Preview

Nike turns to Fortnite, tapping into the game as an advertising platform.

WHAT HAPPENED: Nike is working with Fortnite’s parent company, Epic Games, to create two new characters who wear Air Force 1s.

Why it matters

  • With digital marketing platforms increasingly saturated, Nike’s debut on Fortnite allows the company to get in front of younger faces—about 250 million of them—in an interactive way. Fortnite players buy characters, and Nike’s go for $13-18, though it’s uncertain whether the sportswear company collects compensation that way or if it is simply using the video game as a marketing tool for its brand and products. This isn’t the first time Epic Games launched a partnership with a consumer brand. In November 2018, the NFL debuted virtual jerseys on Fortnite; it also worked with the Avengers franchise to create a new game mode in May.

  • While Fortnite is free to play, it made $1 billion in 2018 revenue, largely from virtual merchandise, which allows players to alter the appearance of their avatars. Because the Nike deal is for a limited-time only, and because most virtual merchandise is released in incredibly short-term “drops,” Epic Games implores players to be online more often so they don’t miss out. This sets Fortnite apart from a brand like Supreme, which releases new (physical) products on a weekly basis at a specific time and place. On the one hand, Fortnite’s type of scarcity means that its consumer brand partners avoid the resale market, which builds hype but snaps up most of the proceeds for limited physical drops. But on the other hand, Fortnite’s drops are purely digital. While gamers attribute clout to the appearance of their characters, virtual Air Jordans are still less of a status symbol than real ones.

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