The virtual players of the NBA 2K League are getting some new gear. Stance, a sock company that’s worked with the likes of the MLB and the NBA, is teaming with the latter’s e-sports counterpart.
The new multiyear partnership brings new digs for both the players behind the controllers and their online avatars. It also brings more clout to the e-sports market as it continues getting its hands on the big deals traditional sports has seen for decades.
For Stance, partnering with the 21-team NBA 2K League was a comfortable fit. Stance was the official sock supplier of the NBA from 2015 to 2017, and has been featured in the popular video game series NBA 2K, which is made by Take-Two Interactive.
The e-sports league is a joint venture of both Take-Two Interactive and the NBA.
“As we started looking at the e-sports road and the gaming road, it made a lot of sense to open the door here and say, ‘We’ve had a lot of success with both these partners [NBA and Take-Two Interactive]. This is a sport and an area we’re intimately familiar with,'” said Tzvi Twersky, Stance’s director of baseball and basketball categories. “Let’s see what we can make happen here.”
eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom expects more of these partnerships as companies try to reach a particular market.
He notes that while the e-sports audience skews millennial, it is older than most assume, predominantly for those in their 30s. The audience is unique due to its evasiveness, Haggstrom adds. Many e-sports fans aren’t on social media, don’t watch much television (if any), and regularly use ad-blockers, making them a previously unreachable group.
The e-sports sponsorship market and broader advertising market is ripe for growth as competitive gaming grows its audience and moves further mainstream. The last few years have seen the rise of the Overwatch League along with the NBA 2K League. The two entities have separated themselves from the competition as developer-run leagues with more money and polish from the start, which appeals to advertisers.
“Advertisers don’t want to put their name next to something that looks kind of amateurish,” eMarketer’s Haggstrom said.
E-sports competitions have seen sponsorships and advertising partners for years, but they were previously dominated by the likes of gaming hardware company Alienware, gaming chair makers HyperX, and other gaming-related businesses.
Today, much broader and well-known companies are looking to e-sports as potential money makers. E-sports sponsorship revenue is expected to reach $456.7 million in 2019, up about $100 million from last year, according to e-sports and gaming market research firm Newzoo, further suggesting a prime growth period.
For Stance and the 2K League, the next steps are already being planned. Stance plans to release more sock designs come season three, with special editions for tournaments. The socks are already available for purchase on the company’s website.
Twersky adds that this deal likely won’t be Stance’s last e-sports venture either.
“We’re definitely not putting a cap on our desire,” he said. “You wouldn’t be surprised if you see us do more in the future.”
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly identified Stance’s relationship with the NBA. It was the official sock supplier from 2015-2017.