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Puma, up against tough competition in the metaverse from Nike and Adidas, has revealed the next stage in its Web3 strategy: a partnership with 10KTF, the narrative NFT project that includes a virtual Tokyo and digital clothing for profile picture avatars (PFPs) made by Wagmi-San, a fictional tailor who previously worked with Gucci.
It marks Puma’s most significant metaverse project yet, with digital products tied to physical goods on the horizon, says Puma chief brand officer Adam Petrick in an exclusive interview with Vogue Business to announce its Web3 strategy.
“As a sports company, we have to be thinking about engaging with people in the physical world and giving people the opportunity to bring physical products into the digital world,” Petrick says. Digital products open up new possibilities, he says: a digital basketball shoe can carry with it athletic abilities in virtual worlds, for instance. “Whether it’s gamified utility or access, it’s like a fourth dimension of experience with the product,” he says.
Sneaker brands and sportswear giants have been early adopters of digital products, virtual worlds and NFTs, as there is considerable overlap between gamers, sneakerheads and the Web3 crowd. Already, rivals Adidas and Nike are rushing to meet them: Nike announced it had acquired digital fashion startup Rtfkt with a recent co-branded project that enables people to buy and customise sneakers as NFTs before having them produced physically. Alternatively, Adidas landed with a splash in December with a collab that sold special access NFTs, though it has been quieter since, and Ben Mayor White, who led its metaverse strategy, has left the company.
Puma, whose 2021 annual revenue of $7.7 billion lags Nike’s $44.5 billion revenue and Adidas’s $25 billion for the same period, still sees a space for them. “I’m certainly aware of [the competition],” Petrick says. “Right now, our goals are to figure it out and try to be as authentic as possible and help people learn along the way. I’m aware that the competition is making major investments, and that’s not necessarily something we’ve done.” For Puma, revenue streams are front-of-mind for any investment. There needs to be “a return in any territory that we explore because, at the end of the day, we are in the intellectual property business”. The ambition is to “learn and adapt while trying to be relevant, authentic and inclusive”.
With the 10KTF project, fans of the brand can expect personalisation and customisation elements — an emerging trend in digital sneakers and NFT collections. During the 10KTF event, Puma teased this by giving away co-branded Puma and 10KTF tees. “The metaverse, in general, is a great place for getting rid of the boundaries that the physical world creates to be able to think very progressively about design,” Petrick says, “and younger people who are more amenable or flexible in their thinking about personal expression are going to grow up to be really progressive. They have an assumption that customisation is a part of the world that we live in because it’s been there from day one [for them].”