More and more, blockchain technology is proving itself to be a powerful tool to build fan engagement and to develop alternative monetisation strategies for big brands. We’ve already discussed on this blog how the metaverse is changing fashion, and how musicians and artists can boost their incomes. Now, it’s time to look at another industry that is just beginning to appreciate the potential of blockchain.
Professional sporting leagues, clubs and players are all beginning to recognize the potential of NFTs to, as one crypto-news site puts it, “build closer relationships between athletes and clubs and their fans.”
Called “a match made in heaven,” by Dmytro Spilka on MakeUseOf.com, NFTs and sports are already proving successful, with some projects “resulting in the emergence of billion-dollar companies,” according to the same source.
So what are some of the ways that professional sports are using NFTs to engage their fans, and what are some recent examples?
Uses of NFTs in Sport
From digital collectibles that immortalize iconic moments in sports history to interactive trading card platforms that enhance fan experiences, the world of sports NFTs is continuously expanding.
1. Digital Memorabilia
With NFTs, players, clubs and leagues can create unique digital collectibles for fans. These so far have included photos and artwork signed by players, mementos of trophies, awards and victories, or even - as we’ll see later - play highlights from games.
Using NFTs in this way provides a new revenue stream, as clubs can sell these digital assets directly to fans without the need for intermediaries. The technology guarantees the scarcity and authenticity of the memorabilia, and players and clubs can retain control over their intellectual property rights, all the while forging deeper connections with their supporters.
Indeed, as Spilka says, “because of the shared love of nostalgia and collectibles among sports fans, the union between non-fungible tokens and various sports around the world has plenty of room for further growth.”
FC Barcelona’s Masterpiece collection
By the time this is published, FC Barcelona will have auctioned off the second NFT in its Masterpiece collection. The piece, as per the club’s website, “has Alexia Putellas as the protagonist and pays tribute to a moment that will always be remembered and is already part of the Club's history: the semi-final match of the Women's Champions League against Wolfsburg, on April 22, 2022, where a record of 91,648 spectators witnessed Barça's victory.”
Calling the project “a true work of art,” Barcelona will have good reason to expect the auction will be a success. Their first NFT Masterpiece fetched $693,000 at Sothesby’s.
2. Trading Cards
Sports trading cards date all the way back to the 19th century. With their enduring popularity, it’s no surprise they are getting a technological makeover. Diehard fans can now buy and sell digital sports trading cards on NFT marketplaces all over web3. Even better, these digital trading cards can be programmed with all kinds of expanded functionality - enabling fans to use the cards in fantasy sports tournaments, or as part of promotional experiences and engagement campaigns.
One company already leveraging Venly’s technology to build their own collectible sports cards eco-system is Lympo. Speaking to Venly, Lympo CEO Tadas Maurakas said that “Digital assets work like an entry key to a closed fan circle with direct access to the athlete, exclusive content, authentic experiences and various giveaways. The additional layer of fan engagement unlocked through digital ownership is one of the key priorities for us when designing any product or experience.”
Only two years old, Lympo’s platform is still developing. But to get an idea of where such platforms can go, consider Sorare, an NFT-based trading card / fantasy football platform currently boasting 3.5 million collector-players and a recent valuation of $4.3 billion. The French company recently also secured a £30 million deal with the English Premier League, having already partnered with the NBA and MLB.
Using the cards to participate in fantasy sports competitions, players compete for a range of prizes, including tickets to games, gear, apparel, access to players and VIP experiences. Such experiences have so far included joining AC Milan on a flight to play their next game, a personalized video from baseballer Julio Rodriguez, and a VIP experience for the Sevilla Derby football match. The most expensive NFT trading card on the platform fetched a cool $687,000.
As mentioned above, clubs and leagues are also using NFTs to immortalize legendary moments from their games. Fans can own unique, digital recreations of some of sport’s greatest highlights, including with video clips and other materials stored with the NFT.
NBA Top Shot & NFL Allday
Both the NBA and the NFL have their own NFT highlights collectibles. Called NBA Top Shot and NF All Day, respectively, the platforms are similar in that they provide a marketplace for players to buy and sell iconic sporting moments from both codes.
Just the Beginning
As with all things NFT, we are only just scratching the surface of what is possible. According to one industry website, “as the Sports NFTs industry matures, we will see even more practical applications bound to transform the industry.” Dmytro Spilka is more specific, suggesting that as we continue to grow into the age of web3, we’ll likely see more advanced use cases emerge between football and NFTs… even the emergence of sports NFT video games in the mid-term future.
That future is being taken up by the likes of Spectral Stadiums, another sports collectibles platform that has just only just launched its 5,555 NFT collection. According to Blockchain magazine, Spectral Stadiums boasts even more functionality with their collection, including:
- IRL Events: An opportunity to interact with favourite sports stars, earn match tickets, and access signed merchandise and memorabilia.
- Story-Driven Rewards: Users immerse themselves in engaging narratives, making each journey a thrilling and rewarding experience.
- Revenue Share: A part of the revenue generated by the Pitch Vision platform is shared among Spectral Stadium holders.
- Exclusive Events: Gain exclusive access to events and tournaments on G-Rush.
- Fee Rebate: Enjoy fee rebates on Fancrypt when owning a Spectral Stadium NFT.
There is even talk of using NFTs to purchase ownership shares in sports teams. At least, that’s the dream of former professional American footballer Garrick Jones. He’s looking to gather together an assembly of die-hard fans to purchase stakes in a football team, with a buy-in anywhere from $100 to $50,000.
NFTs have opened up new horizons for digital memorabilia and trading cards in the sports world. NFTs immortalize legendary sporting moments, allowing fans to own digital recreations of highlights. Digital sports trading cards, meanwhile offer fans engaging experiences in fantasy sports tournaments and promotional campaigns.
The future holds tremendous potential for further innovation and fan engagement through the intersection of sports and NFTs.
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