China Esports Blast: December
For China’s esports industry, 2021 has been a blast. During the year, the country witnessed multiple world championships in League of Legends, Dota 2, PUBG, Honor of Kings, Identity V, and Peacekeeper Elite, as well as significant business developments, including millions of dollars in media rights deals and sponsorships.
In the last month of 2021, the pandemic continued to impact esports events all over the world. NetEase's Identity V League event in Chengdu was supposed to be the last esports event in 2021 until it got postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The business of esports in China continued to evolve and develop during December with new sponsorships and partnerships. Every month, Mailman will share the biggest stories from China along with our analysis on why a particular deal matters.
1. Uzi Returns to LPL with BLG
On Dec. 15, Bilibili's esports arm Bilibili Gaming (BLG) announced that Jian “Uzi” Zihao, the most recognized Chinese League of Legends player, would return to play in the LPL after retiring in June 2020. Uzi was a runner-up twice at the League of Legends World Championships (2013, 2014). Apart from being a professional player, Uzi is also the co-founder of League of Legends Wild Rift team Uzi Fan Gaming, partnering with popular Chinese singer Adam Fan. He is also the first esports player to partner with Nike, and is also the exclusive esports ambassador of Chinese alcohol brand Harbin Brewery.
💡 Mailman Take: Uzi’s retirement was one of the most discussed topics in China’s esports community in 2020. It also led to a much wider discussion around the physical and mental toll of gaming on an esports athlete, as well as how esports could learn from traditional sports in this area. It’s great to see Uzi return to the professional scene with him set to inspire another generation of Chinese gamers to try their luck in the esports setup.
2. LPL Partners with Roger Dubuis
China’s top League of Legends competition LPL signed a marketing deal with Swiss watch manufacturer Roger Dubuis during the LPL All-Star event in Hainan. Roger Dubuis awarded LPL co-branded watches to three Hall of Fame inductees, including former League of Legends player Liu “PDD” Mou, LPL commentator Yan “wAwa” Zijing, and Edward Gaming (EDG) founder Edward Zhu. Zhu is the first esports organization founder to get a spot in the Hall of Fame.
💡 Mailman Take: Another successful commercial activation between the LPL and a global sponsor, especially from the luxury industry. We’ve seen significant growth in interest and investment from luxury brands into the esports & gaming space, including the LPL partnering with Tiffany & Co to design the new trophy, as well as Riot Games partnering with Louis Vuitton to produce limited edition merchandise. These brands are looking to reach this growing demographic with a much higher ROI than traditional marketing and sponsorship.
3. EDG Signs Deal with VICHY and IQOO
Chinese esports organization EDG signed two more partnership deals with shampoo brand VICHY and Vivo’s sub-brand IQOO, following its victory at Worlds 2021. However, the IQOO logo will not be featured on its League of Legends Pro League (LPL) team jerseys due to a conflicting sponsorship between OPPO and the league itself.
💡 Mailman Take: IQOO has a strong connection with Tencent’s esports ecosystem. It's also one of the sponsors of KPL and provides smartphone equipment for players. These are two exciting sponsorships between EDG and non-endemic brands, showcasing the strength of the industry to transcend out of gaming.
4. BYD Rewards eStar.Pro with RMB 1M Bonus for Winning KPL Fall Split
On Dec. 15, Wuhan-based Honor of Kings team eStar.Pro won the King Pro League (KPL) Fall Split Final. After this victory, eStar.Pro’s automotive partner BYD announced that the company would give eStar.Pro an extra RMB 1M ($156K USD) reward for its victory.
💡 Mailman Take: After Chinese multinational electronics company TCL rewarded EDG RMB 3M for winning the League of Legends World Championship, one more Chinese local brand has started to reward teams for their major victories. It’s not only just a reward for the team who won the victory, but also a recognition for the league and the ecosystem.
Founded in 1999, Mailman is China's leading sports digital marketing agency. We help the world's most ambitious sports organisations, teams, athletes and brands build a winning business in China. Through rich storytelling, unforgettable fan experiences and strong partnerships, we cement the foundation for sustained success. Mailman is an Endeavor company. Learn more about our story here.