How Nike’s dotSWOOSH is Tapping Blockchain to Manage Fair Access to Sneaker Drops
Nike’s dotSWOOSH NFT program has officially unveiled its first physical sneaker, the “TINAJ” – short for “This is not a JPEG.” The Air Force 1 Low ‘TINAJ’ and its digital twin (a matching NFT) were released on Nike’s SNKRS mobile app for $120 retail on October 20, 2023. The “phygital” drop is more than just a milestone in Nike’s journey to converge its sneakerhead and brand-fanatic marketing with its blockchain initiatives. It could also serve as a proof point for how the global brand might come to rely on blockchain technology to manage fairer access to all of its exclusive drops.
By Sophie Waldman
Published: November 1, 2023
3 min read
Different from the traditional SNKRS app drops, the phygital “TINAJ” drop is the first item that the app has token-gated exclusively to dotSWOOSH members who previously revealed one or more NFT-based dotSWOOSH Our Force 1 (OF1) Boxes by October 16. Token-gating is a blockchain-specific technique that requires customers and users to prove that they possess a specific token – often an NFT – in order to gain access to exclusive offers or physical events. dotSWOOSH is Nike’s experimental NFT program that’s open to a small fraction of Nike’s customers who entered through a currently backlogged waiting list.
Like Nike’s other physical sneaker drops, the sports apparel giant’s TINAJ (This is not a JPEG) drop was made available to Nike devotees through its SNKRs mobile app, but with a twist. In order to acquire the $120 pair of sneakers, customers who possessed a dotSWOOSH Our Force 1 Box NFT needed to go through an official process for “revealing” it.
When the dotSWOOSH program first announced the OF1 initiative, it posted “The Our Force 1 Collection journey is starting soon. The collection features expressive and never-before-seen digital renditions of Air Force 1 Lows.”
In true “phygital” fashion, whereby a physical item is matched to an NFT-based digital twin, participants in the TINAJ drop received an AIR FORCE 1 - TINAJ NFT into their dotSWOOSH-managed custodial wallets. This is in addition to the physical pair of TINAJ sneakers that Nike is shipping to those same participants.
Using the dotSWOOSH program to token-gate a drop within the SNKRS app – an integration that essentially foreshadows Nike’s plans to “phygitally” align its physical drops with its digital (NFT) drops – is significant for a brand like Nike, which claimed its “SNKRS App receives an average of 12 billion bot calls, or entries trying to game the system, a month.” Bots account for 10% to 50% of Nike’s drop entries and the company appears to be looking at token-gating via blockchain to keep bot traffic from denying access to legitimate customers
In this first experiment with Nike’s Web3 platform and community, the SNKRS app will integrate dotSWOOSH members’ Polygon-based custodial wallets into the SNKRS app in a way that grants access to SNKRS-governed drops to select devotees of the Nike brand. In the week prior to this drop, Nike archrival adidas launched a similar phygital integration when it token-gated the drop of 3,000 Moncler x adidas Originals NFTs within its CONFIRMED mobile app (the adidas equivalent to Nike’s SNKRS app).
Fair access has been noted as a large focus for dotSWOOSH as it currently serves as Nike’s digital-first community experience, allowing anyone from designers to gamers to average Nike fans to co-create the virtual future of Nike.
dotSWOOSH is different from many Web3 ventures that focus on dominating the “Web3 scene” and monetizing digital assets. It brings a new approach to onboarding non-digital natives, educating the Web3-curious, and providing opportunities to its most engaged supporters.
In November 2022, dotSWOOSH’s beta opened with priority access to various communities that Nike partners with across its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The platform even wrote, “we seek to make this platform as fair as possible.”
dotSWOOSH even emphasized fair access through the TINAJ marketing strategy, as dotSWOOSH gifted physical TINAJ sneakers to select engaged community members (including the author of this story) in advance of the drop.
Nike has been celebrated for partnering with influencers and notable athletes or sneaker enthusiasts as part of its brand, products, and campaigns for years. By doing so, the brand has effectively streamlined some of its internal efforts while also deputizing its most devoted enthusiasts into brand ambassadors who can assess and create narratives about new Nike products in their unique, personalized style.
It's evident that dotSWOOSH not only upholds this value, but has gone the extra mile in handpicking active members who, despite their global influence, possess the right audience and regularly engage with the platform. Based on this author’s own experience, this initiative is ultimately turning ordinary customers into real and genuine ambassadors for dotSWOOSH and it's a great example of NFT-driven customer engagement that other enterprises and global brands should pay close attention to.