China Esports Blast: January 2023

Each month, sports digital agency Mailman shares the biggest industry news and insights from China’s esports scene, along with analysis on why it matters.

China Esports Balst
Image credit: Esports Insider / Mailman Group

For the first month of 2023, after China fully reopened and dropped COVID-19 policies and travel restrictions, the country’s esports industry witnessed some positive news.

However, looming large was the fact that China lost access to Blizzard’s esports titles in January, as the official partnership between Activision Blizzard and NetEase ended on January 23rd.

ESV5 completes merger with Ninjas in Pyjamas

Chinese esports organisation eStar Gaming Victory Five (ESV5) and Swedish esports organisation Ninjas in Pyjamas (NIP) announced that the two had completed their merger after two years of waiting. The new entity is called the NIP Group, and the Chinese League of Legends Pro League (LPL) team Victory Five (V5) rebranded to NIP to compete in the league. 

The move marks an important milestone for both the Chinese and Western esports industries, which have not seen a positive cross-border merger or investment in the industry for a while.

After this merger, ESV5 gathers a solid Western asset and identity for their plans to be listed on the NASDAQ in the future, while NIP becomes the first Western team brand in the LPL. We may well see more movements from the NIP Group in the international esports market.

ESV5 NIP merger
Image via: Mailman

Jian ‘Uzi’ Zihao collaborates with Hugo Boss for commercial

Iconic Chinese League of Legends star Jian ‘Uzi’ Zihao announced on his Weibo and Bilibili channels that he had collaborated with German clothing brand Hugo Boss for commercials. In the commercial, Zihao wore a Hugo Boss sweater and held a picture of himself as a child.

As a former League of Legends player, Zihao still receives massive commercial recognition and value from brands as an esports influencer. Zihao was the first esports athlete signed by the global apparel brand Nike.

Since 2022, Hugo Boss has started collaborating with influencers in multiple areas, such as TikTok influencer Khaby Lame, American rapper Future, and British boxer Anthony Joshua. This shows that Zihao’s commercial value continues to grow worldwide.

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Jing Dong Gaming partners with dairy brand Yili

Chinese dairy giant Yili announced that it signed a partnership deal with Chinese esports organisation Jing Dong Gaming (JDG), becoming its official partner. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

This is the first time Yili has partnered with a Chinese esports team. As one of China’s two biggest dairy brands alongside Mengniu Dairy, Yili has sponsored multiple large-scale sports events, including the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup.

It also sponsored the China National team and Argentina national football team. We expect to see more sponsorships between brands and esports teams like this year.

Mailman is a leading sports digital agency in China. It helps sports organisations & brands build sustainable businesses in China, one of the world’s most challenging markets. Mailman is an Endeavor China company.

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