There’s no metaverse yet, but when it comes, you can expect Nike to be there waiting. The most valuable apparel brand in the world has its sights set on being prepared for shoppers in online virtual environments. On 27 October, Nike filed new trademark applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under its Nike logo, the Just Do It tagline, the Swoosh, and the Air Jordan and Jumpman logos. These applications indicate Nike’s intent to produce branded virtual goods. These trade
trademarks will come into effect only when virtual apparel and accessories are in commercial use. However, it’s imperative to start the process now to ensure Nike’s intellectual property is protected in online environments. The Nike trademark applications are “intended to cover the categories of downloadable virtual goods, namely, computer programs featuring footwear, clothing, headwear, eyewear, bags, sports bags, backpacks, sports equipment, art, toys, and accessories for use online and in online virtual worlds”. It’s clear Nike is solidifying its position early as tech giants race to develop virtual worlds. With Facebook recently rebranding as Meta and Microsoft launching Mesh for Teams, both will need major brands such as Nike, with a large customer base, to have digital merchandise ready that will encourage people to join virtual platforms. The key will be offering virtual products from brands people know, to make that step into online immersive experiences a little easier to take. Knowing trusted brands are already there and can be interacted with in a slightly different way will instil confidence. Nike has previously dabbled in virtual environments, gaining valuable insights into how these online worlds intersect physical and digital. During 2019, the company collaborated with digital games Fortnite and Roblox to release in-game digital apparel as part of product launches. During that same year, Nike filed patents for CryptoKicks, which places digital sneakers on the blockchain; these non-fungible tokens are designed to be limited-edition collectables. There are also discussions about manufacturing popular pairs of physical sneakers along with the NFTs. Protection against unlicensed use Submitting official documentation for use in virtual worlds that don’t exist yet is about as future-focused as an apparel brand can get. It’s one thing to design and sell items in digital games and another to go to great lengths to protect a highly valuable brand against copyright infringement. Many premium brands are starting to shape what and how they will look in virtual environments. But there is still a huge risk of people copying easily identifiable products before and even after they’re properly protected. Unlicensed use of brand marks, logos, taglines, and recognisable designs is what makes the counterfeit industry go round. As we inch closer to experiencing virtual worlds, it’s likely that we’ll see a lot of digital apparel and accessories that look like the products of certain brands. 3D designers in demand Not that long ago, we thought 3D artists just worked on visual effects in Pixar films. But in recent years, a flurry of new opportunities have emerged in other creative fields; apparel and accessories brands, in particular, have been seeking 3D designers. In coming years, skills in 3D will be incredibly sought after, as we’ll see opportunities to move from two-dimensional websites and apps to more immersive experiences online. Already, Nike is recruiting virtual material designers to be part of “a team focusing on igniting the digital and virtual revolution at Nike”. Successful candidates must be passionate about 3D and “will play a key role in redefining our digital world, ushering us into the metaverse”, the job ad states. There is a dedicated jobs board for anyone seeking to be part of the exciting metaverse future at various companies. Within the next couple of years, this space will accelerate even faster. Companies that sit and wait, needing to see it to believe it, will stunt business growth and their connections with people. Nike wouldn’t be thought of as a technology company by its customers but it’s clear that every business needs a thoughtfully crafted digital strategy. The future requires a plan that weaves traditional methods, influencers, content, social media, web, search engine optimisation, virtual and built environments, and more. In this way, the most valuable apparel brand in the world will continue to dominate. Its forward-thinking approach keeps it several steps ahead of the competition and on par with the most disruptive technology companies in the world. It’s time we put ourselves in Nike’s sneakers, we’ve got a metaverse to prepare for.