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A cryptic “Access Code” initiative was freshly outlined within Nike’s Help hub recently, and the best theories on its application suggest that the brand is targeting the sophisticated buying bots regularly exploiting its online store with each weekend release.

While Nike stops short of guaranteeing any product, the presented plan will deliver unique “Access Codes to select customers, granting them exclusive access to select Nike products” without any advanced notice. It appears that the Access Codes will be available both physically and digitally, offering direct links to product pages where they can be redeemed to make purchases.

While we have no confirmation that Access Codes will actually be distributed for use with those coveted Saturday releases—creating, distributing, and monitoring unique Access Codes is a remarkable effort for anything that isn’t in high demand.

Size-specific access codes and one-time use functionality are impressive and necessary possibilities, suggesting a more personal relationship between the selected customer and the brand they’re desperate to pay for goods. It implies that Nike knows you, knows what you want, and cares about making sure you get it.

Yet, the secretive maneuvering does little to balance the playing field for buyers setting their alarms for 7:55 a.m. each Saturday, nor does it suspend any theories regarding advanced link sharing for Nike’s friends. It only serves to trigger more unreasonable cynicism, because how many times have you clicked a link at 8 a.m. sharp and seen sizes already missing?

By introducing Access Codes to “select customers” — with no transparency on how to become eligible — success tips in the favor of VIPs and does little to truly derail automated bots. At its core, it really doesn’t seem as though much will change.

Ultimately, the plan is simultaneously clever and vain. With Access Codes, Nike allows itself to intensify the energy it thrives upon for each release while maintaining the all-important suggestion of exclusivity. And while it almost makes buying kind of fair, the real win for customers would be one subtle adjustment: kill the timed 8 a.m. release and drop sneakers by surprise.

The “Infrared 23” Air Jordan 6 Retro proved that the anticipated link isn’t always reliable, and the “Red October” Air Yeezy 2 SP delivered unexpected excitement to a landscape that was stale and unbalanced.

Everything else is just a band-aid.


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