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What can an NBA star teach us about NFTs? How did Under Armour sell nearly three-thousand of them at three-hundred-and-thirty-three dollars each, simply by celebrating three pointers? If I wear my expensive new basketball trainer NFTs in the metaverse but no-one’s there to see them, do they still count as a status symbol? And what the slam dunk does any of this have to do with those of us who still live in the real world? This is Zonal Marketing.

In this episode, I break down a recent campaign from Under Armour that involved NFTs, cryptocurrency, web3 and a whole load of other tech terms that are particularly buzzy right now.

I’ll be explaining how one particularly hot Curry, helped create some particularly hot property, without actually creating anything at all.

And finally, I’ll be explaining how you can apply the lessons taken from the campaign as a whole to marketing your own company, whether or not you know your etherium from your elbow.


First of all, we need to clear up some definitions. I don’t want to leave anyone behind and all of the following will be referenced throughout this piece.

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Tokens; essentially these are digital assets – usually in the form of jpegs that can be bought and sold using…

(Second term we need to define) Cryptocurrency. You’re probably familiar with this but ‘Crypto’ (as cooler people than me call it) is a form of digital-only currency. The most famous examples are Bitcoin and Etherium. And Crypotcurrency is built on a platform called…

(Third term we need to define) Blockchain. This is a database that essentially secures the whole thing. So, how do I make sure that the cryptocurrency I own belongs to me? Blockchain. How do I know that, once I’ve spent my cryptocurrency on my NFT, that it belongs to me? Blockchain.

Finally, we need to mention the metaverse. You will probably be familiar with this because of Facebook nailing its colours to the figurative meta-mast. Essentially, the metaverse is an alternate reality – a sort of advanced video game which continues to be played by other people even when you’re not on it. You have your own avatar in the metaverse – a digital representation of you – and because you use a Virtual Reality headset to access it, the idea is that the experience is more immersive, more realistic and therefore the closest thing we have to an experience that COULD replace real-life, face-to-face experiences in the future. If that’s your thing.

The metaverse is sometimes referred to as web3 as Meta optimists believe it will be the third wave of the internet – with wave 1 being static sites built by established companies, and wave 2 being the age of social media sites and no code development opening the internet up to small businesses and individuals. Web3 – so some think – will be as fundamental a change to the way we use the internet as the first two waves. Which, if you believe it, is quite a statement.

Clear as mud? Good. For those of you who remain, let’s look at how one brand brought all of the above together as part of a marketing campaign.



In December 2021, Steph Curry broke the record for lifetime three-point shots in basketball. The Golden State Warriors player notched his two-thousand-nine-hundred-and-seventy-fourth three-pointer.

And to celebrate, his trainer sponsor – Under Armour – launched an NFT.

Specifically, the NFT took the form of two-thousand-nine-hundred-and-seventy-four digital pairs of shoes that could be purchased by fans and worn by their avatars in the metaverse.

Each NFT cost three-hundred-and-thirty-three dollars, meaning Under Armour was able to generate nearly a million in revenue from the initiative – money the brand donated to sports-related charities, by the way.

So how did Under Armour ensure this campaign was such a slam dunk? After all, they’re not the first to do it – two of the brand’s competitors Nike and Adidas already had NFT projects under way. Yet more brands from outside the sports industry are launching initiatives that are ill-conceived, seem to have no relationship to the companies themselves and are, surprise surprise, failing to launch. 

First of all, they spotted an Opportunity. That opportunity was a moment in time that they were able to predict with some degree of accuracy and, therefore, prepare for. When the moment came, they were ready. They had the infrastructure in place, the marketing plan ready to go and feed off the natural newsworthiness that the moment would generate organically. For more on how to spot an opportunity, check out my last essay on How to Pick Your Moments.

Secondly, they harnessed the power of scarcity and social proof. The scarcity of only having a limited number of NFTs available upped the FOMO. As Robert Cialdini – co-author of ‘Yes! 50 Secrets From the Science of Persuasion’ – says; “Our typical reaction to scarcity hinders our ability to think. The feeling of being in competition for scarce resources has powerfully motivating properties.”

Meanwhile the buzz this FOMO generated – alongside the association with one of the biggest NBA stars in the world, of course – provided all the social proof needed to reassure customers that this was an initiative worth (literally) buying into. For more on making the most of Scarcity and Social Proof, I recommend my essay on Gegenpressing marketing.

But “OK”, I hear you say. “It’s all well and good doing something like this when you have the budgets of Under Armour and the backing of a sports phenomenon. How does this work for the rest of us?”

Great question. Thanks for asking. In the next section, I’m going to talk about what we can take from this example and apply to our own marketing whether what you want to sell is real trainers, digital versions or even pixelated gorilla faces.



Here’s the thing. While all of the jargon and tech involved may make this story feel completely unrelatable to most brands, in many respects, the tactics on show are no different to those that have existed for decades and decades.

Luxury brands have forever charged huge amounts of money for their goods (and had no problem convincing rich people to buy them, by the way) through limiting their availability. Traditionally, such limitations were justified by billing the products as hand-crafted or of a particularly high quality. And the social proof came from being ‘in the know’. If you were able to tell a Patek Philippe from a Rolex then you were in the club. And if you were in the club, you should really own a status symbol that shows the rest of the world how bloody clever – and rich – you are.

Then Supreme came along, making skate wear. Admittedly, high quality skate wear but skate wear none-the-less. Founder, James Jebbia justified his decision to limit stock on the basis that he simply couldn’t afford to have a line fail. He literally needed to sell out of everything – so he tells us – in the early days to make a profit. Of course, the social proof that later came through endless collaborations with The North Face, Nike and Louis Vuitton as well as celebrity endorsements from the likes of Kanye West, Victoria Beckham, Drake and Lady Gaga probably helped cash flow somewhat. Nowadays, Supreme sell otherwise plain white T-shirts with their logo emblazoned on the chest for four-hundred dollars. Except that they don’t because they’re almost always sold out.

And when it comes to spotting a great brand opportunity off the back of a sporting event, look at an example like Oreo posting their now uber-famous “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl black-out. This is a company that was not an official NFL sponsor, that didn’t pay millions to advertise during half-time. And yet, having put in the hard yards, building a social following over many years around a commitment to a clear brand archetype, tone of voice and visual identity, all it took was one brilliantly-timed, super on brand post and, lo and behold the tweet went viral, the brand’s tribe grew exponentially and – I would posit – it was Oreo, not the Baltimore Ravens, that won the Super Bowl that year. For more on brand identity, check out my essay on How Not to Be Boring.



For more on the topics mentioned in this essay, I recommend checking out my core Zonal Marketing playlist on which I take you through the process of building a considered, consistent and compelling marketing mix from scratch, taking my lead from the world of sports tactics.

If you’d prefer more of the human touch – doubtful, given that you’re watching a video about the metaverse – you can ask me to talk through these ideas with you and your team one-to-one. I’m available for speaking gigs, training sessions and client work and to find out about any of that, please contact me using the form below. 

Check back here every week for a new episode, each one explaining another part of my tactical approach to marketing through a sporting lens.



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