Laura Rojas Uribe is the Head of Merchandise at Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP). In this, the second in our new weekly Kings of the Merch series, we caught up with her to find out what this role encompasses, day to day at NiP, and her thoughts on apparel and merchandise in esports right now.
Esports Insider: How did you end up as the Head of Merchandise at NiP and what does your day to day look like?
Laura Rojas Uribe: Luck and hard work. NiP is always looking to innovate, I come from a completely different background to esports so I have a different set of eyes for it.
My day to day is pretty cool to be honest! It starts with a good Colombian coffee like it does for most people. I sit down, go through all the administrative tasks; emails, logistics, calls and so on. Lunch comes and usually I have it at my desk where I catch up on the news; I start with esports and then move on to world news. The afternoon hits and I go back to work, here is when I do most of my creative thinking, I look for manufacturers and inspiration. I read and go through current trends, what’s happening in the world in general; fashion wise, tech, even biology, chemistry, advances in medicine and fabrics (I love that subject)… I feel that everything is interrelated specially in terms of trends.
“I’m working on making a jersey that is made specifically for esports. Just like a jersey for football and American football are not the same, a gamer doesn’t have the same needs that a football player has”
I want to find fun and creative ways in which we can advance and take esports into the next level in terms of merchandise.
Currently I’m working on making a jersey that is made specifically for esports. Just like a jersey for football and American football are not the same, a gamer doesn’t have the same needs that a football player has.
ESI: Do you think esports teams are better placed than any other type of sports team to capitalise on generating income and building a brand via merch?
Laura: We still have a long way to go.
Currently esports is very young but in my opinion there is a huge potential not only in merch but also in the culture. It’s a sort of baby that can be moulded into whatever we desire; we don’t need to follow the mould that traditional sports have. They are so old school and at times they’re boring, or simply too fan based and less focused on what the young customer wants and needs.
ESI: Who designs the tees, jackets and so on? Are there certain designers you’d like to work with and are there any collaborations on the agenda?
Laura: I have the idea and the concept of what we want, at times I do the designs myself or we have other people taking care of this. The final product is always studied and approved by me, Johan (COO) and Hicham (CEO).
“The final product is always studied and approved by me, Johan (COO) and Hicham (CEO)”
Designers! I have too many, I can’t give you just one name – I am something of a fashion geek…
As for collabs, we are ninjas after all so I can’t tell you all about what we have in the pipeline haha. But if you wait, chill out and play some games, then I promise that soon enough you will hear all about them!
ESI: Which items have sold particularly well – have you noticed any trends whatsoever, in different regions for instance? What has the response been to different sponsors on the team jerseys?
Laura: All of our items sell extremely well, we are fortunate that our fanbase is so loyal and gets excited about any piece we produce.
There are very clear trends but these are not segregated by regions.
“Currently esports is very young but in my opinion there is a huge potential not only in merch but also in the culture”
Gamers are no longer the stereotype of the greasy nerd in their parents’ basement. Often, they are individuals who care about fashion and like to look good; they take selfies and are quite social. Hence they’re creating a demand for pieces that are no longer the same old fan based merchandise such as any old, generic item with a brand slapped on the top.
I have also quickly realised that gamers are interested in quality; they don’t want a fruit on the loom printed t-shirt. Usually they get damaged after two washes, who wants to spend money on something like that? Customers are also becoming educated in the touch and feel and how to identify products which have a design, history and which are actually linked with the branding of the team. This is in addition to a product that speaks to their personality.
Sponsors are sponsors. Some people like them on the jersey, others don’t. Personally I feel they make the jersey emblematic, such as having Betway, ROG, Xtrfy and the rest of our sponsors.
ESI: NiP has its ‘Casual Range’. Has this sold well? Are you aiming to create more of a lifestyle brand with this… with less obvious NiP branding for instance – how important is subtlety with some ranges of team gear?
Laura: The NiP x DRKN is almost sold out. We still have some t-shirts but the initial response was great. I think that we have been blessed with such a fun name as well as a dope logo.
I love the DRKN collection, as a matter of fact I wear it like a uniform every work day. It is a pleasure to use a piece that you can mix and match with sweatpants but also with a pair of jeans or dress it up with a blazer. You can rep your team in a subtle but still representative way. Also, this is a very interesting time in relation to the global culture, we have become more laid-back and street-wear is evermore acceptable.
“I think that we have been blessed with such a fun name as well as a dope logo”
Gaming is more than a ‘sport’; it’s a lifestyle and everything that revolves around it. You invest in your game- skins, cases, and so on, in your gear and from what I have seen – a whole room where you have your gaming station. So why not have a product which you can actually enjoy in your day to day life and feel proud when wearing or using it?
ESI: Can you tell us about any plans you have for further expanding the NiP range of merchandise? Are there plans to get the gear in-front of people in more physical outlets globally?
Laura: We will soon be launching our ‘Premium Collection’ which is going to be in the same line as the DRKN collaboration. I am starting to look into accessories too as I mentioned previously, ones that you can include in your everyday life.
Are we aiming to go into retail? Well, all I can say for now is that there are exciting times ahead!
If you enjoyed this then you can check out the first in our Kings of the Merch series, with eUnited and ULT, by clicking here.