watch an esports event each month of this year, 18% more than last year, and that audience is expected to reach over 46 million/month by 2023.
The Times Square in-person event adds an experiential aspect to what would otherwise be a clothing launch. The teams themselves are striding a territory between entertainment and sports, demonstrating competitive mastery of video game adventures like Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Gears of War, while becoming new properties in the world of professional sports.
Dignitas, for instance, is owned by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which also owns such professional sports teams as the basketball team Philadelphia 76ers and the hockey team New Jersey Blue Devils. Renegades was acquired several years ago by professional basketball player Jonas Jerebko.
Advertisers are certainly taking notice of the interest in esports. Ad and sponsorship revenue going to U.S.esports teams and competitions will exceed $200 million by next year, according to eMarketer, compared to this year's $178.1 million. Other revenue streams — and marketing opportunities — include media rights, live events and merchandising.
The space has attracted a number of big brands. In March, AT&T became the founding sponsor of a new mobile esports league called ESL Mobile Open. Intel, Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz have sponsored esports events, which are seen as channels to reach tech-aware young people who may be harder to reach through other venues. Red Bull has sponsored professional gamer and Twitch star Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, and Unilever men's grooming brand Axe has partnered with esports content and tournament provider Eleague.