A participation trophy

The Ultimate Participation Trophy: Coming May 2.

(Photo courtesy of Tiffany)

Tiffany and Co. makes the NFL’s Vince Lombardi Trophy, Major League Baseball’s Commissioner’s Trophy and the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Next up: The Ultimate Participation Trophy.

The august jeweler is collaborating with Brooklyn-based art collective MSCHF on a trophy just for playing the game. It will be available in limited quantity of 100 when it drops on May 2 at 11 a.m. ET. The price: $1,000.

As HypeBeast notes, the trophy is in part designed to celebrate Tiffany. After all, it has the iconic powder blue color and stainless steel that are calling cards of any products by the 185-year-old brand.

Tiffany & Co. and MSCHF put together a limited series of trophies that serve to celebrate the luxury jewelry and specialty retailer’s 160-year tradition of handcrafting sports trophies at its famed hollowware workshop in Cumberland, Rhode Island.

Dubbed “The Ultimate Participation Trophy,” the design of the trophy features equestrian themes, offering a nod to horse racing and the Woodlawn Vase, the first trophy designed by Tiffany & Co.

For Tiffany, it's one of a series of recent collabs, following others with streetwear brand Supreme, musician Pharrell and artist Daniel Arsham as it looks to reach younger audiences after being acquired by LVMH.

But there’s also some well, mischief, woven into the latest partnership. For one, the participation trophy depicts a soccer ball, basketball and racquet visible on a horse and equestrian rider. The brands also note that these trophies will in fact be awarded in a place order starting from first, but this will be based on who spends money the fastest.

Participation trophies are often widely available. In this case, they’re exclusive.

The manifesto on the product’s landing page makes the social commentary clearer:

For decades, Tiffany made trophies for winners, until now.

Only those with exceptional skills, perseverance and an innate understanding of teamwork deserve trophies. To offer an award unearned makes a mockery of fair competition.

But alas, life is not fair, and in true American fashion: Those who can’t play, pay!

For MSCHF, this will be the latest in a long line of drops (76, to be exact) that blend memes, art, commerce, social commentary and old-fashioned pranks. Others have included a video game called Chair Simulator and Birkinstocks made from Birkin bags. This week, the collective’s lawyers were in court arguing that “Wavy Baby” sneakers released in a collab with the rapper Tyga were not in fact Vans knockoffs.

However, categorizing the collective is a more difficult task, even for its members.

“It’s very hard to actually have a one-sentence [description] of what we are because we’re doing something so new in the space,” David Greenberg, MSCHF’s head of strategy and growth told Digital Trends in 2020. “A lot of startups go out and they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re DTC (direct-to-consumer) this and we sell underwear online or toothbrushes,’ or ‘we’re Uber-for-this,’ or ‘we’re Seamless-for-this.’ We don’t have anything like that to compare us to. The best way to describe ourselves is sort of just an internet culture brand that launches whatever we want to tell a story in any type of format.”

No matter the label, they've taken plenty of lessons from those internet stars that went before. Like any great brand, MSCHF is adept at building exclusivity and hype around its drops, while leveraging the buzz to direct people to download its mobile app and visit its ecommerce site.

It's a digitally native approach to event-centered art that shocks and surprises. Bansky trades on mystery. MSCHF goes viral.

The tools of ecommerce helped bring shopping to the internet. MSCHF shows how they can be used to hold a mirror up to the culture, just as art has always done. It's all the more fitting when what's reflected is commerce itself.

In this case, an iconic brand is in on the joke. If nothing else, they're good sports.

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