The hopefuls are gathered in the Barclays Center, suited up in satin Whites, and Jalen Rose reds that you wear when you know your life is changing. In front of the stage, tables for draftees are equipped and are stocked with bowls full of Swedish Fish for them to be hesitantly chew. The speakers in the arena pipe in Juice WRLD along with Jay Z while the podium is empty.
The league commissioner is greeted with cheers and passes out some platitudes: “We’ll watch 75 lives change,” he says, in reference to the amount of people who will be selected today in the afternoon. Adrian Wojnaroski, the infinitely reliable NBA reporter who is throwing Woj Bombs and breaking the news about the very first draft pick: Spencer Wyman, who is known as Ria is drafted. Wyman is seen walking onto the stage, offers the commissioner a hug and then gives his most athletic talk “The experience is beyond description.”
The entire scenario is the same as any major league’s draft. The difference is that Wyman’s number-one-pick-worthy talent lies not in his cannon arm, wet jump shot, or 100-mph fastball, but in his ability to wield a controller. Wyman was the top pick for the Utah Jazz at the NBA 2K League draft and exactly what it’s called an entire group comprised of 21 teams (not every NBA franchise has an equivalent gaming team) which compete, from April through August, through NBA 2K.
Wyman is escorted backstage, and the greenroom is with cameras and recording equipment pushed at him. A nervous league employee who is looming over a hoodie box in an area behind is able to run towards Wyman with a set of gear that is that bears the logo of the team he is joining. Since there are observant publics and hugely professionally-looking drafts there will be also brands sporting the same hopeful looks that the team members. In its first year of competition it’s been announced that it’s been announced that the NBA 2K league has a new apparel sponsor that is Champion. It’s also a chance for eSports athletes to wear clothes that resemble the real thing, even though the jury’s not yet decided on whether it’s required.
Wyman as he straightens his crisp New Era Utah Jazz Gaming hat, tells me that there’s nothing special about the clothing that he is playing in. He likes wearing tight-fitting shirts that don’t slide around or hinder the joystick. Isiah “Wavy” Hancock and Tamer “Bully” Mustafa, two of the night’s draftees admit that they don’t have a problem with the clothing they wear to games. The secret to Hancock’s success? “This might sound corny” Hancock says, “but I always play using a cushion under the arms.” Although it could be a good investment for an innovative pillow company however, the lack of enthusiasm among players towards performance wear can be an issue for apparel companies.
This is because professional gaming is the fastest-growing sport in the world. In a report published in October of 2018, Goldman Sachs estimated that the average viewer of 167 million watched eSports each month. They also projected the figure to reach two76 million in 2022 “on the same level as NFL viewing in the present.” In addition according to the company 79 percent of the eSports viewers are under 35, which is exactly the kind of demographic that brands want to attract.
The best part is that the players are adored the way they are different professional sports. More than 13 million people follow pro-gamer Ninja via Instagram and he regularly stream himself in live on Twitch and sometimes along with Drake who is co-owner of the eSports team. There are times when Ninja streams for up to nine hours. Think of all the advertising time that could be available!
With such a pre-fabricated huge, massive, and passionate crowd, it’s not surprising that Champion is working to get into eSports. The sweats brand isn’t the only one. K-Swiss already has shoes in conjunction with eSports group Immortals and a performance shoe specifically designed for gamers is in making. Nike recently announced plans to create uniforms and jerseys to League of Legends teams–after Puma and Adidas also signed agreements with teams of eSports. It makes sense to make sports gear for brands that make sportswear. Since athletes must run faster or jump higher, put their feet up, stop with more coins and continue for longer. High-tech sneakers and jerseys help make maximum performance feasible. However, how do brands that sell activewear respond when one of most well-known sports on the planet does not even ask its best athletes to do anything more than just rotate their thumbs?
“All of this is a shock to me, as we’re talking about creating the perfect performance shoe for an Esports player,” says Patrick Buchanan K-Swiss’s global head of marketing. “We’re on the edge of something that’s not yet been explored.” K-Swiss as well as Buchanan are currently working on sneakers that collapse like the Gucci loafers, as players prefer to slide their shoes on and off while playing. There’s a vent for air circulate through the shoe as well, since players have sweaty feet. These are just some of the demands that were that were made by Immortals group members. K-Swiss will accept the requests because it wants the players to be content and hopes that they’ll be able to move their shoes as traditional athletes.
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There are, of course, obstacles. If Michael Jordan lifted off from the free-throw line, Nike could claim a portion of the credit for providing him with that extra bounce. It’s a bit more difficult to accomplish when a shoe is designed to allow a person to sit comfortably in chairs. However, K-Swiss believes it will still be able to use the traditional marketing of activewear. “The reason that people believe that basketball or performance tennis shoes are effective is because they see real athletes wearing them and telling people, ‘Hey I’m wearing this as my favorite shoe to wear when I do the things that I am professionally,’ and we’re planning to do exactly the same thing,” Buchanan says. “We will see real eSports players sporting the shoes, and demonstrating that they are the shoes that actually help you to play better.”
The team at Champion has been conducting research as well as looking for eSports events and conferences at the college and high school level. “It is learning things like”hey your hands are getting really sweaty and their hands get really sweaty,'” says Tyler Lewison who is the head of Teamwear for Champion. “Or they require additional warmth as the arena where they’re playing is very cold. This is because arenas run cold to prevent game consoles cool. ” Hancock, the Nets gaming draft pick, said the following: “I like to be comfortable when playing. I do prefer an elegant hoodie, and Champion is a specialist in this.”
