Creativity Brand Strategy

This Week in the Metaverse: Gretzky NFTs and Captain Morgan sails on to web3

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By Webb Wright | Junior Reporter

May 26, 2022 | 8 min read

Things are moving fast in the metaverse, and in the wider world of web3 as a whole. Depending on who you ask, this futuristic, blockchain-based space is either the next big thing for marketing – and for almost everything else – or an overhyped fad. Here’s what you need to know from this past week:

eBay partners with Sports Illustrated for new NFT launch

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E-commerce platform eBay has announced a new partnership with self-described “green NFT platform” OneOf for a new NFT series celebrating some of Sports Illustrated’s most iconic covers. The ‘Genesis’ drop, as it’s being called, began on May 23 with a NFT featuring an animated rendering of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky’s 1982 ‘Sportsman of the Year’ cover. “Forty years ago, I was grateful to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It was a monumental moment in my life,” Gretzky said in a statement. “I’m honored to bring this collectible experience to my hockey fans who have followed my career for decades.”

The new NFT collection is available across four tiers – green, gold, platinum and diamond. “Priced for the everyday fan,” eBay said in a statement, the starting price for the new NFTs is $10. The e-commerce company also said that its foray into web3 is a part of its broader push “to introduce new tech capabilities and greater confidence to enthusiasts.”

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Andreessen Horowitz will reportedly invest billions into the struggling crypto market / Adobe Stock

Coinbase becomes first crypto-trading company to join Fortune 500

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Earlier this week, Coinbase became the first crypto trading platform to join the Fortune 500, the list compiled each year that tracks the 500 largest companies in the United States. The news arrives during a historic crash in the crypto market, which began earlier this month and has caused the valuations of leading cryptocurrencies to plummet.

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Despite the crypto crisis, Coinbase has doubled down by unveiling new in-app features and releasing its second-ever national TV spot, which emphasizes the company’s unwavering belief in the crypto market’s ability to weather even the most brutal of storms. Prior to the crash – as well as a somewhat rocky past few months – Coinbase had a stellar 2021. Its year-end valuation was $7.8bn, according to Fortune, the company that compiles its eponymous 500 list. The threshold for the 2022 Fortune 500 list was $6.4bn.

Captain Morgan toasts its inaugural web3 campaign

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Rum brand Captain Morgan has become the latest major spirits company to enter into the web3 space with a collection of new merch, both IRL and virtual. The brand dropped its new collection at its ‘Captain On Ice Night’ – an event described as “a happy hour that was truly off the (block)chain” – which was hosted at the inaugural VeeCon Superconference in Minneapolis this past weekend. The new merch was designed in collaboration with musician, actor and jeweler Ben Baller and includes virtual proof of attendance protocols (POAPs), as well as “a one-of-a-kind IRL chain.” Though the ‘iced-out chain’ was worn by NBA All Star and entrepreneur Baron Davis at the happy hour event, Captain Morgan notes in a statement that it “will soon be up for grabs” as part of its broader merch sweepstakes, which will run through May 27.

The news from Captain Morgan arrives at a time when a growing number of mainstream beer, wine and spirits companies have been striving to develop entrance strategies into the world of web3, which can open the door to huge new (mostly young) audiences and possibilities for marketing. Last month, for example, Absolut Vodka launched a branded experience in popular metaverse platform Decentraland in an effort to capitalize on the long-awaited return of Coachella. The non-alcoholic Budweiser Zero also recently announced a new NFT campaign with NBA legend Dwayne Wade.

UPS underscores its commitment to ‘uplifting underrepresented small businesses’ with new metaverse activation

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UPS has revved up its new branded experience in ComplexLand, the virtual festival, which has drawn participation from leading brands across entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, and other commercial sectors. ‘ComplexLand 3.0,’ which is running from May 25-27, will feature “an immersive and unique experience” from UPS, which will include “a small business village inside the metaverse, featuring a curated group of emerging businesses, founded by underrepresented entrepreneurs.”

The campaign is being framed as a “new and fresh” extension of UPS’s initial activation in ComplexCon in November. UPS says that its new virtual campaign will also partner with “a select group of diverse influencers,” and that items will be available for purchase from its new virtual village – which will then, of course, be shipped to consumers by UPS.

The new ComplexLand campaign is a part of the brand’s broader “commitment to uplifting underrepresented small businesses,” UPS said in a statement.

Meta expects to bleed more money as it continues to focus on the metaverse

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During an annual shareholder meeting on May 25, Meta’s founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told investors that the company will likely experience “significant” near-term financial losses as it continues to focus on developing the metaverse. Since changing its name to Meta in October of last year, the company has switched much of its focus and financial investments away from social media and toward the metaverse, which Zuckerberg has described as “the next chapter for the internet.”

It seems to have been clear from the jump that such a transition would require immense sums of money, mainly because the metaverse is presently a mostly theoretical construct and the hardware that will be required to interface with it is still very much in its infancy. The company also recently canceled its 2022 developers conference so that it could continue to focus on building the metaverse.

Andreessen Horowitz pours billions into crypto market during historic downturn

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Taking advantage of historically low prices for virtual currencies, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz will inject $4.5bn into the suffering crypto market, per CNBC. The firm, which will reportedly invest both in the coins themselves as well as crypto companies, believes that the downturn in the market could be the ideal opportunity to invest in crypto’s technological infrastructure.

“Bear markets are often when the best opportunities come about, when people are actually able to focus on building technology rather than getting distracted by short-term price activity,” Andreessen Horowitz general partner Arianna Simpson told CNBC. The firm launched a similar fund in 2018 during another historic dip in the cryptocurrency market known as the “crypto winter.”

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