It’s no surprise to learn of a new player being added to Nike’s roster of athlete sponsors. What is a surprise is finding out that for the first time ever, Nike is included a gamer in one of its campaigns. No, not a “gamer” as in someone who has exceptional skills in a particular sport, but an actual professional video game player.
Uzi is a member of the Chinese League of Legends team that has been competing in the League of Legends Pro League—not just competing, but winning. The team won the 2016 and 2018 LPL Spring Split and were also champions of the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational. Jian Sihao, better known as his in-game ID “Uzi,” is the AD Carry for Royal Never Give Up.
The Nike Campaign—“Dribble &”—featured Uzi posing with LeBron James and Chinese actor Bai Jingting. The campaign supports James’ multi-part documentary series “Shut Up and Dribble.” The series takes a look at the lives of NBA players, and the roles they play in politics. In the ad, each of the celebrities wears a black T-shirt with “Dribble &” printed on it. There’s a blank box following the text, which is filled with the word “Carry” for Uzi.
Does this mark a new era for professional video gamers—one where they are accepted for their skills in the same way professional athletes are?
Or is it an effort to be more inclusive to promote a documentary about inclusion? It could be that, too.