A man’s shirt caught my eye as I was walking around my local shopping mall last week. It was for an Overwatch League team, the San Francisco Shock. And it’s the first time I can recall seeing an esports team’s logo on clothing in public (barring game conventions, trade shows, and conferences, of course).
Turns out esports apparel is a growing segment in what Global Industry Analysts pegs as a sports and fitness wear market that could hit $231.7 billion by 2024.
No wonder esports teams such as Misfits Gaming are getting into gear. Last week, it announced a deal with Outerstuff, which makes youth clothing. I spoke with Ben Spoont, the cofounder and CEO of Misfits Gaming, about this move.
Part of this is about supply — there just aren’t that many companies making team gear for esports.
“Supply constraints and inconsistent quality levels have hamstrung esports apparel from gaining the proper foothold in global marketplaces,” Spoont said over email. “As the fastest growing sport in the world, and with a level of fandom and player affinity unrivaled in traditional sports, this joint venture between Misfits Gaming and Outerstuff is poised to close the gap in the market and capitalize on fan demand.
“Leveraging Outerstuff’s established distribution channels to brick and mortar retailers here in the U.S. as well as the lucrative Chinese market will cement our place, leading the way in the multimillion dollar sports apparel industry.”
More fans, more demand
Misfits is also feeling pressure to do this now because esports continues to grow — and they see fans ready to spend money on gear.
“Esports are breaking new boundaries every single day with viewership numbers, audience engagement, and attendance at live events, but there are infrastructural areas where we’re still lagging behind traditional sports significantly,” he said “With the emergence and stabilization of new esports franchises and leagues over the past year, it’s the perfect time to be able to support this growth market with the merchandise that its fans are clamoring for.”
But the part of the deal hanging me up was Misfits itself. Was this about getting more of the team’s gear out there, crowding out the competition, or expanding the product available on the market for fans of other teams as well?
“While we’ll offer Misfits Gaming apparel down the line, this partnership is designed to bring a variety of team, league, influencers, and individual branded products to market,” Spoont said. “Misfits Gaming has a guiding role within the newly founded joint venture to advise on strategic decisions and relationships within the realm of esports.”
One lingering question, however, is if these companies know that fans of games like Overwatch and League of Legends want to wear team apparel to the same degree as, say, the fanatics in Raider Nation.
“Outerstuff has decades of experience understanding the distribution landscape and intricacies of the apparel market, and one thing was extremely clear — esports fans were buying up whatever merchandise they could find to support their favorite teams and players regardless of quality,” Spoont said. “Between Misfits Gaming’s industry knowledge and Outerstuff’s design, supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution prowess, we can alleviate these frustrations and create high quality products available for every fan, even in regions of the world where they were previously unavailable. China represents a part of the world where the number of gamers outnumbers the total number of citizens in the USA. Now we finally have the company that has the supply and distribution to meet these customers’ demands.”
I wonder when I’ll see someone wearing a Misfits jersey at the grocery store.