Nike has inked a partnership with Chinese League of Legends player Jian “Uzi” Zihao. The move marks the first time when the American sportswear giant has signed a brand endorsement deal with a professional esports player.
The deal will see Jian Zihao, who represents the Royal Never Give Up (RNG) team, star alongside National Basketball Association (NBA) icon LeBron James and Chinese actor Bai Jingting to promote the former’s ‘Dribble &’ marketing campaign to support his upcoming ‘Shut up and dribble’ Showtime series.
In the launch promo, Zihao is seen wearing a black T-shirt with the text “Dribble & Carry”, with the key word “Carry” (a term used in League of Legends to mean a single player pushing his or her team to victory) only appearing on Zihao’s jersey.
The 21-year-old Zihao is considered one of the best League of Legends players in the world. He is the gold medallist from the Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta, where esports was included for the first time as a demonstration event.
Chinese media CCTV aired a documentary about Zihao’s esports career before he went to compete at the Jakarta Asian Games, where Zihao won the golden medal for China’s national League of Legends team. The young esports star also boasts of massive social media following in China.
Zihao’s esports team RNG, based in China, has also signed a number of non-endemic commercial deals recently including one with the German car maker Mercedes-Benz and American fast food chain KFC. Both the brands have signed one-year sponsorship dealswith RNG.
The Daimler AG car brand is currently being promoted not only through RNG’s social media and jerseys, but at the team’s Beijing home stadium. KFC China, meanwhile, has begun producing RNG-branded exclusive products, released as a tie-in for the League of Legends World Championship.