Misfits, Outerstuff target esports apparel market
Misfits Gaming has formed a joint venture with apparel manufacturer Outerstuff with the intention of creating esports apparel for both the team and other entities in the gaming space.
The venture, which will be announced this week, will be run on a day-to-day basis by Outerstuff, which has the majority stake. It will handle the design, manufacturing and logistics of sales. Misfits, one of the only pro esports organizations with affiliated teams in both the Overwatch League and League of Legends European Championship, takes the minority stake and will manage relationships with esports industry partners and prospects.
Misfits and Outerstuff are taking a multichannel approach, where they will strike deals with brick-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce outlets. Merchandise in the esports space has traditionally been sold via e-commerce, which is part of the reason why Misfits founder and CEO Ben Spoont is bullish on the new venture.
“The focus of this JV is to try to put together a comprehensive omnichannel approach for not just esports, but also for gaming,” said Spoont, whose organization owns the Florida Mayhem of the Overwatch League. “With respect to apparel, the esports ecosystem is dominated on e-commerce, so not a lot of different parties are approaching it from an omnichannel perspective ... [with] all of the different price points and touch points of retail, so we want to leverage Outerstuff’s global footprint including into Asia and China to deliver high-quality premium product to an underserved market.”
Spoont said Misfits projects that the esports merchandise space will be worth $1 billion annually within 10 years. He was inspired to create the venture in part through his work in China, where he noticed that Misfits had scores of fans who didn’t have access to Misfits merchandise. Spoont said it’s virtually impossible for a foreign company to sell merchandise in China without a local partner with experience selling there. Outerstuff provides that connection since it has experience selling in Asia.
Outerstuff, the New York City-based company founded in 1983 by well-known industry veteran Sol Werdiger, has licensee deals in the stick-and-ball space with the likes of the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and hundreds of colleges. Werdiger said esports “has always been the logical next step in our growth plans.”
As part of the deal, Outerstuff is also investing in Florida-based Misfits, with PJT Partners having served as the adviser to Misfits for the deal.
Spoont said he is out in the market talking to both esports properties and retailers, but he did not have any signed contracts to report as of last week. Rival esports organization Team Liquid recently unveiled a merchandise deal with Marvel Entertainment around specially designed Avengers jerseys. Spoont noted that this sort of collaboration is one of the types of deals that will be sought out by Misfits and Outerstuff.
Some of the apparel that Misfits is talking to retailers about wouldn’t debut until spring 2020, given the nine to 18 months it can take to get a new line in brick-and-mortar stores.
“Gaming is an unstoppable force and we’re at the forefront of that,” said Spoont, whose organization now has around 70 full-time employees around the world. “It seems like every single year it becomes more relevant to the mainstream.”
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