Nike turns 50 and looks at the metaverse

Accompanied by the famous and controversial swoosh symbol, the Nike brand is one of the most famous in the world. After reaching the milestone of fifty years, the sportswear giant does not stop and ventures into the digital universe

It is the most precious brand there is. It’s worth more than twice as much as Adidas, its closest rival in sportswear; but it stands out markedly from Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel. Nike has 73,000 direct employees, controls the Converse brand, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and reported revenue of $ 44.6 billion for fiscal year 2021. Still, it continues to maintain a cool aura.
Since Sotheby’s decided to make regular sessions – 8 to 10 each year – dedicated to sneakers by 2020, about 95% of sales consist of Nike models. The most expensive shoe ever sold at auction? It’s a Nike. It is a prototype of Nike Air Yeezy by Kanye West, which Ye wore to the 2008 Grammys: bought in 2021 for $ 1.8 million. There are Nike models even in the permanent collection of the New York MET.

Robert Goldman & Stephen Papson Nike Culture. The Sign of the Swoosh (SAGE Publications, 1998)


Nike has a motto, “Just do it”, introduced in 1984, but especially swoosh. Created by Carolyn Davidson, a graduate in graphic design at Portland State University, it was registered in 1971: on closer inspection, it’s a nod to the wings of the Nike of Samothrace, but also a tick placed in the questionnaires multiple choice.
However, the Swoosh was in danger of disappearing in 1988. Nike has considered the possibility of discarding it after reports on unsafe working conditions and exploitation of children in the factories of its subcontractors in Asia. Activists then invented the synonym: “swooshticka”. In 2017, there were new allegations of unsafe working conditions. Recent revelations about the treatment of female athletes, especially those who are pregnant, and about discrimination against female employees (resulting in a pending lawsuit). This series of crises forced the leaders of the American giant to revise their commercial and production practices, but not to abandon the swoosh, which in any case has retained its dominant place in the global psyche of consumers.

Detail of Nike from Tom Sachs
Detail of Nike from Tom Sachs


In its early days, Nike embraced the sporting epic by collaborating with Michael Jordan, his first and most famous partner: he gave him control over his name in a way that no sports star had ever had before. From then on, investments in this sector never stopped: from running to basketball, from tennis to football, from ice hockey to skateboarding.
Then Nike also started investing in other directions: it gradually penetrated into an entire universe of non-sporting subcultures. What’s more, she also started flirting with the best fashion designers available: Rei Kawakubo, Riccardo Tisci, Kim Jones, Virgil Abloh, Chitose Abe.
His relationship with non-traditional partners such as Travis Scott, Drake And Billie Eilish.

Tom Sachs' Nike poster
Tom Sachs’ Nike poster


In early June, Nike revealed NikeCraft shoes for general usedesigned by the artist Tom Sachs: an object admittedly normcore and admittedly “democratic (costs a little over $ 100, out of stock in brevismo I fear). This sneaker was born from the idea that there is no need to buy a new sneaker every week. A rather ambiguous proposal for a brand that has built its fashion economic leadership on the sale of sneakers. The latest acquisition made for the virtual sneaker brand RTFKT is less ambiguous. So Nike says they want to speed up its digital transformation by using the most advanced game engines, NFT, blockchain authentication and augmented reality to create products that fit the upcoming metaverse.

Aldo Premoli

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