By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nike Inc will be the exclusive, official apparel and footwear partner of esports' League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in China through 2022, the companies announced on Thursday.
Starting this year, Nike will provide clothes and shoes for all of the 16 competitive video gaming teams that make up the LPL and will explore new physical training programs customised for esports athletes.
League of Legends (LOL), a hugely popular multiplayer online video game, is made by Riot Games, a subsidiary of China's Tencent Holdings Ltd.
LPL is managed and operated by TJ Sports, a joint venture between Tencent and Riot.
The league's 16 teams compete in playoffs in an effort to win a spot at the LOL World Championship, to be held this fall in Paris.
"The partnership with Nike can bring more professional and scientific services to esports athletes," Bobby Jin, co-CEO of TJ Sports, said in a statement. "It also lets esports, the digital sport, be more integrated into public life."
League of Legends was the most-watched game on Twitch and YouTube Gaming in 2018 worldwide, as measured by hours spent watching live professional gaming matches and pre- and post-game analysis, according to data from Newzoo.
China is home to the most esports enthusiasts in the world, with 75 million fans there. The country has 650 million players, Newzoo data shows.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Tom Brown)