Revenge of the Nerds: Why Big Brands Are Signing Up Esports Stars

As Adidas appoints its latest ambassador, gamers are quickly becoming global icons.
IMAGE Espat Media

Professional gamers are stars in their own right. Packing out stadiums from Seoul to Seattle, the art of 'pwning' foes on League of Legends et al is estimated to hit a cool $1.3 billion by 2020. A tidy sum, and

Recently, Adidas appointed U.S. 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 unlikelier. 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. Turns out normal guys play, and appreciate, video games, too. 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 skill 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.

Photo by Sarah Stier.

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. 

Esport 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.

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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