All signs point to Nike walking into the metaverse

Greener virtual pastures.
Greener virtual pastures.
Image: Reuters/Action Images/Jason Cairnduff
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Picture your digital twin rocking Nike sneakers and a track suit to a Microsoft Team meeting or Facebook’s—I mean, Meta’s—virtual rooms while you actually lounge on your sofa in pajamas and fuzzy socks.

That’s the future Nike is imagining for itself.

On Oct. 27, Nike filed over half a dozen trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including those for its swoosh logo and slogan “Just Do It,” that reveal plans of making and selling virtual footwear and apparel.

These trademark registration applications are all “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.”

Nike trademark applications
Nike trademark applications for the virtual world.
Image: USPTO

The registration will take time. The USPTO says fresh applications are typically assigned to examining attorneys six months from the date when they’re filed.

Nike’s metaverse jobs

There’s a slim chance Nike is in fact trademarking its products not to make and sell them in the metaverse, but to protect them from being turned into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) by others—but its recent job listings signal otherwise.

In Beaverton, Oregon—where Nike is headquartered—there are three vacancies for “Virtual Material Designer II” in the digital product creation team. The role that will be pivotal “in redefining our digital world, ushering us into the metaverse and growing our team’s capabilities,” Nike’s job description says.

A job opening for Virtual Material Designer I, Footwear, also part of the digital product creation team, also mentions the metaverse.

Nike did not respond to Quartz’s requests for comments on its metaverse plans.

Is Nike good or bad news for the metaverse?

Nike is the world’s most valuable apparel brand , worth over $30 billion, and has embraced digital goods.

In March 2019, Nike launched a virtual pop-up store where shoppers could access limited edition items using credits earned from a previous purchase. Two months later, Nike’s Jordan Brand partnered with video game Fortnite to produce character skins donning Nike sneakers. Later that year, Nike filed a patent for CryptoKicks, which would link physical shoes to blockchain to verify ownership.

Participating in the immersive internet is a natural next step. And Nike’s foray could even have a disarming effect on metaverse skeptics.

“Nike’s move into the metaverse will help with wider mainstream adoption, prompting more users to spend time in virtual worlds,” Justin Melillo, CEO of MoNA, which works with NFT artists to create metaverse art galleries, told Quartz. “Nike will be able to capitalize on their enormous brand reach, while creating some dope metaverse fits for virtual avatars.”

However, Melillo warns that Nike should “begin thinking about their footprint inside the metaverse” to avoid migrating offline problems into the virtual world. Nike, has in the past, been accused of gender discrimination and racism by former employees, allegations the company denies. And such a massive force could overshadow upcoming talent and monopolize the space quickly.

“We hope that Nike will involve artists from diverse backgrounds as they think about their metaverse plans, and will provide some sort of decentralized ownership over their virtual products,” said Melillo.