Nike's Jordan Brand teamed with "Fortnite" on a product integration that has new characters in the massively popular online game showing off some of the athletic apparel brand's signature sneakers, according to an announcement from "Fortnite" developer Epic Games.
The #FortniteXJumpman partnership includes two new, limited-edition skins — downloadable character variants that users pay for — wearing Air Force 1s in a variety of colors, including the black and red, or "bred," colorway associated with the Chicago Bulls, per Bloomberg. The deal promotes a new "Fortnite" racing game mode called Downtown Drop.
- "Fortnite" skins are typically priced between $13 and $18, according to Bloomberg. The publication reported that it's unclear if Nike will split the revenue from the new skins with Epic Games.
Nike is translating the idea of an exclusive sneaker drop — a small sales window to purchase special footwear in limited quantities — to the online gaming sphere. Real-world drops are famous for causing long lines, sparking brand buzz and driving high resale value for the items offered, creating an aura of exclusivity and engine of consumer hype that Nike looks to replicate with "Fortnite's" audience of around 250 million registered players.
Nike has brought the sneaker drop concept into the digital realm before. In February last year, Jordan Brand became the first company to sell a product directly through the video-messaging app Snapchat with a special pre-release of the Air Jordan III "Tinker" model that sold out in minutes. Lacking any actual physical product, Nike's "Fortnite" iteration on the idea seems more centered around growing brand value and awareness.
"Fortnite," which debuted two years ago and has become a dominant pop cultural force, could be a powerful venue for accomplishing those goals. The sale of skins, a form of in-game purchases referred to as microtransactions, have proved to be an ingenious move for creating revenue from the otherwise free-to-play "Fortnite." Epic Games reportedly grossed $3 billion in profit in 2018, largely thanks to the popularity of "Fortnite." More major marketers have been working with the publisher to get in front of the eyeballs of "Fortnite" players, who tend to skew young, encompassing desirable but elusive and generally ad-averse consumer groups like Gen Z. The game was also downloaded more than 100 million times on iOS within 5 months of its launch, pointing to its large mobile audience.
Last fall, the NFL linked up with "Fortnite" on a similar product integration to Jordan Brand's, outfitting in-game characters with gear from the 32 official league teams and offering custom jersey numbers for players to choose from. Brian Rolapp, the NFL's chief media officer, said at the time that the promotion was intended to engage, not only existing football fans invested in "Fortnite," but also new audiences who were less exposed to the league's brand.
Robust product integrations like the branded "Fortnite" skins are becoming more popular among marketers as services and platforms that are largely ad-free become bigger destinations for consumers and trends like cord-cutting continue to accelerate.