Bacardi and Coke! Real-Life Brands Are Starting to Partner with Virtual Worlds (Again): Could This Be the Start of a New Trend?

There was a time, back in the day (ohhh, let’s say, May of 2006) when a Second Life avatar named Anshe Chung graced the cover of Businessweek magazine, which told the story of how she became the first online personality to achieve a net worth exceeding one million US dollars from profits entirely earned inside a virtual world.

It can be argued that this Businessweek article, and the resulting media attention it caused, was the spark that ignited a period of explosive population growth in Second Life, as people realized that they, too, could earn money on Second Life, and they began joining the platform in ever-increasing numbers.

In particular, between late 2006 and early 2007, dozens of real-life companies and brands decided to set up shop in Second Life: Dell, Toyota, Nissan, Sun Microsystems, IBM, even American Apparel and Playboy. Unfortunately, this corporate heyday did not last long. By the end of 2008, most real-world corporations were pulling out, not seeing the benefit (i.e. profit) in running operations on a virtual world, especially during a somewhat brutal recession.

And, for a long time, burned by their initial enthusiastic foray into Second Life, most real-world brands pretty much steered clear of virtual worlds, leaving them to the mom-and-pop stores, the individual content creators who were able to make a go of it.


Well, I am starting to notice the beginnings of a new trend lately: real-life brands are starting to enter into partnerships with social VR and virtual worlds once again. Is this the start of a new trend in marketing?

Two different news items, about two completely different types of partnerships, crossed my desk yesterday, one for Bacardi rum and the other for Coca-Cola, which tickled my fancy and made me laugh (hence the clever title of this blogpost!). Both are instructive examples of how such corporate partnerships have evolved and changed since the Anshe Chung summer of 2006 in Second Life.

Barcardi and Sansar: The Casa Bacardi Virtual Island Festival

First up is a partnership between Bacardi and Sansar, a virtual festival to be held on August 20th, 2021, to promote Bacardi products. According to the event description:

Teleport to your virtual island of Casa Bacardi

Bring home some Caribbean vibes and get grooving to your favourite beats at a music experience like never before.

Casa Bacardi is a whole new virtual world on Sansar, with an epic stage for your favourite artists to perform on, games to play with your friends, hang out with them, play cocktail games and meet new people. Enjoy all of this and more from the comfort of your home along with your favourite Bacardi Cocktails.

You can even design your own look and express yourselves through your avatar before you land on Casa Bacardi Island. Festival fashion doesn’t go away, you know?

Find liberation from the real world on a virtual Caribbean island. Teleport to Casa Bacardi this Rum Month!

Performers at this event include a mix of afrobeat, hip hop, electronica and dance music artists:

  • Tesher
  • Divine and the Gully Gang
  • MC Altaf
  • Tsumyoki with Kidd Mange
  • Natasha Diggs
  • Gauriwho

Tickets are quite inexpensive, only US$1.99 for a concert pass, and US$2.99 for a concert pass plus a limited after-party event (you can pay via credit card or PayPal).

Coca-Cola, Tafi and Decentraland: The Friendship Box NFT

In a piece of news which I somehow missed, Coca-Cola entered the ultra-trendy NFT space with a limited-edition auction, partnering with the Tafi avatar creation system and the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland (NFT, of course, stands for Non-Fungible Tokens, the concept that blockchain-based property is a unique, distinguishable, indivisible blockchain-based asset which has some sort of monetary value, usually denoted in a cryptocurrency like ETH/Ethereum).

Coca-Cola is not the first big brand name to jump into Decentraland, of course; not too long ago I wrote about how Sotheby’s set up shop. It would appear that the current unabated frenzy over blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs is bringing together some rather unlikely bedfellows!

According to the official announcement by Tafi:

Tafi announced today that it has partnered with Coca-Cola® by designing virtual wearables for Coca-Cola’s first-ever non-fungible token (NFT) collectibles offering in the “metaverse” to celebrate International Friendship Day on July 30th, Coca-Cola will be auctioning an NFT loot box on OpenSea, that contains Tafi-designed digital apparel that can be worn forever in the virtual world of Decentraland.

