Nike is taking one step further into the metaverse today with the debut of .Swoosh, a new platform that will be the home to the sportswear brand’s virtual footwear, apparel, and accessories. Nike wants to build a robust web3 community in .Swoosh (pronounced “dot Swoosh”) where users will one day be able to gain access to exclusive events, collaborate with Nike designers on virtual product, and even earn royalties from the sale of those products.
“It will be a place where our community can come in and co-create that future with us,” says Ron Faris, GM of Nike Virtual Studios. “You can collect, trade, and flex Nike virtual products. You can go to IRL events with your token-gated virtual creations.”
Faris, who helped turn the SNKRS app into a powerful driver of Nike’s digital revenue, was tapped in January 2022 to lead the newly established Nike Virtual Studios. The division is a separate, entrepreneurial group inside Nike tasked with translating the brand to the world of web3, NFTs, and the metaverse. Nike Virtual Studios has its own teams dedicated to virtual product design—some of them veterans of creating physical Nike goods and some of them experts in pushing the boundaries of what a shoe might look like in digital form.
In creating .Swoosh, Nike consulted with the team from RTFKT, the popular NFT brand that Nike acquired in December 2021. RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”) has transcended the digital realm, making physical versions of some of its Nike-branded sneakers.
“We’ve learned a lot from our friends at RTFKT about how to do this right,” says Faris, “and we talk to them weekly about what are the best practices and how we can start to take certain learnings and really broaden them.”
For now, .Swoosh is in an invite-only beta phase, meaning users will need an access code to enter. The platform is accessible via web browser on mobile or desktop; it’s not a social network, so you can’t chat with other users there, or a dedicated app, a la SNKRS.
Nike is selecting the first wave of participants who’ll have access from three groups: its most engaged customers, those who live in cities that generally don’t get first access to new tech, and partners from its diversity, equity, and inclusion groups.
On Friday, users with access will be able to claim their .Swoosh handle by registering their own domain—”brendan.swoosh” for this writer, for example. (Those who don’t yet have access can join a waitlist.) These domains will be users’ digital homes within Nike’s metaverse. Nike owns the .swoosh domain, meaning it has access to every link in the domain.
Nike is not selling anything through .Swoosh yet—it will release its first collection of virtual products there in January, Faris says. Users will be able to buy items there with a regular credit or debit card as they would on nike.com, and their purchases will be secured on the blockchain. The brand is keeping quiet about what exactly that first collection will entail. .Swoosh will test utilities for the collection’s items: some will be tied to physical product, some will allow the holders entry into events.
Much of Nike’s plan for the metaverse is secretive—it entails more promises for the future than tangible benefits for the immediate present. The most exciting features are still to come.
Faris says that in the future, Nike might offer a preorder for a physical shoe in the form of a virtual one. Starting in the spring, .Swoosh will host creator challenges where winners can help Nike co-create a virtual product line and earn money from the sales of the line. Members will be able to vote on the colorways of virtual products. These processes will start at curation, where .Swoosh users will help guide Nike designers, and mature to creation, where they’ll have tools to design alongside them.
Nike says that its virtual releases will be wearables for RTFKT’s Clone avatars. The brand’s virtual products will eventually be available as wearables in video games, extending their reach. The brand has dabbled in this before, launching Air Jordans for Fortnite in 2019. Next year, Nike will announce new partners that allow wider applications for its virtual goods.
But for now, Faris says, Nike wants to be intentional about the pace of .Swoosh.
“We’re not gonna sell stuff right away,” he explains. “We really want to be careful and thoughtful about how we invite the community in. And so we’re going to start with a month of education—a six-city tour where we’ll be going to select spaces to help educate.”
Nike Virtual Studios will take the tour to Atlanta, Charlotte, Louisville, Los Angeles, New York City, and Tallahassee in December. The brand will host Zoom classes at retailers—think boutique stores and local sneaker shops that carry Nike product. Updates about .Swoosh will be posted to Instagram and Nike’s Medium blog. Nike believes that a significant amount of education around the metaverse is required before it starts to drop virtual goods on a regular basis.
Once it has a more regular cadence around virtual product drops, and once Nike Virtual Studios has established a following around them, the team believes it can create opportunities for laypeople akin to those generally reserved for Nike’s most trusted partners. .Swoosh could feature digital storefronts not only for top Nike athletes and collaborators, but also for regular users.
If Nike Virtual Studios is successful in this endeavor, it might be .Swoosh’s most impressive achievement. The potential here is to unlock the brand’s tools and intellectual property for use by an audience beyond the berm of its Oregon headquarters.
“What we really want to do is broaden the definition of what a creator can be,” says Faris. “Oftentimes it’s limited to just a fashion designer or a designer, whereas we think creators should be anybody who wants to express their opinion or express their perspective.”