When esports teams, leagues, and other organizations first entered the apparel licensing game, they started by working with specialty companies dedicated to esports. As awareness levels among mainstream consumers rose, they began pairing with the big sportswear companies, especially those that were licensees of traditional sports IP owners such as the U.S. major leagues or European football clubs. In the past two or three years, they have also increasingly attracted the interest of fashion labels, including luxury designer brands, fashion retailers, and streetwear specialists.
At first, the fashion industry worked with esports companies primarily on a promotional rather than merchandise-centric basis, for example creating digital apparel for use in an interactive game or implementing digital or physical marketing activations of various kinds. As time goes on, however, esports-related IP owners and fashion labels are increasingly collaborating on capsule collections or other apparel programs as well.
Some examples of partnerships encompassing apparel and accessories:
- Earlier this week, online retailer ASOS announced it has become the official retail fashion partner for esports organization Fnatic. The pairing between the two British organizations includes in-game experiences, content, and other marketing elements as well as the ASOS logo appearing on Fnatic’s jerseys across all leagues and championships and the development of a custom third jersey design. This is the first esports partnership for ASOS.
- In July, Gucci teamed with esports organization 100 Thieves for a collaborative accessories capsule, available for consumers who are registered for a My Gucci account. The range centered on a limited edition of 200 numbered, sustainably made backpacks. The red backpacks with black leather trim were based on items in the Gucci Off the Grid collection and retailed for $2,500. The two organizations plan other collaborations down the road.
- In June, Ralph Lauren became the official outfitter of the G2 Esports team, marking the first time a luxury brand took on this role in the world of esports. The partnership also encompassed various marketing initiatives, such as global advertising campaigns and digital activations on Twitch and Tiktok.
- In fall 2020, streetwear brand AAPE by A Bathing Ape paired with Riot Games for a full unisex apparel line connected to League of Legends, consisting of a jacket, hoodie, t-shirt, cargo pants, sneakers, and a hat, as well as a digital apparel collection. AAPE had previously entered the gaming space with a capsule collection to celebrate the release of Gears of War 5, in collaboration with Microsoft, and this year partnered with SecretLab on a gaming chair.
- Back in 2019, Louis Vuitton paired with Riot, also for a capsule collection centering on League of Legends. The partners also developed a unique skin for one of the characters in the game and a trophy case for the Summoner’s Cup, awarded to the winner of the League of Legends World Championship.
For these fashion labels—especially those that are long-established luxury brands—getting involved with esports represents an effective way to modernize their image and bring younger consumers into the fold. More fashion and luxury brands are likely to enter the esports arena going forward, not just with digital accessories or in-game experiences but increasingly with physical apparel collections.