- NBA superstar and Nike endorser LeBron James this week virtually joined Nikeland on Roblox.
- Nike recently released its first NFTs. They sell for more than $14,000 on the secondary market.
- Wall Street analysts are increasingly positive about Nike’s metaverse efforts.
LeBron James joined Nike’s metaverse efforts this week, making a virtual appearance in Nikeland, the company’s digital space in the immersive video game Roblox.
In recent weeks, Nike has posted a string of metaverse-related jobs, released its first NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, and announced a video game tie-in connected to the Super Bowl and the popular NFL game Madden.
Nike’s metaverse is starting to take shape and is getting the attention of Wall Street analysts.
Since December, at least three stock analysts have noted Nike’s metaverse strategy in research notes. Last week, a Jefferies note said that Nike’s metaverse could “drive deeper customer relationships and helps the company capitalize upon the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming, and culture.”
Nike did not respond to a request for comment for this story. CEO John Donahoe, who is pushing a digital transformation of the company, has yet to publicly discuss the company’s metaverse plans.
In November, Business Insider reported on Nike’s sweeping effort to get into the metaverse, noting recent patents that described everything from virtual sneakers to cryptographic assets to video-game technology.
While some argue virtual sneakers and avatars betray the heritage of brands founded to improve athletic performance, the criticism hasn’t slowed Nike’s push forward.
Company insiders see the new digital reality as a way to build deeper connections with customers, a view that’s increasingly being adopted by Wall Street. Analysts are also noting the bottom-line boost from products that don’t have traditional associated costs, such as labor, shipping, and materials.
“We believe more brands will begin investing in the metaverse to leverage authentication, brand building, and monetization opportunities that should only expand over time,” Camilo Lyon, a BTIG analyst, wrote in a December note. “As always, Nike is aggressively going after the large-scale opportunity and defining the path forward.”
On February 5, Nike released its first NFTs, or virtual products. Known as a MNLTH, the product is a virtual box, branded with Nike’s swoosh and RTFKT’s lightning bolt logo. They sell on the secondary market for more than $14,000.
For Super Bowl week, Nike partnered with the maker of the popular football game Madden and gave rewards, including a speed boost to a player in the video game, to people who ran five miles using the Nike NRC app. More of these sorts of tie-ins are likely as Nike ramps up its video-game partnerships under Tommy Pham.
Nike recently posted a string of metaverse jobs on its website, including open jobs for a director of metaverse engineering, a principal engineer for the metaverse, a manager for its blockchain programs, a senior 3D game designer, an assistant general counsel who will oversee digital products, and a virtual material designer.
Those jobs will add to Nike’s existing metaverse workforce, which includes Eric Redmond, who oversees the company’s new Metaverse Studio.
Justin Lacche, a metaverse consultant who previously worked on technology and metaverse projects for Nike, declined to comment on Nike’s specific efforts but said large companies increasingly understand the importance of the new digital reality.
“It is clear, especially with large Fortune 500 companies, that the metaverse and digital art is truly being recognized as assets, not nice-to-haves,” he said. “The metaverse, NFT art, digital art, is no longer fringe. It is part of the portfolio.”
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