From Polo to Pixels: Case Study on Lacoste's Web Strategy
The definitive case study on how Lacoste is reinventing its brand with Web3, including key learnings for brand leaders.
In the annals of fashion and sportswear, few names resonate with the legacy and innovation synonymous with Lacoste. The brand remained relevant for nearly a century by keeping their fingers on the pulse of modern sports culture.
With UNDW3, Lacoste made one of the boldest and most thorough entries into Web3, reinventing the brand and setting a standard for community-led branding for consumer brands.
Today, we’re going to untangle Lacoste’s Web3 strategy and look at:
The Lacoste Brand
Lacoste’s Web3 journey
Bottom line & What’s Next
Take-Aways For Brand Leaders
Ready? Let’s jump in.
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Lacoste: Timeless Elegance🐊
Who’s Lacoste? A globally recognized French fashion brand known for its iconic crocodile logo and sportswear.
Its essence centers around its heritage in sports elegance, most notably tennis. And that isn’t a coincidence. René Lacoste, the French tennis champion with nearly a dozen Grand Slam titles, founded the company in 1933.
His nickname, "The Crocodile,"1 became the brand's iconic emblem, as his friend and stylist Robert George began sewing a crocodile onto the white jackets Lacoste would wear to his tennis matches. Lacoste hated playing in long sleeves so invented the polo shirts the brand is now famous for, embodying a blend of sportiness and casual chic.2
“Inventor! If I had to put a profession on my business card, that is what I would write. I have invented my whole life.” — René Lacoste
Over its almost 100-year history, Lacoste has never been about being the first or the most flashy; but about understanding their brand's strengths and moving forward in a way that is authentic and strategically sound.
For example: Lacoste’s logo, while uniquely distinct, has virtually remained unchained for the past 40 years, while competing in a market that’s flushed with shiny new trends and new competitors.
That’s pretty cool right? This serenity made Lacoste a symbol of quality and timeless, smart casual style, upholding its founding principles: quality, understated elegance, and a belief that life is a beautiful sport.
Over its history, it has maintained its association with tennis while expanding into golf and sailing, reinforcing its image as a brand for sports enthusiasts who value sophistication and comfort.
Key historical periods include:
Foundation and Innovation (1933-1950s): Launch of the classic Lacoste polo shirt, featuring a unique petit piqué fabric and the now-iconic green crocodile logo. This was a revolutionary design for tennis apparel that emphasized comfort and functionality, setting a new standard in sports fashion.
Global Expansion and Product Diversification (1960s-1980s): Expansion into global markets and broadening of product range to include fragrances, sunglasses, and footwear, transforming Lacoste into a comprehensive lifestyle brand. This included the launch of Lacoste's first fragrance, "Eau de Sport," in 1967, and the introduction of the iconic Lacoste 101 sunglasses in 1980.
Brand Reinforcement and Heritage Emphasis (1990s-2000s): Strengthening of brand identity through campaigns that highlighted Lacoste's rich heritage, e.g. by signing Andy Roddick as a brand ambassador in 2005 and the establishment of the Lacoste Foundation in 2006, focusing on youth empowerment through sports and education. They would later sign Novak Djokovic as a brand ambassador as well.
Digital Transformation and Modernization (2010s-Present): Integration of digital innovations such the "LCST Lacoste AR app" in 2014, which allowed users to virtually try on shoes using augmented reality, and the integration of omnichannel services, like "click-and-collect”. This enhanced the customer's retail experience both online and in-store and ensured Lacoste's relevance in the increasingly digital consumer landscape.
Sustainability and Future-Forward (2020s-Present): Introduction of eco-friendly practices, such as the launch of the LOOP polo made from recycled materials and the adoption of organic cotton, aligning the brand with contemporary sustainability trends.
Today, Lacoste still is an ‘accessible luxury brand’, symbolizing “elegance, authenticity, and the union between style and sporting performance.”
