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This Week in the Metaverse: Portrait NFTs at Cannes Lions and Virtual Budweiser Clydesdales

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By Webb Wright | Reporter

June 9, 2022 | 10 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:

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Budweiser is now the official beer of Zed Run. (Credit: Allison PR)

Budweiser lets virtual Clydesdales out of the stables, becomes official beer of Zed Run

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Budweiser is grabbing Web3 by the reins and riding into Zed Run, the popular NFT-based virtual horseracing platform. In celebration of the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses, the brand announced earlier this week that it’s launching The Budweiser Pass, a new NFT drop which will give fans the opportunity to race digital Clydesdales on the new Budweiser track in Zed Run. Budweiser has also become the official beer of Zed Run. The new passes, which will go on sale June 10 for $225 apiece (plus a gas fee), will enable holders to access a virtual racehorse (which will come in one of three varieties), the branded track, and other exclusive perks. “We’re excited to partner with Zed Run to offer Budweiser fans and collectors the opportunity to virtually race and own an iconic piece of our brand’s heritage, a Budweiser Clydesdale,” Richard Oppy, vice president of global brands at AB InBev, said in a statement. “This partnership reinforces our commitment to driving meaningful, rich experiences for adult consumers. We’re celebrating our history and galloping into the future, simultaneously.”

Christie’s and MAPS launch NFT campaign in support of psychedelic science

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Christie’s, the historic auction house that in recent years has become a powerhouse in the expanding NFT marketplace, has announced a new NFT campaign from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) aimed at supporting research into the therapeutic applications of psychedelics. “Cartography of the Mind,” as the NFT campaign is being called — an apparent reference to MAPS — will feature designs from some of the most celebrated artists in both the NFT and psychedelic spaces, including Beeple (of “Everydays: the First 5000 Days” fame) and Alex Grey (a painter known for his delightfully trippy creations). Founded by Dr. Rick Doblin in 1986, MAPS is a non-profit “specializing in research and education that develops medical, legal, and cultural shifts benefiting the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana for mental and spiritual healing.” The organization has been a major funder of psychedelic research and has helped to bring psychedelic compounds into increasingly mainstream awareness while simultaneously eroding the cultural stigma that has surrounded them. The new NFT campaign — launched in partnership with Ryan Zurrer, founder of Vine Ventures and Dialectic AG — represents the latest effort from the burgeoning psychedelics industry to merge itself with pop culture. “There is an intrinsic connection between the psychedelic community and art,” Doblin said in a statement. “Art is often used to integrate psychedelic experiences, transcending language, culture, and experience to communicate what words simply cannot. We are honored to work with Christie’s and have these talented artists participate in the NFT fundraiser in support of MAPS.”

StockX defends itself against lawsuit from Nike

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Online clothing marketplace and reseller StockX is defending itself in its ongoing legal battle with Nike. Nike filed a lawsuit against StockX in February, alleging that the company’s sale of NFTs featuring Nike sneakers qualified as trademark infringement. Nike claimed in its original complaint that StockX had sold more than 500 such NFTs, per CNBC. That complaint was amended last month with an additional claim from Nike that it had been able to obtain multiple pairs of counterfeit Nike shoes from StockX, each of which had allegedly been marked as authentic by the online retailer. StockX brands itself as a company committed to authentication. In a court filing dated June 06, StockX’s lawyers claimed that its “recent introduction of non-fungible tokens (‘NFTs’) to track ownership of, and essentially serve as a claim ticket for, frequently traded physical products, is transforming the trading experience on its platform by increasing efficiencies and decreasing transaction costs for buyers and sellers. Using NFTs in this manner is lawful and violates no legitimate right of Nike or any of the manufacturers of the underlying physical goods. Nike’s trademark infringement and dilution claims lack merit, disregard settled doctrines of trademark law, including the doctrines of first sale and nominative fair use, and show a fundamental misunderstanding of the various functions NFTs can serve. Nike’s newly-added claims, contending that StockX knowingly and willfully sold counterfeit products and falsely advertised its authentication services, are equally meritless.”

