Nike is taking another step into the metaverse by acquiring RTFKT Studios, a virtual sneaker and collectibles startup.
While the deal is already being seen by many as Nike’s way of saying “Just Do It” to the Web3 era, it’ll also likely signal to NFT startups and legacy clothing brands alike that the world of virtual fashion will further heat up in 2022.
Founded in 2019, RTFKT has becoming increasingly popular with sneaker and Web3 enthusiasts, and has gained momentum during the NFT boom that began earlier this year. In February, the startup released several virtual sneaker designs in collaboration with the artist Fewocious and quickly made more than $3 million buy selling more than 600 pairs that can’t even be worn in the physical world. In March, it partnered with Atari on a limited edition Atari-themed virtual sneaker. And just last month, RTFKT partnered with the artist Takashi Murakami on an NFT auction to sell 20,000 3D avatars that are a part of the CloneX collection.
Terms were not disclosed, but Nike President and CEO John Donahoe said in a statement that the deal “accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture.”
“We’re acquiring a very talented team of creators with an authentic and connected brand,” Donahoe said. “Our plan is to invest in the RTFKT brand, serve and grow their innovative and creative community and extend Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities.”
Nike and rival Adidas have both invested in Web3 topics in recent months. In September, Nike built a Nikeland experience and virtual showroom inside of the popular game Roblox. (Long before that, Jordan Brand collaborated back in 2019 with Fortnite.) In November, Adidas confirmed a new partnership with Coinbase and the crypto-enabled virtual platform The Sandbox. And earlier this month, Adidas expanded its NFT collaborations by announcing new partnerships with Bored Ape Yacht Club, Punks Comic and Gmoney. Nike has also filed multiple trademarks and patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to have its logo used in the form of virtual footwear, clothing, headwear and other products and apparel.
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Since starting RTFKT in 2019, cofounders Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le and Steven Vasilev have raised $9.5 million, according to Crunchbase, including an $8 million seed round with participation by Andreesen Horowtiz and Shrug Capital. In a joint statement with Nike, Pagotto said Nike “is the only brand in the world that shares the deep passion we all have for innovation, creativity and community.”
“This is a unique opportunity to build the RTFKT brand and we are excited to benefit from Nike’s foundational strength and expertise to build the communities we love,” Pagotto said.