One of these days, merchandise sales could be a big part of the esports market. That’s why footwear brand K-Swiss and esports group Immortals have teamed up to launch a signature shoe for the group’s professional esports teams.
The Los Angeles-based companies are creating two different shoe designs with a style that “melds cutting-edge technology with a sleek aesthetic.” That’s marketing speak for cool. And it’s happening because esports is expected to grow fast. Global esports revenues will grow 38 percent to $906 million in 2018 and further grow to $1.65 billion by 2021, according to market researcher Newzoo.
One of the shoes is a lifestyle model, while the other is a technical performance model for pro gamers. And they’re being designed with gamer culture in mind.
“Esports is the new frontier of sports and entertainment, and this is another way for K-Swiss to contribute to culture in a progressive and modern way,” said Barney Waters, K-Swiss’ brand president, in a statement.
Peter Levin, chairman of Immortals, said in an interview that his assistant James Wing brought the team and the fashion company together.
“It’s the first deal of its kind and it shows there is very much a lifestyle to gaming,” Levin said. “The image of gamers locked down in their parents’ basement is in the rear view mirror. The discipline and acumen of these athletes very much make them worthy of these kinds of partnerships.”
The first offering in the partnership with Immortals is based on the Kompass, a breathable and flexible shoe. K-Swiss also marks the debut of its brand-new Surge dual-density technology; inside the lightweight EVA sole constructed to resemble a net is encased a soft, pillow-like cushion that can alleviate weight on the heel.
The Immortals Kompass is targeted at pro gamers who not only spend a long time in front of computers, but also travel constantly on the competition circuit. The lifestyle shoe for Immortals will launch to consumers in December for a suggested retail price of $110. Distribution will include select retailers and kswiss.com. The performance shoe will debut in early 2019. The shoes will be for both men and women, and they will feature Immortals’ colors cyan and black.
“Like any professional athlete, esports competitors look for any advantage they can use against their opponents,” said Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals, in a statement. “By wearing a uniquely designed shoe specifically created for our esports players with their input, they know that they have an immediate advantage — both physically and psychologically.”
I asked Ari Segal, president of Immortals, why the partners are willing to take the risk of stocking merchandise. In an email, he said that esports already has a “sneaker culture.”
“This issue is another example of why authenticity matters — the folks we’re working with at K-Swiss are gamers and esports fanatics,” Segal said. “They’re confident that demand exists because they come from the community that’s suffering from the lack of suitable substitutes. So, while of course there’s some risk, K-Swiss should be commended for sticking to their entrepreneurial knitting and seizing a market opportunity.”