US sportswear giant Nike has officially signed a four-year partnership with Tencent covering its Chinese esports series, the League of Legends Pro League (LPL).
The deal sees Nike become the first traditional sportswear company to get top partner designation for the new TJ Sports joint venture league run by Tencent and title producer Riot Games.
According to reports in China, the deal is worth in the region of US$7.5 million a year to TJ Sports and includes apparel rights for all 16 LPL franchises, with Nike and the series distributing the sales at an undisclosed ratio.
Nike’s contract will see all LPL players, coaches and team staff exclusively wear Nike apparel on game days, as well as gaining other partnership branding benefits.
The deal between Nike and LPL follows months of speculation regarding the LPL inventory, with Adidas and Chinese brand 361° both active in negotiations with Tencent, according to Lanxiong Sports.
An announcement regarding Nike and LPL was leaked back in November but delays, including January’s official establishment of TJ Sports and reported trademark issues, prevented confirmation.
The deal represents a landmark in esports and a big statement from Nike. According to TJ Sports, the total viewership of LPL in 2018 climbed 50 per cent to 15 billion, compared with 2017. The final game of 2018 League of Legends World Championship saw a record 99.6 million viewership.
Nike’s official LPL products will apparently be put on sale during 2019 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitation with branded team jerseys not appearing until the 2019 League of Legends World Championship, meaning they hit retailers in 2020.
The deal with Nike means that since January TJ Sports has announced ten sponsorship deals for the 2019 LPL season including Mercedes-Benz, KFC, L’Oreal and Alienware.