“Without elegance, playing and winning are not enough.” — René Lacoste
In recent years, Lacoste has experienced significant growth. In 2023, the brand surpassed the €2.5 billion mark in turnover, which is double the amount from the mid-2010s, and is present in 98 countries with 1,100 monobrand stores.
This aligns with the growing athleisure market, valued at $358 billion and projected to expand annually by 9.3% through 2030. The popularity of Pickleball helped grow sales in tennis apparel and footwear by 15% from June 2022 to 2023, mirroring broader trends where athleisure orders soared by 84% post-pandemic, and the intersection of luxury and activewear gained traction.3
The brand adeptly capitalizes on these dynamics, navigating a market where luxury represents a significant share of new store openings and where the demand for "Smart Clothing" is poised to grow at 25% through 2025.
Speaking to Next-gen Consumers: Disney, Highsnobiety and Minecraft
Lacoste didn’t strike us as particularly forward-thinking in speaking to next-gen consumers. During the 2010s, the brand faced challenges in maintaining relevance among younger audiences. Thierry Guibert, CEO since 2015, said that “Lacoste was, some years ago, considered an old-fashioned brand, like your father wore Lacoste”.
A a few things stand out:
Social media: On Instagram, for example, Lacoste has less followers (7.5M) than competitors like Boss (11.9M), Tommy Hilfiger (14.7M) or Ralph Lauren (15.4M), but they consistently have more engagement than Boss and Hilfiger. On Instagram, Lacoste partners with micro influencers and celebrities, such as Patricia Henson, Tumcial, footballer Mich Batshuayi, or French singer Janie, to increase engagement. On TikTok, the brand has comparatively less engagement.4
Brand collaborations: Lacoste's partnered with forward thinking brands like Disney, Highsnobiety, Minecraft, Netflix, and SMILEY, strategically refresh its classic image, blending it with beloved characters, modern luxury, and playful vibes.
Just this week, Highsnobiety’s released a limited edition capsule collection that “combines tennis class, French fashion’s je ne sais quoi, and left-field luxury”.
In 2023, Lacoste partnered with Netflix on a genderless collection featuring "Stranger Things," "Bridgerton" and more.
In 2022, Lacoste collaborated with Minecraft to create a gaming-inspired clothing collection.
Focus on community: Jason Kim, Sr. VP of Marketing for Lacoste U.S.A., said, “As we emerge out of the pandemic, consumers are looking for connectivity and community. I believe we’ll see more of a demand for physical interaction or experiences and cravings for in-person energy.”
New tech: In November 2022, Lacoste launched its first-ever Augmented Reality (AR) Out-Of-Home (OOH) activation as part of its Lacoste Superheroes campaign. This campaign included a full funnel activation of social media, online video, influencer marketing, and retail Point Of Sale (POS), aiming to bring the campaign to life and cut through the noise. @jacy check for plagiarism
Maybe — just maybe — Web3 presented the ideal opportunity for Lacoste to fully shed its traditional, classic brand image and reestablish itself at the forefront of consumer engagement.
Lacoste defines itself as a brand that unites people “across cultures and generations”. Its Web3 activation, Undw3 (pronounced ‘underwater’), launched in 2022, would become the perfect tool to take this brand ethos to the next level.
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Lacoste’s Web3 Journey
Lacoste’s Web3 entry was one of the boldest activations among consumer brands. As you’ll see, the brand didn’t treat this as an isolated, one-off activation, but saw it as an opportunity to transform the way Lacoste connects with its consumers.
Timeline of key events:
March 2022: Lacoste enters gaming by partnering with Minecraft for a virtual experience together with an IRL activation in Paris.
June 2022: Lacoste launched their UNDW3 project, which marked the beginning of their Web3 journey. Called ‘Genesis Pass’, 11,212 NFTs sold out in eight hours to more than 8,000 unique collectors. Each NFT in the collection minted for 0.08 ETH, or about $95 at the time. By owning the NFTs, users were able to access limited-edition merchandise and IRL community events and became part of the “Lacoste DAO” – the core members that would shape UNDW3 going forward.
