The connections between K-pop stars and sports have strengthened over the past few years, most typically taking the form of concerts during matches, promotional partnerships and brand ambassadorships, content agreements, and the like. The growing ties have also led to the emergence of a handful of collaborative merchandise initiatives, some focused on Asia and others with global ambitions:
- In August of this year, Suga of BTS paired with the National Basketball Association and its vintage-look licensee Mitchell + Ness for a capsule collection of hoodies, t-shirts, shorts, and headwear. The merchandise integrated the logos of six NBA teams and images associated with Agust D, the name the singer uses for his solo rap career. The six teams—Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers, and New York Knicks—were selected because their cities were among the U.S. stops on Suga’s recent world tour. The collection’s designs incorporated elements inspired by Suga’s most recent album, D-Day, which the tour supported. Suga, who has been serving as an NBA brand ambassador, was closely involved in the creation of the line, sold through NBA physical and online stores and on the global K-pop fan shop Weverse.
- G-Dragon, a former member of BigBang who has became one of the most popular solo K-pop artists and a fashion designer with his PeaceMinusOne label, paired with Paris Saint-Germain F.C., also in August of this year. The artist and his fashion brand created an alternate uniform that integrates PeaceMinusOne design elements, such as a line crossing out the player’s name on the back of the jersey; G-Dragon’s daisy logo; the French phrase Ici C’Est Busan (“This is Busan,” promoting the Korean city where the shirt was first worn in a game); and PSG colors and design elements.
- BTS, the K-pop boy band that has gained the most fame globally, paired with Major League Baseball and its licensee New Era in May 2022 for a limited-edition collection of caps, bucket hats, and short-sleeved shirts in a moisture-wicking performance fabric. The streetwear-influenced designs combined motifs inspired by three of BTS’ biggest hits, “Butter,” “Black Swan,” and “Dynamite,” with the logos of three MLB teams that have some of the largest followings in the league, namely the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees. The products were sold in Japan and other Asian territories.
- In April 2022, the Golden State Warriors of the NBA and their licensee Fanatics paired with BamBam, a Thai singer who is a member of the K-pop group Got7 and a solo artist, and his management group New Style Media, for an exclusive limited-edition collection of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other products. The singer had previously been named a global ambassador for the team. BamBam made an appearance at the Warriors’ arena shop and performed a song at halftime of the club’s final home game of the season to support the merchandise line.
As noted, K-pop singers have also paired with sports properties for a variety of marketing partnerships. To name a few examples, streaming service CoupangPlay put together Jisoo of Blackpink with Erling Haaland of Manchester City F.C. for exclusive content on its channels; Aespa, a K-pop girl group whose members serve as brand ambassadors for Major League Baseball, modeled a new all-over-patterned MLB streetwear capsule called the Monogram Collection in advertising and promotions in Asia (with one publication terming MLB “a famous streetwear brand”); and the members of the girl group NewJeans were featured in advertising for Nike Seoul, wearing a streetwear collection inspired by the jerseys of national soccer teams around the world, with the singers selecting the pieces featured in the campaign.
Often these types of ties ultimately lead to product partnerships, so it would not be a surprise to see more collaborative collections down the road that partner K-pop stars with clubs, leagues, and governing bodies active in different sports around the world.
If you have not yet seen our recently posted coverage of the licensing trends observed at Toy Fair, you can read that story here.