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The Spark’s Railgun Anime Partnership Is Pushing OWL Merchandise Boundaries

Spark Railgun

The anime hype continues for the Hangzhou Spark in 2021.

In a video posted on January 7, Hangzhou’s new Team Supervisor, Huang “Xiaogui” Tsung-Yu, guides viewers through their new team facility: MoXian Castle. Included in this video is talk of exclusive merchandise through the Spark’s A Certain Scientific Railgun anime collaboration.



SPARKxRAILGUN Merchandise Announcement

Xiaogui explains that for the past two years the Spark’s team house was a “tiny house in the suburbs of Los Angeles”. Now, the team hosts a massive, flashy training centre that looks straight out of an anime. Spark practices, management and content production will be conducted in the building moving forward.

The more poignant aspect of the tour though is the reveal that more “SPARKxRAILGUN” works are on the way. Back on August 27, 2020, the Hangzhou Spark announced their partnership with anime series: A Certain Scientific Railgun. The announcement was that Railgun character, Misaka Mikoto, would be spiritually joining the team as a mascot going into the 2020 Overwatch League Playoffs.

Beyond that, however, nothing else was known about the collaboration. Now with this house tour video, fans know more about the future of the joint effort. Misaka herself is even featured in many camera shots throughout the video. These vary from a Misaka can to the multiple SPARKxRAILGUN t-shirts.


Spark Railgun


Image via Bilibili


When talking about the shirts, Xiaogui explains that “In the near future, [we] will see more exciting content brand products…”.

On top of that, a Misaka figure can be seen wearing a pink Spark uniform at 2:03 of the video. This means that the SPARKxRAILGUN partnership extends beyond just apparel. The products however are only available domestically on Bilibili.com, according to the anime insider Anime Trending, but the team is doing a worldwide giveaway featuring these shirts currently.


Spark Railgun
Image via Bilibili

How This Affects The Rest Of The Teams

The Railgun merchandise breaks many barriers in the OWL space and, for many, this reveal is exciting for those who are hoping that the OWL facilitates team-unique products. Team-created products are usually standard amongst other esports but is clamped down due to the league’s merchandise partner: Fanatics. Collaborations like the one with Railgun could encourage teams to go beyond that of the clean but cookie-cutter, officially licensed OWL Fanatics gear.

An allowance of this would also open up the possibility for other teams to find their niche and create a unique narrative around their partnerships and culture. As long as this continues to be approved by the OWL higher-ups, teams in APAC, as well as North America, have the opportunity to create team traditions and symbols beyond the status quo.

How This Affects The Rest Of The Teams League

From an OWL corporate perspective, the Railgun partnership has only helped the league for the better. The partnership has landed Hangzhou a marketing award at the 2020 Sports Industry Awards Asia. Accolades like this one inherently connects back to the OWL. This shows that a marketing campaign like this creates value for a team from a lesser-known area of China/Asia. An internationally recognized league is something the Overwatch League has strived for since its inception. 

By allowing this, the Overwatch League gains mainstream recognition while also letting teams like Hangzhou find markets beyond the game and esport that could bring more people to tune in. If the OWL and its partners continue to be lenient with situations like this, it could greatly benefit the league without them even moving a single muscle.



The Spark, in particular, have always immersed themselves in anime culture. This continued partnership with a popular anime franchise has given a chance for Hangzhou to create material and products specific to them, above just the city and given name. Traditional sports teams have thrived on this aspect. From the “cheeseheads” of the Green Bay Packers’ fan base or the Detroit Red Wings’ octopus tradition: there is always something beyond a team name that a sports organization can build upon. 

And the Spark are currently at the very forefront of that.


Spark Railgun
Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Going Forward…

Moving into 2021, the organization has doubled down on its Railgun collaboration. As the team continues to work on SPARKxRAILGUN products, it will be exciting to see how far the team takes it. The prospects of this vary from Railgun fully integrated into the brand/uniforms or possibly Hangzhou will feature in an anime one day. The future of OWL partnerships and merchandise/marketing opportunities is starting to ramp up.

 


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Featured Image Courtesy of the Hangzhou Spark.

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