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Sportswear Brands in the Metaverse: The Rise of Digital Athletic Fashion

As a confluence of technologies like NFTs, blockchain gaming, virtual and augmented realities, and digital fashion, the metaverse brings physical and digital worlds together.

Metaverse innovation, particularly by using NFTs as a conduit, opens up endless possibilities for fashion brands.  

In this article, we’ll follow in the footsteps of the top sportswear brands in the metaverse so far and explore which paths they follow to shape the future of fashion branding. 

Nike Acquires the RTFKT Studio

On December 13, 2021, Nike acquired the RTFKT studio, pronounced as artefact, that creates sneakers and collectibles for the metaverse. 

The studio had collaborated with the well-known NFT artist Fewocious on a series of virtual sneakers. The collection, published on Niftygateway, depicted three shoes with Fewocious’ signature designs. Every edition came with the possibility of redeeming a pair of physical shoes six weeks after the launch. 

During the seven-minute open edition, over 600 pairs were sold, and $3.1M was raised. 

Another milestone in RTFKT’s background is the Punks project. It was only open to the owners of the legendary Cryptopunks project and enabled them to create digital sneakers that featured their Cryptopunks. 

For example, rapper Jay Z owns a punk sneaker generated via his cryptopunk #6095. In total, 10,000 unique sneakers were generated in the project. Every punk sneaker NFT owner had the right to redeem a physical pair of sneakers.

One of the most notable RTFKT project so far is the CloneX collection. 

What is the RKTFKT CloneX Collection?

RTFKT is a 3D anime avatar project collaborating with the famous Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. The avatars’ eyes, mouths, helmets, and clothes incorporate his iconic designs. The genesis drop included 20,000 avatar NFTs with over 300 traits. According to raritysniffer, the rarest avatar is CloneX #729


CloneX #729.

Owners of CloneX NFTs will get 3D avatar model files to use across different metaverse platforms. It’ll be possible to use the avatars as AR filters on camera, in zoom meetings, and games. Owners will also have special access to CloneX-only experiences. It’ll also be possible to customize the avatars with unique wearables in the future. 

RTFKT built various other partnerships. Together with designer Jeff Staple, who created the iconic Nike sneaker “Dunk Low Pro SB Pigeon,” it released an NFT Sneakers collection. The collection consists of three kinds of NFT sneakers compatible with the Decentraland metaverse. 

Another partnership was with Loopify on the Capsule Space Drip project, where 18 artists created their own rendition of a custom model inspired by the Among Drip character. 

Under Armour Collaborated with Legendary Basketball Player Stephen Curry

Under Armour took its partnership with basketball player Stephen Curry a step further by bringing the digital replicas of the sneaker Curry wore when he broke the all-time NBA record for three-point shots. The Genesis Curry Flow collection featured 2,974 NFT sneakers with a mint price of $333, and the entire revenue was donated to sports charities. 

These sneakers are cross-platform; they will be wearable in Decentraland, Gala Games, and the Sandbox metaverse. In addition, in Gala Game’s farm simulation game Town Star, NFT owners will be able to earn in-game rewards. 

Adidas Organized a POAP Event and Partnered with Crypto Pioneers 

Adidas first entered the metaverse by rewarding its most loyal fans by a POAP event. POAP is a proof of attendance protocol that allows event organizers to distribute NFTs to their community. 

The attendees collect these NFTs as badges to prove that they participated in that event. 

As Adidas shared on the event description page, the token “adidas Originals: our future started here” proves holders were there from the beginning of Adidas’ metaverse journey. Adidas first informed the members of the Confirmed app about the POAP, who claimed most of the tokens. 


Adidas originals POAP

The total supply is 3,459, and it offers benefits for its holders. For example, they were granted early access to the “Into the Metaverse” drop, described below.   

Shortly after the POAP event, Adidas collaborated with NFT pioneers Bored Ape Yacht Club, Punks Comic, and gmoney to wade into the metaverse. The collection goes by the name “Into The Metaverse” and includes 30,000 editions of only one NFT called adidas Originals: Into the Metaverse (Phase 1). It’s an ERC-1155 token. 

The initial sale price was 0.2ETH which, as of writing this article, already jumped to 1.11ETH. The NFT collectible grants holders access to exclusive physical merchandise at no additional cost and ongoing digital utility. 

Phase 1 refers to the beginning of the collection. There’ll be four phases during which holders can redeem physical products by verifying NFT ownership. 

When adidas Originals: Into the Metaverse (Phase 1), owners redeem the physical product, their NFT will be burned, and they’ll receive a new NFT called Phase 2. This will go on similarly until the fourth phase. When holders redeem the physical product in the final phase, they’ll receive the Phase 4 NFT (ERC-721). It won’t be possible to redeem another physical product with this token. 

Adidas also has a partnership with the Sandbox Game. The company bought lands in the Sandbox’ Metaverse, and they’re developing the “adiverse” project together. 

adiVerse anyone? ????

What should we build, together in @TheSandboxGame? ⬇️ https://t.co/VbAdIi9cxN

— adidas Originals (@adidasoriginals) November 22, 2021

New Balance Filed Trademark Applications for Virtual Goods

As of January 13, 2021, the sportswear brand New Balance filed three trademark applications pointing towards entering into the metaverse. The trademarks will allow the company to produce virtual goods, including footwear, clothing, and sportswear accessories and equipment; sell them in virtual retail stores, and use these goods for online entertainment purposes. 

New Balance is coming to the metaverse.

The company just filed 3 trademark applications (on January 13th) claiming an intent to sell NEW BALANCE-branded virtual shoes, clothing and sports equipment.#newbalance #Metaverse #Virtualworld #web3 pic.twitter.com/Pk9SccvkYP

— Josh Gerben (@JoshGerben) January 18, 2022

Final Thoughts: Sportswear in the Metaverse 

Nike, Adidas, Under Armor, and New Balance aren’t the only metaverse sportswear pioneers. 

  • Diesel launched a digital sneaker prototype available as NFT. 
  • ASRV launched a collection comprised of 60 NFTs and gifted them to the first 60 customers who bought its special edition winter jacket. 
  • Puma filed a trademark application hinting at selling virtual goods.

As the largest sports (and fashion) brands jump into the metaverse, we’re going to learn exactly how their customers extend their patronage into the digital frontier. So far, it seems sneakerheads and the digital-savvy sportswear folk are collecting NFTs with the same gusto as physical material objects. We’re still in the early innings of sportswear in the metaverse, so keep your eyes peeled for new partnerships as they arise.


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