October 2022: Lacoste unveiled 'The Emerge', an avatar collection co-created with its UNDW3 community on Discord. The collection was a set of unique avatars for the UNDW3 community.
June 2023: Lacoste evolved its Web3 loyalty program with the launch of the UNDW3 card, the start of its dynamic loyalty experience. Genesis Pass holders could convert their NFTs into an UNDW3 card to gain access to “The Mission”, which includes "creative sessions, contests, video games and interactive conversations". Users are rewarded for activity, accumulating points which earns them a spot on the leaderboard and "adds rarity" to their member NFT. This was the start for UNDW3 for co-creation, co-ownership, and rewards for participation.5
June 2023: Lacoste offered an exclusive experience to 50 NFT holders, inviting them to enjoy the Roland-Garros tennis tournament from the prestigious Lacoste Skybox.
July 2023: Lacoste opened a new virtual store for the summer, offering UNDW3 NFT holders exclusive access to a VIP space with limited collections collaboratively created with the UNDW3 community in March 2023. Each piece comes with a physical counterpart, a digital twin, and an AR feature activated by a QR code. The VIP room also contains a treasure hunt, rewarding engaged community members with special weekly prizes.
September 2023: Lacoste introduces the Factory Drop collection collectively co-created with and only available to the UNDW3 community. Together with the Lacoste creative team, members exchanged ideas live on Discord for over a month. With more than 5,000 co-created pieces, the collection is also a digital experience. Each piece is accompanied by a Digital Pass that authenticates it and provides all product information.
November 2024: Lacoste launches a virtual game in The Sandbox. For a limited time, UNDW3 Card holders were able to win a prize of 100,000 $SAND – the virtual currency used in the game (approx $47,000).
Overview of activations
Launched June 14, 2022, mint price .08E
As of 28.1.2024: 3,813E Volume. .015E FP. 59% unique owners
11,212 NFTs that reference their original iconic L1212 polo shirt.
Launched Sept. 2022, airdropped to UNDW3 Card holders
As of 28.1.2024: 11,212 NFTs, 520E Volume. .0144 FP. 58% unique owners
Idea was to bring identity + a sense of identity for holders.
1st Season June - December 2023
Engage to Unlock: An interactive experience involving solving quests, moving up the leaderboard, and unlocking perks.
People are rewarded for: Discord activity, raffles, daily missions / quests, digital & physical participation in events,
Objective: To evolve The Mission by maximizing community feedback. Goal is to co-build the brand of tomorrow with their web3 community.
IRL activations & stores:
Factory drop collection (phygitals) co-created with the community
Various community events in its Flagship store in Paris and at the Miami Open and Roland Garros.
Tools & Tech Partners
In this chapter we’ll do a strategic, a quantitative assessment and a snapshot of community strength.
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Strategy: What Stands Out
Lacoste’s accomplished one of the comprehensive activations among consumer brands. It’s extremely “on-brand”, has powerful storytelling, a strong community-ethos, strikes a good balance of attracting Web3 natives and “normal” Lacoste fans, and connects multiple channels at once.
Here are 5 remarkable things about Lacoste’s activation:
Gamification & dynamic loyalty
Integration into main brand
1. Staged Introduction
Lacoste began with a basic NFT drop but didn't stop there. The brand had a clear vision but chose to start small, focusing on growing the program alongside its community.
Introducing the extended community experience, "The Mission," after establishing the basics was a sound decision, as it left them time to experiment and learn.
With the introduction of “The Mission”, Lacoste transformed UNDW3 into a blueprint for the future of brand engagement. It mixed powerful storytelling with community co-creation and gamification. A few elements contribute to this:
Its program structure (Mission, Season, Chapters) tied to core elements of the brand.
