(Yicai Global) Jan. 23 -- Chinese sporting goods firm Li Ning has acquired Snake Esports team that specializes in multiplayer online battle arena video game League of Legends.
Li Ning paid several hundreds of million yuan for Snake Esports, and it is expected that millions of more funds are needed each following year, online media outlet 36Kr reported today.
Li Ning will coach the team with an Olympic level of expertise, Li Qilin, the executive director of Viva China Sports, a unit of Viva China Holdings that also holds a stake in Beijing-based Li Ning. Snake Esports has six active players at the moment and the team was nominated as the Best Team in China LoL of the Year Awards 2016.
"Viewers of LoL eSports matches has topped those of the National Basketball Association games," Li said, adding that the next generation may break esports into the mainstream. Last year, the Ministry of Education allowed Chinese universities to set up esports degrees. Electronic sports was also piloted as a category in the Asian Games 2018.
Li Ning has sponsored esports groups before and it sold out clothes printed with some clubs' logos in seven minutes, Li said, adding that this success boosts the company's confidence to enter the sector.
"User preferences are closely related to merchandise and events," Li said, adding that this is why the firm needs to adapt to their clients' consumption habits while filling the portfolio with short-term and long-term investments.
The sportswear brand was founded in 2004 by Li Ning, the uncle of Li Qilin. Li Ning is an Olympic medalist in men's gymnastics.
Editor: Emmi Laine