It could be a case of hokum that was invented to promote product. Many people who are involved in eSports do not like the idea of special-purpose apparel designed to be worn by professional players. It is more sensible to believe that some of the core rules of sports, such as teamwork, are still in use to this particular sport. “It can be described as eSports,” says David Robertson the Champion’s director of branding marketing. Gaming professionals are paid a lot. Do they not deserve to wear the same uniforms? There’s a tangible benefit as well: “It unifies you,” Wyman says. Wyman. “I have the identical uniform on me as Wyman has on his. It’s big.”
Although specialized gaming footwear might be relatively not new to the market uniforms were introduced in the beginning. In January of 2016, before Champion K-Swiss, K-Swiss, or Nike were considering entering eSports, Zachary Sass founded Sector Six, a uniform manufacturer that specializes in eSports. Others were not reliable or could not take the tiny orders from teams of eSports According to Sass. In addition, the market was growing rapidly. At the start of 2017 Sass believes Sector Six had about 75 customers. He now puts that number at around 200.
However, Sass who designs eSports clothing for his living believes the need for gear that is specifically designed for performance is more a fantasy than a real. “As as long as the players are at ease, it doesn’t have any significance,” he says. “They’re not going between two soccer field for hours or playing basketball, which requires loose shorts that they can climb into. In eSports the focus is on the aesthetics.”
Matthew Haag, known by his gamername “Nadeshot,” was on the golf course in the month of October 2016, when his gaming-focused clothing brand 100 Thieves went on auction in the beginning. The golf course was not given any chance.
“I was sitting in my golf cart talking to my team of management. I was talking to the facility I was on Twitter I was also on Instagram I was also in emails,” Haag recalls. The first drop was sold within 20 minutes. Haag was seated in the last nine then The Supreme of eSports was officially created.
Today, you can find an old-fashioned look of the 100 Thieves’ website: two words that are massive “Sold Out” (for some reason the words are not crossed out). Haag has created a brand that is as challenging and enjoyable to buy in the same way as Supreme, Yeezys and limited-edition Jordans. “It certainly helped [the company’s] brandto ensure that when you received the items that you bought from us, you were aware that not everyone could to purchase this,” says Haag. Like it was been with fashion, that strategy has proved successful in this case. What began as an apparel label has evolved into an eSports group with the same name, which claims Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Drake as co-owners.
Haag got the idea to launch 100 Thieves partially because of the comments he received from the fans of the channel on YouTube, which there are videos on Call of Duty and Yeezys since the year 2011. The first questions he received were regarding the headset or controller used to dominate in Call of Duty morphed into interest in the hoodie or sneakers the player was wearing during play.
According to the way Haag thinks about it, eSports is going through the same process that the NBA has gone through over the last 10 years and one-half years. ESports players, as do the basketball players, are incorporating on their fashion and influence how fans dress when they dress. Haag describes what happens: “These professional players are wearing shoes and designer clothes and you’re thinking, “That’s pretty fresh. I’ll have to pick that up for myself.'”
Fashion in the eSports industry isn’t so much about uniforms as the most recent collection from Flight Club or Barneys. Players who are stepping up their look are shifting towards streetwear. Instead of wearing specific shoes for performance for tournaments, the top players dress in high-end style: Balenciaga Triple Ss, Gucci Rhytons and Flashtreks, Yeezys, and any Nike approved with Virgil Alboh. “They do not necessarily require high-performance shoes in order to participate eSports,” says Ken Olsen the director of activation and partnerships at RevXP which is a marketing firm which is specialized in eSports. “They need to look stylish when they’re playing. They’re looking for the latest releases and the latest colorways, as well as the Off-Whites. The question is, what do 23-year-olds who are famous and trying to establish their name known would want for their wardrobe?”
In a world dominated by people who are shocked by questions such as, Do you get money to participate in video gaming? What is the most difficult-to-find fashion? an effective way for players to announce their arrival. “For an extended period of time everyone was buying Yeezys and this is the way to let people know you’re making money and want to make a splash,” Haag says, to the point that Yeezys are one of the few official eSports shoe. “It’s becoming a cult in the present time that Call of Duty players wear Yeezys,” says Olsen.
The popularity of streetwear is the main reason behind apparel companies to join the game. If Odell Beckham Jr. is wearing a pair Jordan 1s for a game, the value for Nike is small: He can’t wear them in the field. However, professional athletes who’ve made space for themselves as fashion influencers, can sport the most stylish of outfits during games, exactly when the majority of fans are watching.
A game played between teams from the Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trailblazers Gaming teams earlier in the month provided the possibility of how eSports’ style might be in the spotlight. With just five seconds remaining in the second overtime and his Bucks Gaming team down a point, a player who had the name Arooks took the shot that would be the last. The player was directed towards the top on the left side of the free throw line and then with a tactical nimbleness, he pushed the appropriate joystick to set on a jumper. The player’s avatar fell.
The arena was filled with spectators, the real Arooks got up to his feet, let loose the battle cry, then celebrated the man in front of him. He was on his feet? Shoes designed not for athletic performance, but for to stunt: Yeezys. And on his body? His green jersey with the Champion logo prominently on display. It’s enough for the most elite professional athletes.