For the past two years, Overwatch League teams have been locked into a merchandise deal with sportswear retailer Fanatics. But now, signs are pointing toward possible creative freedom in the 2021 season.
Overwatch League teams have been given clearance to create merchandise on their own or in partnership with independent retailers and designers, sources tell Dot Esports. The sources didn’t have information about the league’s ongoing deal with Fanatics or how jerseys would be affected.
One team has already taken the leap into independent merchandise design. The San Francisco Shock unveiled a new line of merchandise late on Jan. 31. The new pieces include several shirts, sweatshirts, and windbreakers produced in partnership with Meta Threads, a “lifestyle gaming apparel” company.
And today, the Florida Mayhem asked fans on Twitter for ideas regarding the “hypothetical” production of independent merchandise.
There’s already more creative freedom happening in another Blizzard esport, the Call of Duty League. The Minnesota RØKKR unveiled its new player kits today. The pieces appear to be sold independently on a team site that’s not controlled by the league, exactly the same way the San Francisco Shock’s new collection is hosted away from other Overwatch League merchandise.
The Overwatch League entered into a “multi-year” deal with Fanatics in late 2018. Through the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Fanatics was in charge of producing team merchandise for the entire league and distributing orders. In the 2019 season, Fanatics came under fire for low quality and poorly produced Overwatch League products.
While some teams were able to produce merchandise during the offseason, such as the NYXL’s Saebyeolbe collection, most teams were restricted to the standard Fanatics pieces. Other teams, like the Los Angeles Gladiators, created merchandise through verified league partners like ULT Esports.
If Overwatch League teams are now free to collaborate with independent retailers and designers, fans could expect more diverse and creative team merchandise in the future.
Dot Esports has reached out to Blizzard for comment on the status of the Overwatch League’s merchandise design.