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Nike partners with Roblox to connect to new generation of athletes

Roblox

With over 48 million users every day, Roblox is a platform that has a huge potential for brands. Nike has announced a virtual world NIKELAND on the gaming platform to reach a young audience of future athletes. For years Roblox has been working on its own version of the metaverse. 'It is all part of our vision of getting a billion people on the platform'.

It is a special moment during the Roblox Developer Conference 2021 when CEO David Baszucki lets his avatar on the screen continue his keynote presentation. As he is speaking live on stage, the words now seem to come from his avatar that is mimicking the movements of his head and facial expressions. The audience of tech savvy developers is impressed. The metaverse is developing fast.

Create your own game on Roblox
In the future metaverse your avatar is going to look and behave naturally. „The ability to naturally walk up to a friend, have a conversation, naturally walk up to someone else and join a different group conversation is really our dream. It is how the real world works and it is what you are starting to see."

When the corona virus struck the world, Roblox saw a massive surge in users. The multiplayer online platform offers many different games and experiences. Most people just play games, but you can also create games on the platform for others to play. Some games or items within games cost money, paying those creators who made it. Users regularly update their avatars with new clothing and accessories using digital items. Anyone can build and sell designs on the platform. Creators will earn $500 million this year, according to the company, by selling user-generated content. Players are mostly teenagers, about half of whom are under the age of thirteen. Brands are increasingly experimenting on Roblox. 'It is the revolution that only your kids know about', as Marketing Society concludes.

NIKELAND: minigames and brand awareness
Sports giant Nike is partnering with Roblox to create a virtual world called NIKELAND. It will include Nike buildings and arenas for players to compete in various games. Nike is letting developers use its toolkit to create minigames, meaning players can soon enjoy an array of independent produced NIKELAND games. In addition, Roblox is digitally spreading brand awareness with product showrooms and avatar customization items.

Users are able to dress their avatar in Nike clothing and sneakers. They can personalize their look with digital items including a Nike cap and backpack they can take anywhere on Roblox. In this way the company wants to connect to a new generation of athletes. NIKELAND may also become a testing ground for the brand. „If they know a bunch of kids are wearing it on NIKELAND, then they will come out with it in the physical world," as analyst Sam Poser explains to CNBC.

Time to smile
Roblox puts a high emphasis on your avatar, the character that appears in the game world as you. The company is building a system where virtual clothing items work on any avatar. Baszucki: „Everyone will be able to add clothing, bodies and heads to the Roblox catalogue and we believe this is going to make an unbelievable expansion in what we see on the platform."

An image with varying facial expressions now appears on the screen. „This is called 'time to smile'. We are going to have the ability for finally capturing those emotional expressions that we all want." The idea is that in the future your facial expressions can be tracked in real time, so that in Roblox others will see you the way you look in the real world.

Nike, Gucci and Warner Bros
The past years Roblox has been working on its own version of the metaverse. „We have known it for fourteen or sixteen years and our vision goes well beyond play. We are imagining a place where people learn and work together. We go to concerts together. What this means is an enormous opportunity for creators. We have taken a leading role in defining what the metaverse is. It starts with identity and an avatar. It involves friends and being immersive. It also means variety. The community of developers provides variety in the form of millions of experiences. So, when we want to find ancient Rome on Roblox we can find it. Or more recently, if we want to find Squid Game, we are sure we can find it. Our creative community responds to that."

Companies like Nike, Gucci and Warner Bros have tapped into Roblox's popularity and are trying out new opportunities in this digital space. Gucci unveiled the Gucci Garden for exclusive virtual clothing. Retailers are looking into building their own branded games. The downside is that creating metaverse experiences is expensive and time-consuming. But, as Adweek states, with 48,2 million users on any given day, it just may be necessary. „It is a system with a vibrant economy that you are part of," Baszucki says. „With these innovations the metaverse is growing and becoming more attractive. It is part of our vision of getting a billion people on the platform." 

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