Basketball legend Stephen “Steph” Curry followed up a record-breaking game last week by breaking new ground this week for digital fashion, thanks to a savvy NFT sneaker strategy that pulled in nearly $1 million.
The famed Golden State Warrior guard hit a new threshold, scoring the most three-pointers in the history of the NBA. Curry and brand partner Under Armour commemorated the moment by releasing virtual versions of the Curry Flow 9 sneakers he wore while taking his historic 2,974th shot.
The sales figure may seem modest compared to the millions raked in by other virtual goods this year. But the pricing approach was a feature, not a bug, as part of a notable campaign for the fashion sector. It’s one of the first case studies of how a major brand’s strategic thinking can take NFTs from trendy bubble to smart business, thanks to a combination of tech, timing and understanding of the core audience.
The example lands during a crucial time for the industry, as brands race to figure out virtual products and their long-term potential.
The Curry Flow 9 NFTs reveal a deep understanding of the tech’s meaning to fan communities. While authentication for real-world collectibles is an industry unto itself, a reliable mechanism didn’t exist for digital assets. Enter NFTs. The blockchain bakes proof of ownership and authenticity into virtual products, practically guaranteeing legitimacy, value and, of course, bragging rights.
That allowed Curry and Under Armour to spin a cultural moment into sales revenue, and at a speed that’s impossible to replicate with physical goods. Even though the Curry Flow footwear exists as real-world products, cranking up production to manufacture more units and distribute them can take time. Meanwhile, the digital doppelgängers were created, promoted and sold out in less than a week.
In celebration of the greatest 3-point shooter in the UNIVERSE, we are dropping 2,974 pairs of @stephencurry30’s recording breaking 👟 in the metaverse. The “Genesis Curry Flow” NFT drops at 8pm EST: https://t.co/SxN30hCtK9 pic.twitter.com/NMdwRXOdkl
— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) December 21, 2021
🚨UPDATE: The GOODs are dropping at 8:30pm EST 🚨 https://t.co/01E3UGyErF
— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) December 22, 2021
There’s also a feel-good aspect here: Proceeds benefit organizations dedicated to youth access to sports, an important cause for both Curry and Under Armour.
Other details tapped into the enthusiasm for the history-making basketball event, with 2,974 pairs of virtual kicks minted and priced at $333 each — nods to the total number of three-pointers Curry made throughout his career. Given the extremely limited nature of previous fashion NFTs, the availability of nearly 3,000 units looked positively generous, while the cost wouldn’t have given sneakerheads any reason to pause. They often pay that much or more for limited-edition physical products that end up on a shelf, trophy case or stored in mint condition in their boxes.
By contrast, owners of the virtual Curry Flow 9 can show them off across different metaverse platforms, including Decentraland, The Sandbox and Gala Games, with players of the latter’s Town Star title able to use them to earn in-game rewards. This cross-platform usability stands out, as most high-profile NFTs are single-platform only. It may be a hint of what’s to come, with NFTs spreading across different virtual worlds.
For many months, skeptics have cast the tech phenomenon as a bubble bound to burst. Gobsmacking sales for exclusive digital products looked exciting, but unsustainable in the long term, while it wasn’t clear what people could do with them once they own them. The buzz around virtual worlds and metaverses, as well as the commerce that may drive them, gives NFTs more context and, perhaps, viability.
But it will take smart strategies and insights into real-world consumers to fuel virtual products beyond the bubble and make them more foundational. Fashion now has one example to study.