Image: adidas

Adidas has revealed more about some of its initial plans to move into the metaverse, which it has been teasing with increasing regularity on social media over the past several weeks. On the heels of hinting at its impending venture into the metaverse – or the “adiVerse” as it has been called – with a POAP (Proof of Attendance Protocol) last month, in connection with which it invited consumers to “join us as we voyage into the Metaverse” (upwards of 3,000 of the adidas POAP tokens were minted since the November 19 launch), adidas announced that it had acquired a plot of virtual land inside The Sandbox, and provided a sneak peek into a four-way collaboration with Bored Ape Yacht Club, Punks Comic, and Gmoney. 

Now the German sportswear giant has confirmed that it will release its first non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) – branded as part of its “Into the Metaverse” venture – which will give eager buyers the opportunity to get “exclusive access to adidas Originals experiences and products.” This will include products that stem from a new adidas Originals collection featuring “virtual wearables for blockchain-based gaming world The Sandbox and other platforms, plus physical products to match” in furtherance of its tie-up with Bored Ape Yacht Club, Punks Comic, and Gmoney.

Community Building

In addition to “lean[ing] on the expertise” of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, Punks Comic, and Gmoney “communities, as they welcome adidas into the new digital dimension,” and “honoring the creators at the forefront of a revolutionary cultural space,” adidas asserts that the soon-to-launch NFTs are a way for holders to engage with the adidas brand. Beyond having access to product drops and experiences, individuals who acquire the NFTs will have a hand in helping to shape “the kinds of products and experiences” that adidas puts forth in the metaverse in the future. This is a particularly interesting element, and one that seems to follow neatly from adidas’ free POAP, the messaging of which stated that the POAP was a way to “reward” holders “for following your curiosity as we explore this new age of originality together.”

The launch of the NFTs appears as though it will allow adidas to further build a community of brand enthusiasts online and crowd-source ideas amid a larger push by brands ranging from sportswear entities to luxury goods purveyors into the metaverse (i.e., the digital universe in which users can engage by way of a combination of tech advancements, including virtual reality, augmented reality and video) in order to connect with consumers.

Adidas revealed that the newly-announced NFTs, which go on sale on Friday via its e-commerce site, will come with a price tag of 0.2 Ether (approximately $800), but the company declined to confirm how many of the tokens would be up for offer. 

Reflecting on the brand’s embrace of the metaverse, adidas Originals Vice President of Marketing and Communications Erika Wykes-Sneyd said in a statement, “As part of our ambition to celebrate ideas that are defining a new age of originality, we’ve landed at the forefront of creativity, which is the open metaverse.” With that in mind, “It’s a natural place for Adidas Originals to enter: a wild world where possibilities are truly limitless and where anyone can express and be rewarded for their most original ideas.” Doubling-down on the company’s new focus, adidas’ Chief Digital Officer Scott Zalaznik stated this week that “the foundation we are building with Web3 will lead to new creative opportunities for partnerships, engagement through digital goods, and a path towards a more inclusive future.” Zalaznik further noted that “blockchain is one of the most innovative technologies of this generation, [and] we see it unlocking boundless potential to connect with our members.” 

Sportswear in the Metaverse

The news comes just days after adidas’ closest rival Nike revealed its latest endeavor in the metaverse: Its acquisition of RTFKT, “a leading brand that leverages cutting edge innovation to deliver next generation collectibles that merge culture and gaming.” Nike’s acquisition – the first big M&A transaction when it comes to a growing number of virtually-native fashion/sneaker brands –  follows from the Beaverton, Oregon-based sportswear titan’s filing of a number of intent-to-use trademark applications in the U.S. and beyond for some of its most famous trademarks for use on various virtual goods/services, and also comes in the wake of its launch of the Nikeland experience on gaming platform Roblox. 

In the immediate wake of the Nike filings, fellow Nike, Inc.-owned footwear company Converse filed a number of trademark applications on an intent-to-use basis for its word mark, its circular Chuck Taylor All Star logo, and its arrow and star logo for use on the very same types of goods and services as Nike. Not to be left out, Under Armour has since suggested that it will make a virtual move of its own, with the Baltimore-based sportswear company filing a trademark application for registration for a logo associated with affiliated NBA star Steph Curry on December 10 for use on “Downloadable virtual goods,” “On-line retail store services featuring virtual goods, namely, apparel, [and] footwear,” among other things, and “Entertainment services, namely, providing on-line, non-downloadable virtual apparel, footwear,” etc.

And even Allbirds, the sustainable sneaker company that is swiftly expanding its offerings to better compete with the industry’s most established names, recently filed an intent-to-use application for registration for its word mark for use on “Downloadable virtual goods” and “non-downloadable virtual footwear.”

The budding play for virtual dominance that is underway among some of sportswear’s biggest names is hardly surprising given their rivalry in the physical world and in light of the dollar figures being assigned to the opportunities for brands in the metaverse. The global market for social gaming, alone, reached an estimated $17.6 billion in 2020, according to a recent report from Global Industry Analysts, and is projected to reach nearly $40 billion in value by 2026. Meanwhile, others are putting a value of as much as $1 trillion on the metaverse, with brands standing to benefit from the rise of new revenue streams (for virtual goods and services) and the opportunity to engage with an increasingly broader pool of consumers, especially those in Gen Z or the even younger Gen Alpha, in the process.

Your move, Puma.

UPDATED (Dec. 17, 2021): adidas revealed that supply of new NFTs is limited to 30,000, with priority access for holders of its POAP. It generated $23.5 million from the sale of the NFTs on Friday.