The move builds upon Nike’s goal to expand its influence in the metaverse via virtual sneakers. Earlier this year, Nike filed seven trademark applications related to its goal to create and sell virtual sneakers and apparel. It also partnered with the Roblox video game platform to launch “Nikeland,” a digital world for Nike fans to play games, connect, and dress their avatars in virtual apparel via a digital showroom, which includes products like the Air Force 1 and Nike Blazer.
“This acquisition is another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture,” said Nike CEO and president John Donahoe in a statement. “We’re acquiring a very talented team of creators with an authentic and connected brand. 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 was previously rumored to be a prime candidate to dip its toes in the world of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens that can be bought, sold, or traded online using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
In 2019, Nike was granted a patent for “CryptoKicks,” a system for releasing digital footwear that linked physical shoes with virtual versions that could be sold, traded, or stored in an online blockchain “locker.” The brand also envisioned the potential for “breeding” two pairs of digital shoes to create novel “shoe offspring,” whose origins would be tracked on a blockchain, a type of distributed digital ledger.
The RTFKT acquisition marks Nike’s next step in its foray into the metaverse. Founded in 2020, RTFKT works with game engines, NFTs, blockchain authentication and augmented reality to create products that live at the nexus between fashion and gaming. RTFKT — which partners with digital artists — previously sold $3.1 million worth of sneaker NFTs in about 7 minutes.
“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,” said Benoit Pagotto, one of RTFKT’s co-founders. “Nike is the only brand in the world that shares the deep passion we all have for innovation, creativity and community, and we’re excited to grow our brand which was fully formed in the metaverse.”