League of Legends’ League Championship Series has started framing deals with teams to better incorporate their merchandise into the league’s store at events, a new development to help the franchises generate more revenue.
The North American-based LCS, one of 13 regional League of Legends esports leagues globally, has completed deals with some of its teams to have more of their merchandise sold at events alongside league merchandise. The LCS has a permanent store at the LCS Studios in Los Angeles, and has pop-up shops at major events it holds elsewhere.
At LCS events, the league operates the merchandise store and the products had been largely game- and league-branded, including game-day team jerseys. But in the past few months, the league has reached agreements with some teams to allow them to offer more of their own merchandise. The change started with the Summer Split in June and culminated at the LCS Summer Split Finals in Detroit last month.
“Since we entered into a franchise with the LCS, we’ve been working on how to better monetize events,” said Steve Arhancet, co-CEO and owner of Team Liquid, one of the teams that was selling its own merchandise at the finals in Detroit.
He said working through the logistics of shipping gear to League of Legends events, including the World Championship that is often held outside the U.S., are among the things teams had to work through. He said the change in policy allows the team to offer more product diversity. “The money is nice, but I think more importantly, the fan experience is better.”
The LCS declined to disclose the structure of its new merchandise partnerships with teams, including any potential revenue split.
Arhancet said the Summer Finals produced the most money the team has ever made on merchandise at an LCS event, but declined to offer specifics. Items on sale included T-shirts, hoodies and hats.
Matthew Archambault, Riot Games’ head of partnerships and business development for esports in North America, said the league realizes that fans’ passion for teams and their athletes drives the industry. Letting fans show that support by being able to buy team gear more easily just made sense.
Merchandise has become an important revenue stream for esports teams. Some have started striking interesting merchandise collaborations, like the deal that Team Liquid signed with Marvel Entertainment to make special Avengers-style jerseys.
“Our relationship with our teams is really meant to be collaborative — we look at this as a long-term run; that’s why we went with franchising, it was to build off that rapport and brand equity that teams have within their brands and then align that with the league,” Archambault said. “When we get into the merch side, it’s a constant evolution and learning process that we’ve been willing to drive with them.”
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