Tafi, a leading designer of avatars and digital wearables, is a digital strategy and development partner with Coca-Cola. Tafi worked alongside Coca-Cola to produce the NFTs, as well as Virtue, the agency by Vice, who developed the initial concept. Details of Tafi’s involvement in Coca-Cola’s NFT Lootbox can be found at https://maketafi.com/coca-cola-nft.

Coca-Cola collaborated with designers at Tafi on all the NFTs including the branded wearable apparel. Auction-goers can bid on the Coca-Cola Friendship Box, a reimagined version of Coca-Cola’s highly collectible vending machine, itself an NFT, and once opened there will be three one-of-a-kind digital assets to own: 

• A custom Coca-Cola Bubble Jacket Wearable – a futuristic jacket – is illuminated with effervescent fizz, purposely designed with subtle nods to Coke’s nostalgic delivery uniforms. It also will include an unlockable version that can be worn in the Decentraland 3D virtual reality platform. Inspired by metaverse trends and utility, the jacket features the Coca-Cola color palette, fusing the metallic red of the aluminum can and caramel brown of the delicious drink. 

The Sound Visualizer captures the experience of sharing a Coca-Cola using instantly recognizable audio cues: the pop of a bottle opening, the sound of a beverage being poured over ice, the unmistakable fizz and that first refreshing taste.

The Friendship Card reimagines the design of Coca-Cola’s famous friendship-inspired trading cards from the 1940s for the digital world. The cards bear the “Symbol of Friendship” moniker.

The first ever Coca-Cola NFT (image source)

This one-of-a-kind loot box contained some ultra-exclusive items, including a puffy jacket which can be worn by Decentraland avatars, and it sold for a whopping 217 ETH (which works out to about half a million U.S. dollars)!

Now I can tell you one thing for damn sure: no matter how luxurious and glossy that Coca-Cola puffed jacket may look on the OpenSea marketplace (and you can check out the fancy animations here), it is not going to look anywhere near as good when your avatar wears it around Decentraland! The current state of graphics in Decentraland looks like this, in case you needed a reality check:

The current state of avatar fashion in Decentraland: your glossy, expensive Coca-Cola jacket is not going to anything like what you see on the OpenSea marketplace.

Perhaps I am not the best person to explain all this, because frankly I am still mystified as to why people would want to spend outrageous sums of money on NFTs, except perhaps for bragging rights. However, it is clear that blockchain, crypto, and NFTs are not going away anytime soon (although they will not doubt continue to fluctuate wildly in value). I just report on what I see, safely from the sidelines.

And I repeat my usual warning: do EVERY. SINGLE. SCRAP. of your homework before investing a penny in any blockchain/cryptocurrency project.


Are we seeing a renaissance in such partnerships between real-world brands and social VR platforms and virtual worlds? Who knows. But it is fascinating to watch!

Decentraland Introduces a Wearables Editor: Creating and Selling Avatar Fashion on the Blockchain

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 500 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the companies building it. Come join us! More details here.


If Second Life has taught us nothing else during the 18 years of its existence, it is this: that people are willing to invest considerable amounts of time and money on avatar customization. In some worlds like VRChat, the customization applies to the entire avatar; in others, like Sinespace, Second Life and Sansar, you can have dressable, human(oid) avatars, where you can mix and match clothing you purchase from content creators to make your own signature look. (In fact, at one time I had aspirations to teach myself Marvelous Designer and become an avatar fashion designer in Sansar…you can read through all the blogposts of that particular saga here.)

The blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland has followed the latter path of Sansar and Second Life (i.e. dressable human avatars), and early this month, they have taken another step on that journey by releasing the Decentraland Wearables Editor. Here’s a quick promotional video:

Now, unlike Sansar and Second Life, creating and selling avatar clothing is different in a blockchain-based virtual world like Decentraland. Every single copy of every single article of clothing has to be minted as a unique NFT (non-fungible token). In other words, the designer decides ahead of time how many copies he or she wants to sell. All clothing is limited edition!

The Decentraland Wearables Editor allows you to name items, model wearables on an avatar, assign categories and item rarity, and set a price for each item in your collections. After that, according to the official blogpost:

Once you’re happy with the details, you can publish your item or collection which then goes to the Curation Committee for approval.

The Curation Committee was voted in place by the DAO, and exists to prevent buggy or offensive wearables from appearing in Decentraland.

Read more about the committee and the approvals process in the documentation.

