US-based sports apparel giant NIKE has purchased RTFKT Studios, a non-fungible token (NFT) apparel and footwear start-up, for an undisclosed sum.

Founded by Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le and Steven Vasilev, RTFKT is known for creating virtual sneaker designs, memes and collectable exclusives inspired by video games.

An NFT is a digital asset that can represent both tangible and intangible items and exists on a blockchain.

Nike president and CEO John Donahoe said: “This acquisition is another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture.

“We’re acquiring a very talented team of creators with an authentic and connected brand.

“Our plan is to invest in the RTFKT brand, serve and grow their innovative and creative community and extend Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities.”

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The deal comes after RTFKT raised $8m in a seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz in May, which valued the start-up at $33.3m.

RTFKT co-founder Benoit Pagotto said: “This is a unique opportunity to build the RTFKT brand and we are excited to benefit from Nike’s foundational strength and expertise to build the communities we love.

“Nike is the only brand in the world that shares the deep passion we all have for innovation, creativity and community, and we’re excited to grow our brand, which was fully formed in the metaverse.”

In February, RTFKT collaborated with teenage artist FEWOCiOUS to sell 600 pairs of NFTs, valued at more than $3.1m, within six minutes.

The company has also collaborated with other crypto creators, including CryptoPunks and Bored Apes, to design items that use imagery in other NFT projects.

In September, Nike reported a 16% increase in revenue to $12.2bn for the first quarter of the fiscal year 2022 (FY22).