Get To Know The Key Players That Adidas Will Be Competing Against With Its New NFT Residency Program

The megabrand Adidas continues to fortify its allegiance to NFTs and the potentials of web3 technologies. Since launching its initial capsule collection, Originals: Into The Metaverse — which comprised 30,000 NFTs — in December 2021, Adidas has maintained a strong presence in the NFT realm. This initiative came just a few days before its biggest competitor, Nike
, acquired RTFKT, a start-up specializing in NFT wearables. These strategic moves were predictable at that time, as the NFT market was burgeoning, with every major brand eager to unveil their NFT roadmaps.

Despite the competition, Adidas has managed to distinguish itself by persistently investing in this new venture. Whereas Nike’s foray into the sector, via RTFKT’s Cryptokicks which debuted in April 2022, seems to have dwindled — with their virtual sneakers that initially sold at 0.38 ETH
peaking at 3.59 ETH and now available in secondary markets for 0.14 ETH — Adidas has demonstrated ongoing interest in the sector.

In 2022, Adidas unveiled phase two of its web3 strategy, Unbox The Impossible, and prominently featured its Bored Ape NFT, Indigo Hertz, in the FIFA World Cup ad campaign. Even in 2023, amidst an NFT bear market, Adidas remained steadfast, introducing Phase 3, ALTS by Adidas, a loyalty program. Soon, the newly announced NFT residency will offer an immersive experience during the Korean Blockchain Week, scheduled for September 7th-8th.

This high-profile residency program aims to nurture and elevate digital artists, representing a natural progression in their web3 journey. This vision was shared by Stacey King, the Global Head of Communications and Digital Activations at the brand’s Three Stripes Studio, during an interview with NFTnow, a metaverse-centric media platform. King was joined by artists MONKEEMOTO and Adra Kandil, also known as Dear Nostalgia, who are the first two artists to join “RESIDENCY by Adidas”.

However, Adidas is neither the first nor the last company to launch an NFT residency. Several web3 native ventures have been facilitating programs to support artists for several years now. Micol Ap, an Italian residing in London, founded VERTICAL (formerly known as Verticalcrypto Art) in early 2021. This grassroots organization, widely appreciated, began as a media platform reporting on noteworthy developments in the NFT sphere, initially focusing on the Tezos
blockchain NFTs. The Tezos Foundation played a pivotal role in facilitating the launch of the Vertical Residency in July 2021, through a grant announced in the foundation’s biannual update in the latter half of 202

VERTICAL’s residency program emerged “from a need we noticed within the broader artist community to understand and learn more about blockchain and NFTs, the technology, markets, and ecosystem; and to carve out a space for artists to learn, share, and communicate,” Micol Ap revealed in an interview. True to the open-source spirit, all the classes are recorded and uploaded to Vertical’s YouTube channel, which now features over 200+ hours of educational content on topics such as smart contracts, curation, DAOs, creative coding, and 3D, AR
, and VR practices. Now in its 7th cohort, the residency boasts over 150+ artists and 50+ mentors in their network, receiving institutional support from the University of the Arts London, which has incorporated the Vertical program into their educational offerings.

VERTICAL has also played a pivotal role in the birth of new ventures, such as the NFT text-based platform The VerseVerse, founded by Kalen Iwamoto, Ana Maria Caballero, and Sasha Stiles. Ap fondly recalls the moment the VERTICAL alumni conceived the idea, which “gradually evolved through the residency and her experience and education, morphing into a reality and now a fully functioning and successful platform dedicated to artists working with text.”

John Kobs, an entrepreneur who found success when he co-founded Apartment List, propelled it into an online marketplace with more than 5 million properties listed and a valuation of 600 million dollars. Kobs, known as Douglass in the digital art world, delved deeply into the web3 sphere in 2021, starting his collection of NFTs. Soon after, his web3 venture, Wildxyz, came into being as a residency program, gathering artists Douglass admired and had collected. Season 0, the initial cohort of the Wild residency, was a 12-week program culminating in an NFT art collection release. In a discussion for this article, Kobs noted that people often compare Wild “to a Y Combinator for digital creators”. While flattered by the comparison, they perceive the platform more as “an opportunity to champion and support those shaping the future of immersive art and the spatial internet.”

In March 2023, Wild announced a high-profile seven-million-dollar seed round led by Matrix Partners, with LinkedIn
founder Reid Hoffman participating as one of the angel investors. This influx of funds promises increased financial support for residency artists, an enhanced marketplace, and an imminent metaverse.

Like VERTICAL, Wild not only pairs artists with mentors but also aids them in transforming their artwork ideas into fully-fledged NFT releases. In this vein, Wild launched a marketplace in January 2023. Their latest success story, The Boys of Summer by Mitchell F. Chan, was released a fortnight ago and sold out within minutes, generating 114 ETH in primary sales and a trading volume of 175 ETH on the secondary market to date. Currently, in its third season, Wild has hosted over 70 artists and mentors, releasing 23 collections, most of which sold out upon launch. Discussing the thriving marketplace, Kobs expressed pride in being “the number one source of revenue for a majority of our artists, whether they originate in our residency or through another facet of the Wild ecosystem.”

While the RESIDENCY by Adidas, owing to the monumental stature of the parent brand, might appear to outsiders as a colossal and innovative venture poised to revolutionize the NFT artist community, it faces certain limitations. With only two artists initially announced as the first cohort, coupled with a physical and digital component to the program, the initiative seems unlikely to accommodate a large number of creatives. Both VERTICAL and Wild have established a robust history of supporting artists over several years, nurturing hundreds in their respective networks. It appears the German behemoth will have to prove its mettle yet again in the web3 domain, akin to its past rivalry with Nike, albeit in a completely new arena.

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