Many brands rushed into the NFT space in 2021 as tokenized digital assets were yielding billions of dollars’ worth of monthly sales—but none did it quite like apparel giant Adidas, which partnered with Web3-native brands and personalities on a high-profile collaboration.
In December of that year, Adidas launched its Into the Metaverse campaign alongside the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT project, Punks Comic (a derivative CryptoPunks project), and pseudonymous NFT influencer gmoney. The Bored Apes had only been minted months prior, and the entire NFT space was still very new and volatile.
For Erika Wykes-Sneyd, then the global VP of marketing for Adidas Originals and now global VP and GM of Adidas /// Studios (a.k.a. Three Stripes Studios), the collaborative approach felt right—but signing a deal with pseudonymous creators in a nascent space was still risky.
“It really started with our values, and it did feel right at the time, even though there were many late nights where I was like: I could get fired for this," she said on Decrypt’s gm podcast.
She pointed to Adidas signing a deal with the Bored Ape Yacht Club when co-founders Greg “Gargamel” Solano and Wylie “Gordon Goner” Aronow were still fully pseudonymous. That “got me nervous,” she recalled, as did a public company like Adidas approving a purchase of Ethereum (ETH).
Wykes-Sneyd previously told Decrypt at February’s NFT Paris event that the process took the better part of a year, and included a lot of Web3 education for corporate leadership at what is now a 73-year-old apparel brand. But ultimately, the entire company got behind this bet on emerging culture in a decentralized space.
“We brought everybody in the brand along on the journey with us, and really made sure it was clear why we were doing it,” Wykes-Sneyd told gm co-hosts Stacy Elliott and Andrew Hayward, noting that the brand’s legal and treasury departments were all in the mix. “[They] were all right there with us, so it’s been a really rewarding experience.”
Into the Metaverse was a quick success, selling out its primary NFT drop and raising $23 million in the process—and that doesn’t include Adidas’ share of royalties on secondary market sales. The NFTs could be redeemed for exclusive physical apparel featuring the branding of all of the collaborators.
Adidas has continued to build in Web3, including with the recent launch of ALTS, letting Into the Metaverse owners “burn” (or permanently destroy) the original NFT in exchange for a new Adidas profile picture (PFP) NFT tied into a narrative campaign. The ALTS NFTs include potential exclusive access to future events and merchandise drops.
And since the Into the Metaverse drop, the brands and creators that Adidas worked with have only grown. Bored Ape Yacht Club creator Yuga Labs raised $450 million at a $4 billion valuation and now oversees several NFT projects, Punks Comic is building various IP, and gmoney launched his own tokenized apparel brand called 9dcc.
Wykes-Sneyd pointed to Adidas' long history of highlighting cultural movements that hadn’t yet broken into the mainstream or gained widespread recognition—like hip-hop and the brand’s collaboration with genre pioneers Run-D.M.C in the 1980s. Elevating Web3 creators fit that same theme, she said.
“What we do best is lift up emerging creators, emerging cultures that don't necessarily have the legitimacy yet or aren't getting recognized by popular culture,” she said, “and we give them a bigger stage.”