Degree boosts inclusivity in metaverse with virtual marathon

    • Degree Deodorant is partnering Decentraland, rapper Fat Joe and paralympic athlete Blake Leeper to host the Degree Metathon, which it claims is the first marathon in the metaverse, according to a press release. The event will take place on April 26 at 6 p.m. EDT.
    • An effort to improve inclusivity and representation in the metaverse, The Degree Metathon will cover 26.2 virtual miles of Decentraland’s largest district, the Vegas City Sports Quarter, and will incorporate accessible architecture like ramps for wheelchair users. The Unilever brand also worked with Decentraland to create a more inclusive avatar library that includes prostheses, running blades and a wheelchair.
    • The effort is informed by Wunderman Thompson research that found 60% of people feel virtual worlds lack inclusivity, with many calling for more accessibility. The Metathon is part of Degree’s larger Breaking Limits Program, a purpose-driven platform that looks to break barriers for those who face obstacles to being active.

    The Degree Metathon — which the brand claims is the first marathon in the metaverse — is a novel activation on a virtual platform that also aligns with the brand’s larger purpose-driven work. At its most optimistic, the metaverse could be free of physical limitations and societal stereotypes, but many people surveyed by Wunderman Thompson say it is not yet living up to that promise. Similarly, nearly half of Gen Z gamers say the metaverse gives them a place to explore their identity, per new research conducted by Vice Media Group and Publicis Groupe’s Razorfish agency.

    With this effort, Degree is hoping to help shape the standard for inclusivity and representation in Decentraland, one of the platforms that has garnered increased attention as a part of the metaverse. To inform its work, Degree partnered with disability experts to better understand the needs of underrepresented movers in the metaverse, and then polled the Decentraland community, finding that 98% of landowners support making movement on the platform more accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities.

    Degree’s first step in its efforts is the creation of a more inclusive avatar library that will be available for the first time at the Metathon. The brand then plans to expand on its work, partnering with experts on disability, race and gender inclusion to advocate for inclusive solutions around a variety of identities and characteristics, such as adding audio description for people with visual impairments and adding non-binary options to avatars, which could also come in a variety of body shapes and sizes.

    The Degree Metathon is part of the brand’s larger Breaking Limits Program, a five-year, $5 million commitment to breaking barriers in movement. The marketer launched the program last summer by teaming with college athletes, and has since called out the fitness industry for its lack of support for people with disabilities and worked to raise awareness around this year’s NCAA Women’s tournament.

    “We hope the Degree Metathon will spark conversation on why representation matters — in both the Metaverse and the physical world — and its power in challenging societal norms. We’re excited about our partnership with Decentraland and about the potential to influence the virtual world as it’s being built and more widely adopted by consumers,” Kathryn Swallow, Degree’s global brand vice president, said in the press release.

    The executive’s remarks allude to the gap between consumer knowledge of the metaverse and the focus marketers have placed on a nascent space that doesn’t actually exist yet. Still, the effort allows the marketer to be an early mover that is working to ensure that the metaverse is more inclusive and representative for all consumers. By providing such value, the effort could help the Unilever brand push back against investor criticism over claims that it has prioritized progressive marketing messages over business fundamentals.


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