Esports has become a billion-dollar industry, with expected revenue to exceed $1.1 billion in 2020. Players and their organizations can win huge money at events, such as competitive Fortnite player, Bugha winning $3 million in a single tournament in 2019. Gamers have become the 21st Century athletes, with fans admiring their favorite competitive player, much like someone might admire LeBron James.
Apparel has long been a huge revenue source for sports leagues. Millions of sports fans buy jerseys and other merchandise from their favorite team, which is true in esports. Gamers may become attached to an organisation, such as Team Liquid, in the same way a fan might become attached to the New York Yankees.
Many esport organisations have recognised this and apparel has become big business for them. Top organisations, such as 100 Thieves and FaZe Clan, have built their entire organisation around apparel. Both organisation’s websites are just store fronts with very little information regarding their actual roster and tournaments.
What Is The Current State Of The Esports Apparel Business?
100 Thieves is one of the newer organisations in the world of esports, founded by former OpTic Gaming pro player Nadeshot. The company has put a big focus on their apparel, intending to become a premiere apparel brand, even beyond gaming.
In a 2018 video, Nadeshot stated that “I really believe that our apparel is considered to be the highest of quality in most places that you’d shop for clothing.” 100 Thieves was also described by Nadeshot as an “apparel and lifestyle brand” in a 2019 video, further cementing the importance of apparel and merchandise for the future of esports organisations.
With gaming becoming more mainstream, with it now being the largest entertainment industry, visibility is crucial for improving the state of esports apparel. Outside of pop-up shops, a team’s merchandise is generally only available directly from their website, whereas consumers can walk into their local store and purchase a Nike hoodie.
To improve the industry, they need to partner with stores and distributors to get their products into retail stores. Popular Fortnite streamer Ninja did just that, inking deals to get his Team Ninja merchandise into retail outlets such as Walmart, Hot Topic, and Primark. This move has helped cement the Ninja brand, and Ninja himself, as a mainstream brand, looks to transcend gaming with his move into acting.
Nadeshot has stated he wants 100 Thieves apparel to transcend gaming and be looked at alongside the more prominent named brands, such as Nike, and this move would help. This would have an overall impact on the team that secured the deal and the rest of the teams as well, giving them more exposure and validity in the clothing industry.
Which Brands Are Having The Most Success?
In addition to 100 Thieves, FaZe has had huge success with shifting the brand’s direction into the world of apparel, with arguably the most recognizable logo in esports. FaZe ensures their logo is present in everything they do, and it has become more recognisable than the players themselves. Collaborations have become a successful growth method with organisations, allowing them to tap into fresh markets and become more associated with mainstream clothing.
FaZe Clan has collaborated with brands such as Kappa and media and entertainment entities such as the NFL, Manchester City, and Juice Wrld. This strategy has been replicated by other organisations, such as Cloud 9’s recent collaboration with Puma.
Partnering with these brands and companies has helped shine a light on esports and the organisations themselves, further helping their companies’ growth. Esports is still in its infancy when compared to other sports, and an organisation partnering with a global entity such as the NFL will bring a large amount of attention to that brand as millions of people discover this world that they didn’t know existed.
Can The Global Apparel Brands Take Over The Industry?
With global brands, such as Puma, partnering with esports teams, it could open the door for those apparel brands to take over the market. Brands like Nike and Addidas have the resources and revenue to impact the industry, but unless they created their organisation, it doesn’t seem likely. If these brands want to get into the industry, it would be more likely that they would permanently partner with an existing organisation, much like how they sponsor a football team and become synonymous with that team.
Puma has already partnered with Cloud 9, and it appears that could be the stepping stone for the global apparel brands to get into the esports market. Esports has had a strong association with apparel over the last decade. With esports being a new but already thriving industry, and gaming generating more revenue than the TV industry, it is an untapped industry that will continue to grow and flourish.
Written by David Coulson