Erika Wykes-Sneyd reveals that Adidas thought signing the Bored Ape Yacht Club deal was “risky” at the time.
2021 was the year of the NFT boom. As many brands were eager to rush into the NFT space after seeing tokenized digital assets yield billions of dollars’ worth of monthly sales, sportswear and apparel giant Adidas took it a step further, partnering with Web3-native brands and personalities to bring NFTs further to the mainstream.
That December, Adidas launched its Into the Metaverse campaign – and at the same time partnered up with the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT project, CryptoPunks derivative project Punks Comic, and the debut of pseudonymous NFT influencer gmoney.
The freshly-minted Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) approached Adidas to strike a deal, just a few months after its launch.
To Erika Wykes-Sneyd, at the time global VP of marketing for Adidas Originals (now global VP and GM of Adidas /// Studios – also known as Three Stripes Studios), taking on a new approach to marketing meant taking big risks, and this collaborative approach with BAYC felt right.
At the time, BAYC was still fully pseudonymous. Before the reveal of co-founders Greg “Gargamel” Solano and Wylie “Gordon Goner” Aronow, Wykes-Sneyd recounts the deal “got me nervous,” like when Adidas approved a purchase of Ethereum (ETH).
Despite the excitement, Wykes-Sneyd notes that signing a deal with pseudonymous creators in a newfangled space had its own risks.
“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 recounts.
The deal reportedly took as long as almost a year, and integrated a decent chunk of Web3 education to onboard corporate leadership of a 73-year old apparel brand to the metaverse. But what really was at stake was that Adidas was embarking on a bet to see the success of emerging culture – a decentralised one.
“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 recounts, noting that Adidas’ legal and treasury departments were also part of the process.
“[They] were all right there with us, so it’s been a really rewarding experience.”
The launch of Into the Metaverse proved itself to be a success, having sold out its primary NFT drop, netting the brand’s first Web3 experience $23 million in the process – not counting the brand’s share of royalties from secondary market sales. The NFTs from the launch can be later redeemed for exclusive physical apparel, featuring branding from all collaborators of the project.
Since then, Adidas has maintained its Web3 loyalty, continuing to build in the space. The brand has recently launched ALTS, which lets Into the Metaverse holders “burn” – or permanently destroy – their original NFT to exchange for a new Adidas profile picture (PFP) NFT that is tied to a story building narrative campaign.
The ALTS NFTs also grant holders potential exclusive access to future events (anticipated to be both virtual and IRL), and merchandise launches.
After partnering with Adidas, its Web3-native collaborators have all considerably grown. BAYC creator Yuga Labs ended up raising $450 million, and is currently overseeing several NFT projects, with the firm valued at $4 billion. Punks Comic is building a range of IPs, and gmoney launched 9dcc – his own (tokenized) apparel brand.
But what led Wykes-Sneyd to want to collaborate with Web3 creators? Wykes-Sneyd points to Adidas’ history of highlighting cultural movements at the brink of breaking into the mainstream, or the world of widespread recognition. For example, Wykes-Sneyd cites Adidas’ collaboration with pioneers of the hip-hop music genre Run-DMC in the 1980s. She views that Adidas’ signing of the deal with BAYC as another chapter in Adidas’ history of elevating creators.
“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.”