Think NFTs are over? Nike doesn't. The sports brand launched its new digital collectibles with .Swoosh late last year and is finally revealing its hand with the new Our Force 1 virtual sneakers. They don't exist physically, but are fast becoming a collector's item, just like the classic Nike Air Force 1 shoes. Just don't call them NFTs. Confused?
This digital collection celebrates 50 years of Nike design and harks back to the company's inception and that 1970s Nike manifesto that was absolutely wild to read. The Nike Air Force 1 Low has become one of the most iconic sneaker designs in history, and the new all-digital Our Force 1 champions this legacy for a new generation who only want to wear them online in virtual spaces.
Like many NFT drops the Our Force 1 launch is about bragging rights and collectability. Fans on Twitter are excitedly waiting for the drop and Nike anticipated there are around 330,000 people signed up. The launch comes in two parts, the Classic Remix sneaker boxes with sneakers based on designs from 1982 to 2006, and the New Wave boxes that apes designs after 2007.
The Our Force 1 digital sneakers will be available at Swoosh priced $19.82, a reference to the real life Air Force 1’s original launch in 1982. Interestingly Nike isn't accepting cryptocurrency as payments for its .Swoosh digital collectibles, which signals a break away of non-fungible tokens from the rollercoaster ride of crypto values. (This is something NFT collectors have argued needs to happen ever since the NFT crash.)
Nike is also not calling these NFTs, and the digital sneakers will go into a wallet that is secured to Nike's platform, so you can't trade them elsewhere. Twitter user _BlackWing88 picked up on this, writing: "Nike carefully picked their words to not mention NFT nor Web3. But this collection is obviously an NFT and for the Web3 community. Nevertheless, your virtual followers appreciate your presence and effort in this virtual space."
The term NFT is clearly a dirty word so this this a new low for marketing or a clever way to sell tokenised assets. This approach of offering a fixed price unplugged from crypto speculation points to Nike wanting to develop a positive community above driving profits, as it did with the previous CryptoKicks NFT collection. This was created by RTFKT and connected NFT sneakers to in real life limited editions that soared in value to around $14,000.
In February Nike announced four Our Force 1 designs created by its community will be included in the NFT drop. Nike designers worked closely with these fans to bring them to virtual life.
Ron Faris, GM of Nike Virtual Studios, said in a press release: "We are exploring new ways to tell stories and create relationships while removing the barriers and limitations of physical products. With more members choosing to express themselves across physical and digital worlds, .Swoosh is the marketplace of the future."
Nike may not want to brand the Our Force 1 as NFTs, or mention the metaverse and Web3, but with plans to create digital events, virtual design collaborations and an online platform to wear your new sneakers, it sure sounds like Web3 shenanigans to me. If this works, expect more brands to launch 'non-NFT' collections.