Actor and entrepreneur Rob McElhenney launches Web3-based media company

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Rob McElhenney, creator and one of the stars of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” has co-founded a new, Web3-based startup called Adim. The company describes itself as an “entertainment-tech company… building a new way to reward creators and collaborators through the creative development process.” Organized around the core principles of Web3 (namely decentralization, transparency, and co-ownership), McElhenney’s new company aims to build a network of creators to develop intellectual property — the potential future fruits of which, including royalties and additional creative opportunities, will be made available to members. “Every beloved character throughout TV, movie and gaming history has been imagined and brought to life through collaboration,” McElhenney said in a statement. “Adim is building for the next evolution of these groups — communities of creators, writers, artists, designers, developers,fans and friends working together to create and own a new generation of content.” For an industry in which it’s commonly said that ''it's all about who you know,” Adim is also intended to make professional creative opportunities more accessible to people outside of the film and TV industry’s epicenters.

iHeartMedia and State Farm announce new metaverse activation

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Like a good neighbor, State Farm is… setting up shop in the metaverse. Yesterday, mass media company iHeartMedia announced that it’s teaming up with the insurance company to build iHeartLand, a virtual experience on Roblox. The goal of the new project, according to a joint statement from the two companies, is “to create the future of live experiences, combining major album releases, some of the biggest hit podcasts and interactive gaming in exciting new ways for fans.” The virtual space is being launched, in part, to commemorate State Farm’s centennial. Like many brands entering the metaverse, State Farm hopes that its new collaborative project with iHeartMedia will provide new and eye-catching opportunities for customer engagement. “As the quintessential good neighbor, it only makes sense for State Farm to join the virtual neighborhood that is the metaverse,” Rand Harbart, chief agency, sales, and marketing officer at State Farm, said in a statement. “We‘re excited to work with iHeartMedia to meet consumers where they are in a way only our two brands can. Together, we aim to create a space where fans can come together to compete and collaborate to unlock once-in-a-lifetime experiences in a virtually limitless world of entertainment in iHeartLand.”

‘NFT portrait studio’ coming to Cannes Lions 2022

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Ever wonder how you’d look as a NFT? Now you can find out… if you can only make it inside Cannes Lions. At this year’s festival (June 20-24), stock media company Shutterstock will be operating an “exclusive NFT portrait studio” inside of its larger “interactive 3D animated entrance installation.” Portraits will be taken by acclaimed celebrity photographer David Fisher — who’s known for his celebrity portraits — and can then be minted into NFTs. Who knows, maybe your picture will soon be going for millions on OpenSea (but again, good luck getting inside the festival). The Cannes Film Festival also kicked off its inaugural NFTCannes Summit in May.

Angel’s Envy unveils its virtual distillery

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Bourbon manufacturer Angel’s Envy announced the world’s “first virtual distillery” this week alongside an IRL distillery expansion at its Louisville, Kentucky headquarters. The virtual distillery is slated to open to the public on National Bourbon Day, June 14. In a sneak preview, The Drum was able to explore the virtual premises, which has been built in Decentraland. After the requisite few minutes of learning how to awkwardly maneuver our avatar from a computer keyboard, we finally found our way in, where we were greeted by a virtual tour guide. He would appear at strategic points throughout our wanderings through the virtual space to break down the process of how bourbon is distilled — and, of course, offer a sales pitch or two for Angel’s Envy. "We are excited to welcome the first distillery in Decentraland with the Angel Envy Meta Distillery," Adam de Cata, head of partnerships at Decentraland Foundation, said in a statement. "As we have seen over the past several months, people want to engage in the metaverse with activities and goods that they can relate to from this reality. The Angel’s EnvyMeta Distillery creates a new way for people to engage and celebrate in the metaverse." The bourbon company is just one of many alcoholic beverage companies that’s been leaning into Web3 in recent months. Absolut Vodka, for example, launched a virtual brand activation in April in celebration of the return of Coachella. Jose Cuervo also recently unveiled plans for a virtual distillery of its own. Too bad we can’t taste the virtual booze that’s washing through these places. Though who knows, perhaps Reality Labs is currently working on the tech for that.

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