While live sports took a big hit due to the pandemic, it’s been business as usual for esports. For years, global esports events have been pulling in more viewers than many pro sports championships. In 2019, 100 million people watched the League of Legends World Championship.
The 2020 tournament is under way now, and a new spot from Nike—its first-ever esports ad—posits that even gamers will perform better with physical training. Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai imagines for them an elaborate training camp, led by pro gamer Jian Zihao, better known as “Uzi.” He manifests as a giant hologram and directs would-be champions through a gauntlet of grueling exercises, like gaming with weights attached to their arms.
He also puts them through mental paces, training them to handle internet trolls and reminding them that healthful food and a good night’s sleep are important, too. It’s an important part of Nike’s messaging. The brand doesn’t sell gaming accessories; it sells athletic gear, which typically require bodies in motion to use.
It’s also a personal message from Uzi, who retired earlier this year at the age of 23 due to complications for diabetes and chronic joint injuries.
The spot feels all the high-octane bells and whistles of Nike's classic sports advertising, but applied to a whole new category. It debuted in China just before the beginning of the 2020 League of Legends World Championship, hosted in Shanghai.