Nike acquires virtual sneaker company RTFKT

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François Locoh-Donou, president and CEO of F5. Credit: F5

US sportswear giant Nike, Inc has acquired virtual sneakers and crypto-collectibles start-up RTFKT for an undisclosed amount in a bid to speed up its digital transformation.

Nike describes RTFKT as a brand that leverages cutting-edge innovation to deliver next-generation collectibles that merge culture and gaming.

Founded in 2020 by Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le, and Steven Vasilev, RTFKT uses the latest in game engines, NFTs, blockchain authentication and augmented reality to create one-of-a-kind virtual products and experiences.

“This acquisition is another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture,” explains Nike, Inc president and CEO, John Donahoe.

He continues: “We’re acquiring a very talented team of creators with an authentic and connected brand. Our plan is to invest in the RTFKT brand, serve and grow their innovative and creative community and extend Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities.”

RTFKT’s co-founder Pagotto adds: “This is a unique opportunity to build the RTFKT brand and we are excited to benefit from Nike’s foundational strength and expertise to build the communities we love. Nike is the only brand in the world that shares the deep passion we all have for innovation, creativity and community, and we’re excited to grow our brand which was fully formed in the metaverse.”

Taking the lead in virtual fashion design

Nike's latest venture into the metaverse through the acquisition of RTFKT proves its commitment to becoming a mass market leader in virtual design, explains GlobalData associate apparel analyst, Darcey Jupp.

She says: “RTFKT’s experience in virtual trainer design will be of particular importance for Nike, which signalled it wants to enter the virtual fashion market by recently advertising vacancies in this area. Nike’s acquisition was aptly timed, following RTFKT’s highly anticipated launch of NFTs created in partnership with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami gaining widespread attention.”

Jupp points out this is just the beginning of Nike’s metaverse venture in tandem with its recent launch onto Roblox.

She adds: “As apparel brands are still trying to understand the breadth of possibilities the metaverse could bring to fashion, Nike is already establishing itself in the new market, and its competitors will fall behind if they fail to join them now.”

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