professional gamers are stars in their own right. Packing out stadiums from Seoul to Seattle, the art of ‘pwning’ foes on League of Legends is estimated to hit a cool $1.3 billion by 2020. A tidy sum, and one that’s lifted Esports into new territory and attracted the attention of the world’s biggest brands.
Just yesterday, Adidas appointed US super gamer Ninja (real name Tyler Blevins) as its latest brand ambassador via a very motivational video that was only missing ‘Chariots of Fire’ in the background. As the first pro-gamer signing by Adidas (and arguably the most high profile Esports appointment by a multibillion sportswear brand), it’s a turning point for ambassadorships at large.
Once the sole reserve of actors, athletes and a smattering of genetically blessed models, the internet has not only birthed a new legion of stars but also increased their visibility and potential for self-promotion. Major league sports are no longer confined to the four corners of your TV screen.
The nature of video gaming itself makes such a turn all the more unlike. Once (wrongly) dismissed as Monster Energy-chugging hermits with no concern for style whatsoever, gamers are seemingly shedding one of the most adhesive stereotypes in popular culture.
The trouble is, normal guys don’t make for campaign frontmen – or at least they never used to. But now, you don’t need otherworldly skills in real-life sports or a jawline that’d cut glass. Just two exceptional thumbs, a YouTube account, and ideally, like Ninja, a crop of multi-colored hair.
So far, Adidas hasn’t outlined the intricacies of the partnership. It is, however, bound to be lucrative: Blevins earns an estimated $500,000 a month from streaming Fortnite, and previously scored big deals with Electronic Arts and Microsoft. Pro-gamers don’t come cheap.
Export champions have been stars in the gaming world for years now. But as Ninja joins the ranks of Kylie Jenner, Lionel Messi, and David Beckham, it’s not long before they take over the globe.