Nike buys new technologies, Adidas invests in monkey partnerships.
In the 30s of the last century, the Dassler brothers made the world’s best athletic shoes. Then they got in a fight, divided the family business into two brands – Adidas and Puma. The eldest, Rudolph, laced up Pele himself. The youngest, Adolf, won Germany’s 1954 World Cup final by replacing the spikes on the footballers’ boots during halftime.
Freddie Mercury rode the stage at Live Aid wearing Adidas Boots, Kurt Cobain shot himself in Puma Basket. In general, the celebrities of music, sports, and cinema did everything they wanted in the shoes of German manufacturers. And they were so carried away by the struggle with each other that they overlooked the hidden threat from the United States.
In 1962, amateur athlete Phil Knight borrowed $300 from his father and, with his coach Bill Bowerman (for $500), bought 300 pairs of Onitsuka Tigers (now Asics) in Japan. The shoes were successfully resold in the USA, they put orders on the assembly line, and afterward, they made their own version of Japanese shoes. They also had a funny name – Cortez. Why? Because Adidas released the Azteca model, and as you know, the Spanish conquistadors under the leadership of Cortez once smeared the Aztecs. This is how the Nike story began.
So, half a century later, Nike’s Market Cap is $264 billion. Adidas has 55 billion, Puma has 18 billion. In sales, the gap is not so big, but still, the Germans together sell fewer shoes and clothes than the Americans. Considering that Nike has an active contract with the most popular sports league in the world – the NBA, life-long agreements with Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi plays in Paris with a swoosh – it is not clear how this situation could change.
But now, we are on the threshold of a new world where everyone can start all over again. Reebok started and ended with NFTs of sneaker gifs that no one needed, even in physical form. Puma is silent for now. But Adidas and Nike took the matter as seriously as possible.
Throughout 2021, Americans patented their sneakers and sued guys who either faked them or very impudently copied them. Last month, the company launched an online gaming zone called Nikeland at Roblox. Players can customize their appearance, display collectibles in the digital showroom, and play sports in a virtual space.
More recently, Nike bought RTFKT Studios. In March, this project took off powerfully when it sold NFT with its original sneakers in seven minutes and grossed $ 3.1 million. Its specialty is VR and AR. Rumor has it that with RTFKT technology, Nike will go beyond what is allowed. For example, you buy their new sneakers at a regular store, scan the code on the check, and the digital version of the shoes is automatically uploaded to your Fortnite account. And there you are, looking great in your Nikes enjoying Travis Scott concert.
Adidas did not just stand aside. A few days ago, the company sold 29,620 NFTs for nearly $30 million. This is cool but predictable because the Germans have partnered in a collection with the real celebrities of the NFT market – Bored Ape Yacht Club, Punks Comics, and GMoney.
Buying tokens from the ‘Into the Metaverse’ collection gives holders access to unique physical goods such as a sweatshirt and tracksuit, as well as new digital options. Which ones exactly are still unknown. Physical merchandise isn’t available until 2022 either, so it’s just an expensive pre-order for clothes for now. Which, of course, can become a classic and show itself well on resales.
So far, Nike’s path to NFT looks more thoughtful. After all, they buy technology, while Adidas spends money on partnerships. But which of them is right, only time will tell. In the meantime, you can only hug the physical AJ1 under the tree and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.