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​Adidas versus Nike: metaverse experiences for a Gen Z audience


Just a few days after Nike announced its large-scale Web3 platform Dot Swoosh, rival adidas has unveiled its first collection of NFT wearables for virtual worlds. The items are able to respond and adapt to the metaverse environments being built. The companies make once again clear that virtual experiences in the metaverse have become an essential part of their marketing strategy.

Adidas Originals has launched a new virtual product category 'Virtual Gear' as part of its marketing strategy for the emerging metaverse. The company unveiled 16 unique jackets that are designed specifically for virtual avatars, and each piece is interoperable with other virtual worlds and projects. "We're laying down a marker in this new age of originality – one that unquestionably serves the community, benefits the creators, and supports the diversity of expression and utility that blurring virtual worlds has allowed us all to explore," Global Vice President of adidas web3 studio Erika Wykes-Sneyd said at the launch.

Disruptive designs
Community is central to the adidas strategy. "With our community and creator ecosystem at the core, adidas will explore every viable utility, platform, and experience within Web3 to unlock new possibilities for our wearables, with a focus on tangible value and immutable utility for our community members," Wykes-Sneyd is quoted in Forbes. The release follows a teaser campaign with the adidas Discord community. In January the company already created a community generated NFT with Prada and digital artist Zach Lieberman who combined entries from a few thousand participants into a giant NFT artwork. According to adidas, the new collection looks ahead to a future not yet realized with a series of what it calls disruptive designs.

The beginning of a virtual journey
Just before the adidas announcement, Nike launched the platform Dot Swoosh, a marketplace to collect and eventually trade virtual goods. Nike will drop a digital collection on the platform in 2023 and will allow some customers to co-create products like jerseys and shoes, as Retail Dive reports. Vice President Ron Faris of Nike, who is the head Nike Virtual Studios, says that the platform will enable people to unlock access to events and products, and co-create products. "When you think of a virtual product like a virtual shoe, it's not just a shoe, it's the product and the experience, service or utility baked in," he explains to Vogue Business. A virtual shoe might enable holders to preorder a physical counterpart or unlock wearability in a specific game. "We don't see that virtual product as the end of the purchase journey. It is the beginning of the journey."

The rise of micro-communities
The metaverse offers growing opportunities for brands, especially to reach a tech-savvy Gen Z audience. But it is more than just designing experiences. It all starts with choosing your partners carefully. "There is a lot of different ways to get into this space," says adidas VP Wykes-Sneyd in magazine MarTech. "You could argue that ours came with more risk because we did put an NFT on blockchain and now we have to service that community in perpetuity, until we decide we're not going to do this anymore." The company partnered with, among others, Bored Ape Yacht Club and gmoney, a pioneer in the crypto space. Although the metaverse has a great potential, it starts with small communities. "It is really difficult for marketers to find ways to be culturally credible, native and organic, and so it is going to be the rise of these micro-communities where smart, savvy marketers are going to be showing up next," Wykes-Sneyd says. And then there is the big question: how do companies want to present themselves in the metaverse? "Identity is the next big thing to explore. How is that identification going to show up? What do you want to be? What is your pseudonym going to be, what kind of traits do you want?"

Campaigning with a virtual musician
Earlier, when adidas was working on their newest Ozrah style sneaker, the company teamed up with virtual musician Ruby 9100m. The virtual artist 'designed' the custom sneaker and released her single 'Screaming' alongside the shoes. Ruby 9100m also collaborated with some luxury brands like Chanel. The company that manages Ruby 9100m is Club Media. "Ruby 9100m was approached by adidas to design the latest Ozrah shoes. She embodies a daring new future made possible through avatars and the potential they hold," says co-founder Reggie Ba-Pe of Club Media during an interview to Virtual Humans. The music was released on a new record label Avastar, dedicated to virtual talent. "It's something we have been working on for some time, and it's exciting to be able to share our first step with the world through this amazing project."

Exploring the edges of creativity
Nic Galway, Senior VP of Creative Direction for adidas Originals, says the brand always wants to explore the edges of creativity and push the boundaries to find what's beyond. "Creatively we are proud to say that this virtual collection represents more than just a historic first. It also represents an idea of wearable clothing that can transcend time and space, a community that is vividly diverse, and a level of utility that can be explored as worlds and avatars take new forms."

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