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Adidas Lifts the Veil on NFT Strategy With ‘Into the Metaverse’ Drop

Adidas lifted the veil on its metaverse ambitions in a major way Thursday.

The footwear giant has been hinting for weeks that something big was in the pipeline. A little less than a month ago, it launched a POAP—a Proof of Attendance Protocol is a digital token that can be distributed as a way to prove someone attended a specific event—on its Adidas Confirmed app. At the time, Adidas described it as “the first step in our journey to empower the creators of tomorrow to thrive in the Metaverse.”

Then, two weeks ago, Adidas revealed it was partnering with three “pioneers” in the NFT community: the Bored Ape Yacht Club, NFT influencer GMoney, and NFT comic series Punks Comic. The same day it made the announcement, the company changed its Twitter profile picture to one of the 10,000 Bored Ape NFTs that make up the Bored Ape Yacht Club, ape #8774—or, as Adidas has named them since buying the NFT, Indigo Herz, “a rebellious optimist who sees the world through heart eyes.” According to OpenSea—a peer-to-peer marketplace for NFTs and crypto collectibles—that specific NFT last changed hands in mid-September, selling for 46 ETH, ie, the ether cryptocurrency similar to bitcoin, worth more than $150,000 at the time and roughly $175,000 today.

Adidas' will sell a physical hoodie with a blockchain address
The physical hoodie Adidas plans to offer NFT owners next year features a blockchain address. Adidas

“The opportunity with the Metaverse is it creates infinite possibilities for us to connect, create and belong,” Tareq Nazlawy, Adidas’ senior director of digital, said in a statement. “And it’s especially that belonging part that we focused on initially. This has been a massive learning journey for us at adidas, working with the communities that surround GMoney, Pixel Vault [the media group behind Punks Comic] and the Bored Apes Yacht Club. These communities aren’t collecting hyped up tokens, they have a stake in the future of that community, and I think we can learn something about that. When we think about the role that we can play as a brand to be that trusted friend of our members looking to join this space. In essence, how can we help our current members, get educated, informed and show them the way?”

On Thursday, Adidas Originals revealed that it would be releasing “its first NFT drop of digital and physical products” Friday. Each Into the Metaverse NFT will cost 0.2 ETH, more than $750. Adidas plans to create 30,000 NFTs. Of that total, 20,000 will be reserved for those with early access—anyone who either held an Adidas or GMoney POAP or a Bored Ape Yacht Club, Mutant Ape Yacht Club or Pixel Vault NFT in their virtual wallet as of Tuesday. A minimum of 9,620 NFTs will be reserved for general sale. Adidas and its partners plan to retain 380 NFTs, with a portion allocated toward “future events.” For those unfamiliar with the NFT world, Adidas created a five-minute video with GMoney explaining the new technology.

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Those who own the token will receive access to virtual wearables in the blockchain-based gaming world, The Sandbox, as well as physical product to match: a graphic hoodie, an Adicolor Firebird tracksuit and an orange beanie to mirror the one worn by GMoney’s CryptoPunk avatar. Digital and physical wearables will be available to NFT owners during “product redemption windows” throughout 2022.

Items from the four-way collaboration were featured in the second issue of Punks Comic, a comic series starring characters inspired by CryptoPunks, one of the original hit NFT collections. Released last week, “X Marks the Drop” featured Indigo Herz, GMoney and one of the comic’s main characters all styling Adidas gear.

The Bored Ape depicted in the NFT Adidas bought in September stars as a character in the second issue of Punks Comic
The Bored Ape depicted in the NFT Adidas bought in September stars as a character in the second issue of Punks Comic. Adidas

“I like how organically it happened,” Sean Gearin, the founder of Pixel Vault, said in a statement. “It was always about exploring this new space, new opportunity, new method of expressing oneself. The team here has been just as curious every step of the way. Watching the narrative change and shaping a project together has I think been an accurate reflection of our collective beliefs and what we all see for the future of this sort of decentralized metaverse, whatever that may be.”

According to GMoney, Ben Mayor White, Adidas’ global senior manager digital strategist, reached out to talk to him about Web3—a popular conception of a new blockchain-based iteration of the Internet—on April 15. “For the first 6-8 weeks, I had no idea whether he actually really worked there,” GMoney said in a Twitter thread posted Thursday. Every few weeks, White sent him updates on Adidas’ internal progress, asking for feedback that he could take back to Adidas. With time, he was introduced to that wider team—people, he said, who “weren’t concerned about tapping a new market vertical in which to push product.”

“But instead, people that were individually part of this [Web3] community, and wanted help [bringing] Adidas into it as well,” GMoney wrote. “They understood the importance of joining the community and empowering the members of those communities. That’s what [Web3] is all about.”

“All of us, right here, right now, are working towards a more equitable future,” GMoney added. “They will laugh at us. They will call us crazy. But eventually, they will join us.”

Like Nike and Vans before it, Adidas has staked out space in the metaverse, acquiring a “plot of virtual land” inside The Sandbox. The company said it is working to fill the space with exclusive content and experiences.

“We’re recreating what we do in the physical world,” Andrea Nieto, senior designer future at Adidas, said in a statement. “What I’m really excited about is how we’re going to start to separate and even eliminate gravity when we think of a garment and how it drapes, to also then aesthetics informing back to the physical shape of a product. We are keen to be more explorative in digital and be more mindful about the world with everything we do with physical product because we know the impact to the planet, and we’re committed to minimizing that.”

Adidas is hardly the only company betting on NFTs and the metaverse. On Thursday, retailer Forever 21 announced it was partnering with Virtual Brand Group, a “metaverse creation company,” to build a fashion retail experience on the popular virtual platform Roblox. Dubbed Forever 21 Shop City, the space “is designed to allow Roblox users, fashion influencers, and creative world builders to own and manage their personal store,” Virtual Brand Group said.

Forever 21 is coming to Roblox
Forever 21 is coming to Roblox. Virtual Brand Group

Users will be able to buy and sell Forever 21 merchandise, hire non-player characters (NPCs) as employees and customize “every aspect” of their store. The retailer said it worked with some of Roblox’s “most ‘fashion fabulous’” creators, with several designing exclusive items.

“With Forever 21 Shop City, our goal is to expand how we engage with customers, extending our presence and product in new ways,” Katrina Glusac, Forever 21’s chief merchandising officer, said in a statement. “We’re excited to provide a new space on Roblox where our fans can connect with their community and bring their own vision of Forever 21 to life.”

Earlier this week, Nike announced it had bought the virtual fashion startup RTKFT. Though the company has been filing crypto-related patents for years, its metaverse ambitions became much clearer in recent weeks as it filed trademarks for virtual footwear and apparel, opened up new positions for virtual material designers and launched its own mini-world—Nikeland—on Roblox.