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Marketing Brand Strategy Nike

Nike unveils new virtual Air Force 1 collection via .Swoosh web3 platform

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By Webb Wright | NY reporter

April 18, 2023 | 7 min read

The new virtual sneakers arrive at a time when many brands across industries are turning their backs on the blockchain.

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Nike unveiled its .Swoosh platform in November. / Nike

Nike is stepping further into the world of web3 and virtual fashion.

This morning, the athletic gear brand announced that .Swoosh, its web3 platform which launched in beta in November, will soon release its first collection of digital sneakers. Dubbed Our Force 1 (OF1), the new collection is “a tribute to the first 50 years of Nike and an homage to the creativity and versatility of the Air Force 1,” the company wrote in a blog post.

First released in 1982 and named after the flight service used by US presidents, the Nike Air Force 1 (AF1) was originally designed as a basketball shoe and has since arguably become one of the most iconic shoe models in history. Last year – the 40th anniversary of the shoe's debut – a collection of Louis Vuitton-branded Air Force 1s created by the late designer Virgil Abloh reportedly sold on Sotheby’s for a cumulative price of more than $25.3m, with a single pair selling for nearly $353,000.

The AF1s have been through several iterations over the years. Now, they’re about to transcend the realm of physical reality into the virtual.

The Our Force 1 campaign, as its name suggests, features an element of co-creation and collaboration, both of which have been positioned by Nike as core tenets underlying .Swoosh. (Immediately following its November launch, Nike described its new platform as a space where fans of the brand and digital artists can meet “to design and own the future of sport”). Nike says that the collection will include virtual AF1s that have been codesigned by Nike and four independent digital artists – the winners of a recent social media contest hosted by the brand.

The brand is releasing its new virtual sneaker collection with nods both to the past and to the future. In the ‘Classic Remix’ digital box, fans can expect to find virtual AF1 models from 1982 to 2007, or “a more unique, custom AF1 with a nostalgic twist,” per the blog post. The ‘New Wave’ digital box, on the other hand, contains virtual AF1 models from 2007 onwards, “or an expressive, custom AF1 with a more futuristic twist.”

Both boxes are priced, meaningfully, at $19.82. Purchase will be available exclusively to the .Swoosh community, starting with an Airdrop to a cohort of randomly selected members on May 08 and then opening up to all members on May 10.

Nike couched this morning’s announcement in language which is clearly intended to keep its .Swoosh members on the edge of their seats and hungry for more: “Shortly after opening their OF1 box, each virtual creation will come paired with a 3D file that the owner can download and use to express themselves in new ways,” the brand wrote. “In the near future, .Swoosh will introduce other new utilities and benefits to these unique Nike virtual creations, such as exclusive physical products or experiences.”

The virtual fashion industry ballooned in 2022. The first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW) took place last year, and it was announced in November that the Parsons School of Design is slated to begin offering a course in virtual fashion in partnership with the gaming platform Roblox. A global survey published by Virtue Worldwide in March 2022, furthermore, found that the vast majority (82%) of respondents had purchased at least one virtual fashion item. Some of that enthusiasm has undoubtedly dwindled in the wake of the so-called ‘crypto winter’ and the financial troubles faced by Meta - the brand that many people, for obvious reasons, associate most closely with the metaverse.

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Despite a general trend of brands shying away from all things web3-related, Nike has been one of the few big-name brands that has continued to lean in.

“The OF1 collection shows how Nike will continue to innovate at the intersection of play and culture for the future of sports,” Ron Faris, general manager of Nike Virtual Studios, said in a statement. “We are exploring new ways to tell stories and create relationships while removing the barriers and limitations of physical product. With more members choosing to express themselves across physical and digital worlds, .Swoosh is the marketplace of the future.”

That marketplace "is still in a closed beta to create an equitable and safe platform,” per this morning’s blog post. It currently has more than 330,000 members, according to the blog post.

For more on the latest happening in AI, web3 and other cutting-edge technologies, sign up for The Emerging Tech Briefing newsletter here.

Marketing Brand Strategy Nike

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