- Nike is teaming up with Roblox to create a virtual world called Nikeland.
- Users will be able to dress up their avatars in Nike-branded sneakers and apparel.
- Nikeland will be free for now, but could be a place to try out new products and gauge consumers' interests.
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Sports giant Nike has taken a leap into the metaverse.
The Beaverton, Oregon, company announced Thursday that it is partnering with Roblox to create a virtual world called Nikeland on Roblox's online gaming platform.
The virtual world includes Nike buildings, fields and arenas for players to compete in various mini-games, ranging from tag and dodgeball to "The Floor Is Lava." It's modeled after the company's real-life headquarters. Nikeland will be free (for now).
The company eventually plans to integrate in-play moments that emulate global sporting events. Examples may include a soccer event during the World Cup or a flag football game during the Super Bowl. Nike said it will continue to update the virtual world to include athlete and product integration.
People with accelerometers in their mobile devices will be able to use real-world movements to power their online play. For example, you can move your body in a jumping motion and it will translate in the virtual world to enhance the experience.
Users will also be able to enter a digital showroom to dress their avatar in everything Nike and check out the company's latest product offerings. Items could be modeled after real-life Nike products being offered or from past launches. Nike could also tease future products or allow kids to co-create items.
As the metaverse has come to the forefront, companies like Nike see the value in its ability to connect with a new generation of athletes and get them to fall in love with the brand, which can eventually translate into real-world sales.
Sam Poser, an analyst who covers Nike at Williams Trading, said he sees Nikeland being successful not only as a way to introduce the brand early to kids but also for the information and use as a testing ground for the brand. He envisions it being used as a way for Nike to try out new products to see what sticks.
"If they know a bunch of kids are wearing it on Nikeland, then they will then come out with it in the physical world," said Poser.
This is not Nike's first launch with Roblox. The pair partnered together in 2019 on Nike Air Max Day.
Nike has quietly been preparing for the metaverse by recently filing a host of new trademarks indicating its intent to make and sell virtual Nike-branded sneakers and apparel.
The move shouldn't be surprising. CEO John Donahoe previously served as chief executive of eBay and Servicenow, and was brought on last year with the mission of transforming the company. Many had expected him to tap into his tech roots.
As Nike has acutely felt the effects of pandemic-related supply chain complications over the past year, digital has continued to be a bright spot for the company as consumer habits change.
"Digital is increasingly becoming a part of everyone's shopping journey, and we are well positioned to reach our vision of a 40%-owned digital business by fiscal 2025," CFO Matt Friend said during the company's latest earnings call.
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