While there is no gas cost for minting wearables on Polygon, there are fees for publishing wearable items in the Editor. These fees are intended to discourage and reduce wearable “spam”, which can have a negative impact on the performance of the Decentraland Platform.

Again, this is another key difference between Second Life and Decentraland: everything you create for the latter has to go through an approvals process. Since this is a new process, it is impossible to say how much of a potential bottleneck this could create. (By the way, the Decentraland DAO is an autonomous body which owns the most important smart contracts and assets that make up Decentraland—the LAND Contract, the Estates Contract, Wearables, Content Servers and the Marketplace—and subsidizes various operations and initiatives throughout Decentraland.)

So, as you can see, blockchain throws an interesting curveball at the world of avatar fashion design! If all this intrigues you, you can learn more from the Decentraland documentation on wearables. You can follow Decentraland via Twitter and Reddit, or via their blogYou can also join their official Discord server.

Sotheby’s Sets Up Shop in Decentraland

The current boom in NFT art has led to new partnerships between bricks-and-mortar art galleries and brokers and blockchain-based platforms, such as Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space, where such art can easily be displayed and admired.

Venerable art auction house Sotheby’s has just announced via Twitter that they have set up a digital replica of its London galleries in the blockchain-based virtual world of Decentraland, as part of Natively Digital, an inaugural curated sale of Non-Fungible Token (NFT) artworks (along with a discussion room on Clubhouse today):

Artnet News reports (this site is paywalled so use the incognito mode of your web browser to see this article):

Sotheby’s virtual gallery is a twin of its New Bond Street outpost, complete with five ground-level galleries—but instead of London’s tony Mayfair enclave, it is located in Decentraland’s prime art hub, known as the Voltaire Art District (map coordinates: 52,83).

A virtual version of Sotheby’s avuncular London commissionaire Hans Lomulder…welcomes visitors at the gallery entrance, top hat and all. 

The Observer website reports:

The NFTs that will be for sale include both the work of early, pioneering crypto artists in the field and more recent blockbuster stars; some of the names represented in the sale are Rhea Myers, Lethabo Huma, and Larva Labs. Recently, Christie’s scored a huge win with the $16.9 million sale of 9 Cryptopunks NFTs manufactured by Larva Labs, so that listing in particular is likely to score comparable dividends for Sotheby’s.

The rare face-masked alien CryptoPunk in Gallery 1 has a starting bid of US$480,000! Obviously, this is art that lies way, waaay outside my payscale!

If you want to visit the virtual Sotheby’s in Decentraland, read my step-by-step guide on how to get started, then type /goto 52,83 into chat (note that you should also be able to visit Decentraland as a guest, without setting up an account). Enjoy the art!

Decentraland Has Redesigned Its Genesis Plaza to Provide a Better Experience for Newcomers

If you haven’t paid a visit recently to the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland, you might be surprised by what you see. Here’s a shot of the ConsenSys headquarters shared via Twitter, which at first glance I mistook as a picture taken from Second Life! It’s clear that the first generation of blocky builds has evolved towards more realistic-looking trees and buildings.

And, in a move to become more welcoming to newcomers, Decentraland has completely redesigned its central Genesis Plaza, where new users spawn. According to a blogpost on the official Decentraland blog:

At the heart of Decentraland, Genesis Plaza was always meant to be an experience that welcomed users to the metaverse, providing a stepping off point for the rest of the virtual world.

The Decentraland Foundation development team has been steadily making improvements to the Plaza to ensure that when users arrive in Decentraland they know where they are, where they can go and what they can do.

When you first spawn in-world (or if you type in /goto 0,0), you are deposited in a cloud platform with three large boards and a whirlpool with a diving board:

This platform is the lobby. Here you’re presented with three main information boards showing you classic games to play, upcoming and live events which you can jump straight into, and a list of locations where other users are currently hanging out:

If nothing on the boards appeals to you, you can leap into the whirlpool, and fall through to a comfortable lounge on the ground level:

A multitasking octopus bartender NPC engages you in a conversation to help you get your bearings, answering your questions:

The goal here is clear: to help orient new users, and get them exploring the grid. Here’s a recent YouTube video (7 minutes) showing you how the boards in the new plaza work, plus a better look around the ground level lounge: