Fashion In Esports: Can Indian Organizations Capitalize on Jersey Hype?

Indian esports teams aim to leverage the growing hype around fashionable esports merchandise

Sadakshi Kalyan Ramun
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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Indian esports organizations and esports jersey &amp; fashion</p></div>
Indian esports organizations and esports jersey &amp; fashion


AFK Gaming

Fans’ love of a sports jersey is just weird. After all, players content creators, and even team owners are constantly changing. As Seinfeld once said, we only cheer for clothes at the end of the day.

Indeed, on the surface, it seems like another example of Seinfeld’s trademark observational comedy that pokes fun at the easy to overlook yet absurd aspects of everyday life. However, there is a kernel of truth here that hits differently, especially if you occasionally find yourself representing your team’s colors. It turns out, the threads matter—a lot.

Jerseys are the embodiment of any team’s heritage. Every jersey has a different story to tell the world. Take the New York Yankees, a bastion of American baseball tradition: It famously does not display the names of its players on its jerseys. This choice underscores a commitment to the team over the individual, suggesting that each player is woven into the storied fabric of the Yankees' legacy, promoting a culture of unity and collectivism. Jerseys are a team’s identity and they help fans build a strong sense of community. The yellow hue, the iconic lion sigil, and the five stars on the jersey of the Chennai Super Kings are a matter of pride and belongingness for the fans. These are more than uniforms—they are a vital medium through which fans connect with their teams, symbolizing shared history, values, and aspirations.

This feeling of camaraderie and community has also permeated into the realm of esports. We are also seeing a steady overlap of fashion and esports: Be it runway shows inspired by games, big brands collaborating with esports organizations or even fashion brands are openly borrowing from the world of video games

The hype around mega collaborations between esports organizations and fashion brands has increased in the last few years, especially in the West. While it might be a nice story to explore, identify, and dissect fashion shows inspired by games, there is more to learn about esports jerseys as a product of fashion and its potential to generate revenue for the industry at large. 

Given how esports is on the rise in South Asia courtesy BGMI and VALORANT, it is only natural to wonder whether there is a market in South Asia for esports jerseys. Through interviews, surveys, and a ton of research, this story aims to shed light on what fans think of esports jerseys, what motivates them to pay for one, and how esports organizations can capitalize on this insight to generate a steady and profitable stream of revenue.

Esports Culture in South Asia

Esports has grown leaps and bounds in the last few years in South Asia. India, a major player in the South Asian gaming and esports industry, is the fastest-growing video game market. Esports is rapidly gaining ground here, fueled by celebrity endorsements and major players like Riot Games and KRAFTON, launching dedicated esports circuits. This has led to a burgeoning scene attracting a massive fan base and hitting new milestones

While many may consider that esports in South Asia is still in its infancy, multiple organizations from the region have already begun identifying and capitalizing on the opportunities around the economy of esports merchandising.  

Esports jerseys are gaining traction among fans in South Asia, reflecting a growing enthusiasm for team apparel in the region. AFK Gaming’s recent survey of gamers in the region (n=78) reveals that while 82.1% of respondents have yet to purchase an esports jersey, a notable 60.3% are considering acquiring one. This willingness reflects a burgeoning interest in esports merchandise, signaling both growing fan engagement and potential commercial opportunities in the region.

Indian fans look for these in an esports jersey

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The 3.8% of people who took the poll had some interesting answers. They included “Supporting my favorite team no matter what,” “Jersey looks good to wear and support your favorite team,” and “Design and quality of t-shirt 50% each.

Indian fans look for these in an esports jersey

AFK Gaming

To capitalize on this emerging market, South Asian esports organizations could adopt ideas and business models from the West. Esports organizations like 100 Thieves have established themselves as leading apparel brands, suggesting a genuine interest among fans to collect merchandise and other branded products. 

100 Thieves has been dubbed the ‘Supreme of esports’ after it successfully navigated the apparel business model with its unique streetwear designs, jerseys, T-shirts, and hoodies. Despite the prices of the products being relatively high, the stock on the website doesn’t tend to last too long. New drops are almost always sold out within minutes.

In recent years, many organizations have also collaborated with luxury fashion brands to create unique merchandise for fans to purchase. Global Esports, a prominent player in India's burgeoning esports scene, has also attempted to tap into the lucrative merchandising market through collaborations with leading designers such as Red Bull World Doodle Art champion Santanu Hazarika, who created a custom jersey for the team’s 2024 VCT Pacific campaign.

