Nike embraces esports with 'League of Legends' sponsorship deal

It's a massive deal for esports.

What was once a rumor is now official: Nike is moving into esports. The apparel giant has signed a four-year deal with the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in China, a massive competition with 16 professional teams. Nike will supply every squad with sneakers, casual clothing and eventually professional jerseys. In a tweet, the LPL confirmed that Nike-produced garments will be available to purchase at the Mid-Season Invitational in May. The first Nike-produced jerseys will then be revealed during the all-important League of Legends World Championship in Paris later this year.

The deal isn't surprising. Esports is a fast-growing industry and League of Legends has a huge, globe-spanning audience. Nike-sponsored jerseys will improve the LPL's image and, provided the garments are high quality, boost merchandising revenue for the teams and Riot Games, the developer behind League of Legends. It doesn't hurt that an LPL team, Invictus Gaming, won the World Championship in South Korea last year, either.

Nike has dabbled with esports before. The company recruited RNG player Jian "Uzi" Zihao for a "Dribble &" marketing campaign with basketball superstar LeBron James last year. Today, however, is the first time Nike has formally sponsored an esports team or competition. The move is broadly similar to the league-wide deals that Nike has cut with the NFL and NBA.

The apparel giant isn't the first to sponsor League of Legends teams, either. Team Vitality, one of the best squads in the Europe, wears Adidas jerseys. Shalke 04, meanwhile, wears the same Umbro shirts as its soccer ball-kicking compatriots. And Cloud 9, one of the oldest and most successful teams in the North American LCS, has a deal with Puma at the moment.