Brands have increasingly been flocking to the metaverse as a way to better connect with digital natives who spend much of their leisure time in games and online spaces. Nike was one of the earliest adopters of the metaverse concept, launching its own metaverse store, Nikeland, within the popular world building game Roblox. The popular athletic wear brand has benefitted from getting in on the ground floor of the metaverse, as the company announced in March that Nikeland has attracted 6.7 million people from 224 countries since its launch in November.
A key aspect of Nikeland has been to offer branded NFTs to consumers while leveraging Nike’s longstanding relationships with the world’s biggest sports celebrities. During the NBA’s All-Star Week, for example, LeBron James visited Nikeland in connection with Nike’s wider marketing push around physical play. “On the Nikeland court, LeBron coached and engaged with players, and participants were rewarded for physical gameplay with the ability to unlock virtual products. We plan to continue driving energy there with virtual products like LeBron 19 styles special to Roblox,” explained Jack Donahoe, Nike’s chief executive, on an earnings call.
LeBron’s partnership closely follows Nike’s acquisition of agency RTFKT in December 2021 and the launch of Nike Virtual Studios, which states that its “core business [is] to deliver best-in-class Web3, Metaverse, and blockchain-based experiences.” Roblox and Nikeland are likely just the start of Nike’s bigger metaverse ambitions. Nike isn’t alone in its metaverse pursuit within the athletic wear industry, as Adidas has teamed with Bored Ape Yacht Club and launched crowd sourced NFTs in partnership with Prada, while New Balance has filed several trademark applications for virtual products.
As with Heineken’s ironic metaverse presence, the goal for brands remains not just to increase awareness and exposure but to remind consumers of the real-world product counterparts that comprise the bulk of their revenues. Nike’s first-mover status in the metaverse may help the brand in that regard, as Interpret’s New Media Measure® reveals that consumers who’ve played a world building game like Roblox in the past three months have a greater incidence of buying from Nike than other top athletic brands. Additionally, world building players also over index on top athletic wear brands in general when compared to the general population.