The Esports Advocate has learned that global sports apparel company Nike will no longer be the official apparel partner of the League of Legends Pro League—Tencent and Riot Games’ (under the auspices of the co-owned tournament operator TJ Sports ) official league for League of Legends esports in China—and will be replaced by Li-Ning, China’s biggest sports apparel makers in the region. Li-Ning also owns an LPL team called LNG. The story was first reported by China-based esports journalist Hongyu Chen.
Financial terms of the deal have not been publicly disclosed as of this writing.
Nike signed a four-year exclusive apparel sponsorship deal with TJ Sports for the LPL in 2019 valued at $7.48M USD (approximately ￥50M) a year, including cash and equivalent products. That deal was put in jeopardy in March of 2021 when Nike made public statements about Xinjiang labor practices. Those statements ultimately led to backlash by Chinese fans and the government, and for a short period of time LPL organizer TJ Sports was forced to hide the Nike logo from team jerseys during LPL competitions. The controversy eventually subsided, and in September of 2021 the LPL revealed that Nike would continue the partnership.
On a related note, a photo showing what the new apparel line for players will look like was leaked on Chinese social media earlier this week, and then quickly deleted. The image shows a team OMG player wearing the upcoming line, complete with a Li-Ning jacket, trousers, and shoes.
The deal is good news for Li-Ning, who wanted to sponsor a number of LPL teams, but found it couldn’t display its logos or branding during broadcasts in China because of Nike’s partnership.
In traditional sports, Li-Ning also sponsors China’s top basketball league – the China Basketball Association (CBA).
The LPL is expected to reveal its full list of sponsors and partners prior to the launch of its spring season.
Editor’s note: Hongyu Chen contributed to this report.