March 15, 2019

The sportswear company signed a four-year League of Legends sponsorship deal through which Nike will supply each of the 16 professional teams with sneakers, casual clothing, and professional jerseys. While Nike has dipped into esports before, this is the first time Nike has formally sponsored an esports team or competition. Nike has similar partnerships with the NFL and NBA, and this move helps further validate esports as a sport.

Why would Nike go into this space? Esports align with Nike’s mission “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world,” noting that “if you have a body, you are an athlete.”

That question of whether esports players are athletes has captivated skeptics, but Nike’s mission provides a convenient dodge. That debate is null when you focus on the commonality between esports and traditional sports—performance.

Other brands can learn an important lesson from Nike. With a sense of authenticity, the company connected its corporate values to the esports space. Their move into the competitive gaming realm serves as a good template for brands looking to do the same since Nike has told a brand story that makes sense to consumers.

Like traditional athletes, pro gamers follow strict eatingsleeping and training regimes. They spend countless hours honing their eyesight, learning to control their heart rate, and perfecting their skills, Dan Cybak, CEO of the Gaming Stadium, Canada’s first esports arena, told AP News. “Their skill set and where their mind is at is a level that a lot of us can’t play at.” (They also suffer from their own types of injuries.)

So, Nike is making a smart decision to venture into a new channel but an even smarter one by having a mission that fits neatly in esports’ camp.

Let’s break down the Nike meta: Look to your own company’s mission and values to find the right fit in the world of games. Nike’s mission of seeing literally every body as an athlete tears down our preconceived notions of what that person looks like. Swooshed carpal tunnel wrist braces, anyone?

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