The leaderboard which logs points automatically on-chain, making member passes rise in financial value.
Measuring community activity across all channels, both digital and “off-chain” in-person events, including quests, online games, Discord, joining AMAs, riddles, and more.
Similar to Fiat’s “Fiat Pass”, UNDW3 card is a living record of a holder’s active engagement with the brand.7 By earning points, the graphics of the NFT evolve, providing a visual representation of their contribution to the community.
From the beginning, Lacoste built UNDW3 with a community-first approach. Unlike other brands, who focused on building up dedicated social media accounts (mostly on X), Lacoste focused on Discord from the beginning. It boasts almost 50,000 members by now (very high compared to other brands) and is very active.
By establishing the Lacoste DAO with initial Genesis pass holders and later adding gamified, co-creation experiences, Lacoste uses its community as a creative force and inspiration for developing the brand.
According to Lacoste, customers love it: Among top customers, 95% desire to co-create, peek behind the scenes, and engage directly with the brand.
4. Multi-platform presence
The last thing Lacoste did exceptionally well was tying various activations across different platforms (immersive commerce, AR experiences, NFTs and IRL events) back to its core community, the UNDW3 Card holders.
While Lacoste’s virtual store is accessible to a wider audience, UNDW3 Pass holders can unlock special perks.
In its virtual game on The Sandbox, UNDW3 Pass holders had the opportunity to win a special prize.
5. Integration into main brand
UNDW3 is promoted on both their main website and social channels. This stands out compared to other consumer brands who still keep their Web3 activations separate from their main consumer base.
Again, this shows Lacoste's commitment to make this an integral part of their brand loyalty strategy.
Methodology: For TVC, we look at all Ethereum holdings of these communities
(1) what they hold in the collection,
(2) what other NFTs they hold, and
(3) what liquid ETH they hold in their wallets. All NFT values are based on floor price.
The wallets hold a lot of money!
Good liquidity levels, meaning plenty of dry powder for Lacoste for future mints/collabs with partners.
Lacoste has some biggies in the community (6 wallets north of $1M in holdings, 103 with $100k+) but also good depth, with over 2,500 with at least $2,000 in holdings
Lacoste holders are active across a diverse array of communities, holding over 306,000 NFTs across over 4,700 other collections
Looking at the personas of the holders in these communities reveals a nice loyal following for Lacoste relative to other collections:
This indicates that Lacoste was very intentional not to encourage “degens”8 to come in and buy up all the tokens, but rather to design the program for loyal community members who were fans of the brand.
Definitions of personas: Holder: buys at mint, never sells; Believer: buys at mint, continues to accumulate; Flipper: buys and sells < 6 days after mint; Trader: buys and sells frequently; Stack and Seller: buys many at once, gradually sells
Let’s also take look at the brand affinity of Lacoste collectors:
Again, shoutout to Web3Sense for providing this data.
Assessing financial performance is always tricky for two reasons:
We all know that Web3 activation — at some point — needs to generate revenues, either directly or indirectly.
Direct revenues can easily be measured on-chain by looking at royalty fees; indirect revenues not so much.
Royalty fees aren’t the best source of revenue.
Lacoste generated around $135,000 royalty revenues with their UNDW3 Card collection, and an additional $10,000 from The Emerge collection.
We know, however, that Lacoste’s primary KPI wasn’t revenue, but community activity and establishing a deeper connection between customers and the brand.
Why community? As reported in the Future of Loyalty report, community:
builds a competitive moat that’s hard to replicate.
builds better brands due to fostering fans and advocates.
builds better products and services due to tighter feedback loops.
is good for business due to higher retention.
Lacoste scores exceptionally high in community strengths (Gucci: X, Nike: ). Standouts are their loyalty experience, the active participation of members, and the distinctive crocodile trademark.
Bottom Line & What’s Next
With UNDW3, Lacoste has done an outstanding job in revitalizing its legacy brand and laying a blueprint on how future brand engagement could look like.
