Chinese sportswear maker Xtep has jumped on the non-fungible token (NFT) bandwagon with the release of a series of digital trainers, as consumer brands in and outside the country rush to capitalise on the popularity of the digital assets.
At a press conference on Sunday night where Xtep announced a range of new sportswear, the company also released 321 NFTs, or digital collectibles as they are called in China, of virtual running shoes.
Xtep said that the NFTs, named “160X-Metaverse”, sold out in 70 minutes. Each NFT was priced at 1,603 yuan (S$341), more expensive than the actual 160X running shoes, which sell at 999 yuan a pair.
In a statement Xtep said that it is using blockchain technology to build a “Runner’s Metaverse”, and to create a “sports + digital economy” model. The company did not respond to a request from the Post to elaborate on its wider metaverse plans.
Xtep is among a sea of consumer brands that have started using NFTs and the concept of the metaverse to market their products.
NFTs refer to data added to a blockchain that represents a digital asset’s ownership and uniqueness, whereas the metaverse is loosely used to describe a conceptual virtual world where digital representations of people can interact in similar ways to how they do in real life. Both terms exploded into public consciousness in 2021.
Sportswear giant Nike in December paid an undisclosed amount to buy the NFT studio and virtual sneaker designer RTFKT, after creating a mini game on Roblox, a gaming platform that allows players to create their own experiences.
In January, Chinese athletic wear company Anta also launched 7,000 Beijing Winter Olympics-themed digital collectibles, which Anta’s chief marketing officer Lydia Zhu told the Post in March was part of its wider marketing efforts. Luxury fashion brands including Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Givenchy have all ventured into NFTs.
Despite Beijing’s hostility toward cryptocurrencies, it has so far tolerated activities around NFTs in China, albeit repeatedly sounding alarms over bubbles and speculative risks related to the assets.
China’s biggest tech companies have been treading carefully in exploring the use of NFTs, selling them in yuan instead of using cryptocurrencies as is the case elsewhere, and have mostly forbidden buyers to resell the NFTs they have bought.
Internet giant Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding have both tightened rules that apply to NFTs on their platforms.
In a notice on Xtep’s NFT sales website, the company urged buyers to not use the NFT in illegal ways, including hyping them up, trading them over the counter, or engaging in fraudulent activities.
Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.