Image: Nike

In yet another major step into the metaverse, NIKE, Inc. announced on Monday that it will acquire RTFKT, “a leading brand that leverages cutting edge innovation to deliver next generation collectibles that merge culture and gaming.” Nike President and CEO John Donahoe said in a statement that the acquisition is “another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture,” and one that will help to “extend Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities.”

The news follows from Nike garnering widespread attention in connection with the filing of a number of intent-to-use trademark applications in the U.S. and beyond for its most famous trademarks – such as its “Nike,” “Just Do It,” and “Jordan” word marks, its iconic swoosh logo, the Jordan silhouette logo, and a stylized combination of its name and the swoosh – for use on various virtual goods/services. Specifically, the applications suggested that Nike was looking to use its famed marks on “downloadable virtual goods;” “retail store services featuring virtual goods;” and “entertainment services, namely, providing on-line, non-downloadable virtual footwear, clothing, headwear, eyewear, [and] bags,” among other things, “for use in virtual environments.” 

Nike has since indicated its interest in the space by way teaming up with Roblox for Nikeland, a digital experience that enables fans of the sportswear giant to “connect, create, share experiences, compete,” and, of course, shop, in a nod to the importance of the metaverse as a burgeoning opportunity for brands ranging from sportswear titans to luxury goods purveyors.

In a release on November 18, Nike stated, “There’s a new place on Roblox for Nike fans to connect, create, share experiences and compete: NIKELAND. Nike created this bespoke world with the backdrop of its world headquarters and inside Roblox’s immersive 3D space, building on its goal to turn sport and play into a lifestyle.” In addition to connecting and competing, fans can also shop in Nikeland, with the digital experience enabling users to “gear up in classics like the Air Force 1 and Nike Blazer and in new drops like the Air Force 1 Fontanka and the Air Max 2021,” of which can be found in the digital showroom, “along with a host of other Nike apparel staples like ACG and Nike Tech Pack.”

Almost two-year old RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”), which was founded by Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le and Steven Vasilev, has similarly made headlines in the virtual space, selling 621 pairs of digital sneakers that it created alongside artist Fewocious, and netting $3.1 million in sales in a matter of minutes for them in March.

More recently, the London-based company, which Nike calls “a pioneering and innovative brand that redefines the boundaries of physical and digital value to serve their broad community of creators,” revealed that it had raised $8 million in a round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and that includes Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, Behance co-founder Scott Belsky, artist Fewocious, and former LVMH Chief Digital Officer Ian Rogers, among others, in furtherance of its quest to “empower the future of fashion.” The round, which closed in May, valued the company at $33.3 million.

The terms of the deal between RTFKT and Nike have not been disclosed.