It aims to craft a "new playground" with UNDW3, co-creating the future of the brand alongside its customers. This commitment is evident in how Lacoste integrates its Web3 activities into its main website and social platforms, setting it apart from its peers and underscoring its long-term vision.
In a press release, Lacoste stated, “We firmly believe that the future of brand loyalty extends far beyond transactional interactions. The UNDW3 card celebrates a broader spectrum of brand engagement, encompassing creativity, conversation, and gaming.”
According to Benjamin Blamoutier, VP Global Brand and Customer Experience, Lacoste aims to integrate and scale UNDW3 into its existing loyalty program. This will help them balance transactional loyalty with the social, experiential layer of UNDW3. Eventually, it gives customers more expression within the brand.
Compared to brands like Gucci, Nike, or Adidas, Lacoste has had fewer collaborations with other communities, brands or artists. The best brands are inherently cultural. They successfully tap into subcultures or build their own culture. Collaborations are an effective and low.risk way of enhancing that. grow This is likely something Lacoste will focus more on going forward.
Take-Aways for Brand Leaders
“If branding were a tree, the trunk is something we can’t negotiate with. That’s our core brand and business. But in order to innovate and be bold, we can create new visual playgrounds and storytelling with the branches. “
How do you do that? Here are two starting points:
Root Web3 initiatives in your brand essence: Connect loyalty initiatives with the brand's core (e.g. Tennis), like UNDW3 missions on the brands’ heritage, IRL community events at Grand Slams or the current promotion offering autographed gifts from team players Djokovic, Medvedev, and Dimitrov, deepening the bond with tennis heritage.
Build a balanced team that involves the whole organization: Ensure a balanced and interdisciplinary team by collaborating with the right tech partners and involving all relevant internal departments (legal, marketing, creative). Treat the initiative as a company-wide innovation vertical rather than a standalone marketing effort.
All in all, Lacoste's approach stays true to its essence of being "universal and accessible," while bringing its loyal customers closer to the brand's unique identity rooted in tennis. This strategy mirrors Starbucks Odyssey's focus on immersing fans in the core of coffee culture.
For Lacoste, this isn’t about being the first or the most flashy in the digital space; It's about understanding the brand's place in it and moving forward in a way that is authentic and strategically sound. Lacoste isn’t abandoning its heritage but enriching it.
Or in the words of René Lacoste:
Without elegance, playing and winning are not enough.
That’s all for now, folks.
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He earned the nickname ‘the crocodile’ after making a bet with his captain that if he won his next match, he’d buy him a crocodile leather suitcase. Lacoste lost the bet, but his tenacity & dedication earned him the nickname to match.
René Lacoste also invented the tennis ball machine, and the first steel tennis racket. He also filed 20 new patents after retiring from the sport.
Growth of the US athleasure market:
On TikTok, Lacoste has 643k (3.1M likes), Boss 2.3M (34.7M likes), Tommy Hilfiger 580K (5.8M likes), and Ralph Lauren 664K (3.2M likes) followers.
Engage actively within the Discord community
Solve quests and quizzes
Attend IRL and virtual community events: AMAs, physical meetups, and so on
Contribute to the Factory though creation and vote
The first season was scheduled to run from June to December 2023. During this season, users could complete missions, divided into chapters. Each completed mission allows users to earn points, that contribute to the overall ranking. At the end of each chapter, users are able to collect a badge. Once the chapters are completed, the missions and overall ranking will be concluded, and the top 200 most engaged users will receive rewards. All participants can display their score directly on their NFTs during the season and upgrade their NFT at the end of the season.
Engagement is also reflected by sustained trading activity for the UNDW3 Pass
"Degen" is a slang term derived from "degenerate." It typically refers to someone who engages in high-risk, speculative trading practices, often in the cryptocurrency and DeFi (Decentralized Finance) spaces.