Esports and sports are intertwined. Sports owners are running esports teams, football players are streaming on Twitch, and sports leagues are bolstering their digital counterparts. But, until recently, the major sportswear companies had only been testing the esports waters.
That’s changing quickly. At the end of August, Adidas released a new clothing line featuring Fortnite streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. Last month, Nike dropped team kits for China’s League of Legends Pro League. Now it’s Puma’s turn to get in on the action with a new ad showcasing their first official collection with Cloud9, a leading esports organization.
Each of those companies chose a different way to get involved in esports. Adidas went with an individual sponsorship, Nike with an entire league, and Puma with an organization competing in a variety of titles.
“Cloud9 is a very diverse group that is able to adapt to the variability of the gaming space in ways that any single league or individual simply isn’t,” said Adam Petrick, Puma’s global director of brand and marketing. “If a game falls out of popularity, a league could suffer; if a streaming platform struggles, a streamer’s career could stagnate. Partnering with an esports org like Cloud9 helps insulate us from that kind of risk, without sacrificing the ability to support and engage with future gaming trends.”
In 2018, Forbes placed a $310 million evaluation on Cloud9, making it the most valuable esports organization in the world. Since then, esports has moved quickly with many funding rounds changing valuations, but Cloud9 is undoubtedly one of the top organizations in the game.
Cloud9 has teams in League of Legends, CS:GO, Fortnite, Rocket League, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Rainbow Six, Teamfight Tactics, PUBG, Super Smash Bros and more. That’s what Petrick means when he speaks on Cloud9’s adaptability. Puma’s new spot developed by Moon to Mars brings many of Cloud9’s esports stars together in an ad that feels like a celebration of the organization as competitive players from various titles show their own paths to esports stardom.
“The #DareYou campaign tells the true stories of the players featured in the ad, showing what was expected of them and how they ultimately defied those expectations to pursue a life that is true to their character,” Petrick explained. “That’s not dissimilar to how Puma perceives its entry into esports—we dismiss as false the idea that esports is not a ‘serious sport,’ and #DareYou is our way of declaring, unequivocally, that there is not and has never been a meaningful distinction between gaming culture and sports culture.”
The path to becoming an esports pro isn’t easy. Young players have to convince parents that playing video games professional is a realistic career path, not just a way to avoid homework. Like being a professional athlete, only a minuscule percentage of players will actually succeed. The #DareYou spot shows how Cloud9 players took a risk to forego traditional career paths to pursue a life in esports. And now there’s an ad that proves that risk can sometimes come with great reward.