Gary Chiu, the organization's merchandising head, acknowledges this fever around collaborations stating, “We are all big fans of fast street fashion mixed with a touch of luxury, there aren't too many brands who can do them both so we're hoping we can find a way to at that intersection since at the end of the day India is a very price sensitive market but we don't want to compromise on quality, so any brand that can find that balance - we'd love to work with.

Esports Jerseys Are Big in the West. Can South Asia Replicate a Similar Model?

As esports continues to grow in South Asia, a key question emerges: Are regional fans ready to embrace team jerseys and apparel to the same extent as their Western counterparts? Pricing appears to be a crucial factor. 80% of our survey respondents expressed willingness to spend between INR 500 (USD 6) and INR 1,000 (USD 12) on esports jerseys and team wear, while an additional 13.3% indicated they would consider spending between INR 1,000 (USD 12) and Rs 1,500 (USD 18). 

Profit margins in the burgeoning esports apparel sector are strongly influenced by the costs of raw materials and production. An Indian apparel manufacturer and exporter we spoke to shed light on the economics behind esports jerseys. The total production cost of an average jersey, including printing and materials, ranges from INR 350 to INR 400 (Around USD 4). With South Asian esports organizations typically pricing their jerseys between INR 1,500 (USD 12) and INR 2,000 (USD 18), and some even higher, the gross margins appear promising. Marketing costs are subsidized largely due to a team’s existing fan base which offers access to a sizable group of consumers with a high likelihood of successful conversions.

However, managing the cost of jersey production is just one piece of the puzzle. Inventory management and storage remains a challenge for esports organizations to navigate. Since the market for esports merch is fairly new and growing, organizations may find it sustainable and safe to make products to order instead of producing them in bulk. Global Esports had a similar train of thought. Gary Chiu explains. “We do a combination of both [maintaining stock and producing to order] because we have the option to customize your jersey as well with your name. We don't allow fans to choose a number since that is exclusive only for our athletes. We also don't want to end up in a situation where we're sitting on hundreds of stocks or inventory so we work on a hybrid model.”.

Despite these operational considerations, esports jerseys are still a valuable source of income for organizations. They are also a critical asset for sponsorship opportunities, offering brands prominent visibility among a tech-savvy, cord-cutting, ad-block-using demographic of gamers. These jerseys serve as mobile billboards, prominently displaying sponsor logos during high-profile tournaments and livestreams viewed by millions globally. The strategic placement of brand logos on jerseys ensures constant exposure, fostering brand recognition and loyalty amongst the esports audience. For brands, this represents a valuable entry point into the market, where traditional advertising methods often fall short. By associating with popular teams and players, sponsors can effectively tap into the passion and loyalty of esports fans, driving engagement and expanding their reach in an increasingly competitive digital landscape.

In the current scenario where there is a growing demand for fan meet-ups and viewing parties, esports organizations can use jerseys as an important tool to drive fan engagement and community-building. 

Gary Chiu details Global Esports’ strategic pivot: "We’ve now used our store to offer a sense of community while providing additional perks like VIP access at Global Esports view parties and events, as well as a chance to play with your favorite athlete or creator and, most importantly, a chance to get an all-expense-paid trip to Seoul, South Korea to watch our VCT [Valorant Champions Tour] team compete in person at the Pacific Arena." 

There is also a growing trend, across regions, to purchase jerseys as collectibles and memorabilia and this presents an exciting opportunity for organizations to come up with unique, exclusive merch, especially those that are limited editions.

Jerseys are evidently a form of fan monetization and are starting to have a positive reception. In a market like India, where esports organizations have predominantly relied on prize pools and sponsorships as their primary sources of revenue, it is crucial to identify other channels of income generation.

It is no secret that Indian gamers have trailed behind the rest of the world when it comes to spending money on in-app purchases, especially for getting their hands on vanity items like cosmetics and skins. Our data suggests that 54.2% Indians (n=216), on average, spend under INR 200 for in-game purchases in a month.

It is about time for esports organizations in India to start experimenting and finding ways to crack fan monetization and esports jerseys could be the first piece of this bigger puzzle.

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Sadakshi has been a gamer throughout her life and has followed League of Legends since Season 3, immediately falling in love with the esports scene. Bringing in her print journalism experience, she focuses on content that is both informative and innovative. While her heart still remains with League, her love for competition has pushed her to explore other titles such as Valorant and Apex Legends.