Gucci is ramping up its gaming and esports focus with the launch today of Gucci Gaming Academy to back emerging esports talent developing professional careers.
Gucci has selected four high-performing players initially, all from Eastern Europe–Poland’s Brajan “DGL” Lemecha and Lukasz “mwlky” Pachucki, Lithuania’s Rokas “EspiranTo” Milasauskas and Latvia’s Mārtiņš “shadiyy” Gūtmani—, with plans to support more. All four play in the Faceit Pro League (FPL), the top league for multi-player game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). The four CS:GO players were unveiled on the last day of PGL Major Antwerp 2022, a key esports event taking place in Belgium.
As luxury brands develop their metaverse strategies, games and gaming platforms offer rich potential for the development of digital fashion and community engagement. Esports players and their fans represent a promising crossover audience with metaverse and Web3 early adopters.
Support for the Academy players includes mental health coaching in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, personally designed digital training, in-game performance coaching, and personal branding and contract education. They will also be provided technical equipment.
The Academy has been developed in partnership with Faceit. Players will be supported by the Academy for a period of 12 months, unless they are signed to a pro team sooner. CS:GO was rated Best eSports Game at The Game Awards in 2017, 2019 and 2020. Players developing professional careers can win up to $2 million. The demographic of CS:GO is 92 per cent male, with a strong interest in brands such as Rolex, Hurley and Threadless, according to Geeiq data.
“Gucci is at the forefront of the luxury industry’s foray into the world of gaming and as part of our mission to build meaningful relationships in a genuinely authentic way, we are dedicated to supporting the up-and-coming generations of players to help manage the challenges they may face as a result of participating in esports,” said Nicolas Oudinot, EVP new business and CEO of Gucci Vault, in a statement. “Understanding the issues that are relevant to them and learning about these from the people they affect are at the core of this collaboration.”
Gucci’s new venture further strengthens its links with the esports community. Top players, such as Faker and n0tail, enjoy celebrity status with a wide following. The esports market is forecast to be worth $1.9 billion within the next five years, according to research firm Valuates. Its global audience is expected to reach almost 519 million people in 2024, according to the Consumer Technology Association.
Several luxury brands are taking note of the potential of esports. In 2019, Louis Vuitton partnered with League of Legends on a digital capsule collection and a trophy case. In 2021, Ralph Lauren signed a deal to outfit esports gaming team G2 Esports. This year, Rebecca Minkoff has partnered with Roblox’s High Heel Obby on an esports event. Other brands that have dressed players or otherwise partnered with esports include Nike, Armani and Adidas.
An early supporter of the gaming sector, Gucci has previously partnered with esports brand Fnatic and gaming organisation 100 Thieves. The brand has appeared in games including Zepeto, The Sims and Animal Crossing, and launched its own Gucci Arcade in 2019.
The Academy has chosen three ambassadors to mentor players: James “JZFB” Bardolph, a professional CS:GO commentator; Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, a CS:GO veteran; and Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey, a video game developer and retired professional gamer who paved the way for women in esports.
“It’s important that new talent entering the space are equipped with the right support from structure at an early stage in their development,” said Faceit co-founder and CBO Michele Attisani. “Supporting and empowering young esports talent is at the core of Faceit’s values and through our shared vision with Gucci, we hope the Academy helps equip the role models of tomorrow.”
This story was first published on Vogue Business.