Integrating the sports industry with digital ecosystems has significantly improved fan engagement in recent years. Today, viewers do not have to attend sporting events physically; one can simply follow the action from their smart devices. More interestingly, new technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and blockchain are taking the experience a notch higher by enabling fans to exist within virtual spaces.
By now, you might have come across the term Web 3.0; some refer to it as the decentralized web. This new iteration of the internet is built on the blockchain to give users autonomy of control over their data. So, how will Web 3.0 change the sports industry? At the core of this intersection is Non-fungible token (NFT) technology, the fastest rising crypto niche of 2021, according to DappRadar.
NFTs Growing Popularity in Sports
While NFTs are yet to attain a noticeable level of mainstream adoption, several industries are currently experimenting with the technology’s potential. The wave seems to have caught up with the sports industry; both prominent players and big clubs in the NBA and European football leagues are slowly joining the bandwagon. NBA star Stephen Curry and Brazilian footballer Neymar Jr are some of the athletes who own a Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT.
Meanwhile, Liverpool FC has partnered with Sotheby’s metaverse to introduce an ‘innovative way to celebrate being an LFC fan from anywhere in the world. The club’s digital collection features 24 generative images representing each player. So, what exactly is the value proposition in adopting Web 3.0 economies? In the next section, we will take a deep dive into three main areas where NFT tech is playing a major role in boosting the sports industry.
Many sports enthusiasts are also fond collectors of souvenirs that remind them of their favorite players. However, in most cases, such collectibles come in physical form, which makes it hard to prove exclusivity or ownership history. NFTs change this narrative by pioneering a decentralized ecosystem based on the blockchain; simply put, sports fans can collect digital collectibles, store them as NFTs or trade the items via decentralized marketplaces.
For example, the NBA Top Shot Web 3.0 platform uses Moment NFTs to capture rare moments (video clips) in league basketball games. NBA fans can collect these NFTs and store them in the Dapper wallet. One can also choose to sell their NFT through the NBA Top Shot marketplace, depending on its value/demand. More importantly, each NFT has a unique serial number, enabling the owners to prove on-chain ownership authentically.
Fantasy Management and Esports
The fantasy management and esports market is a billion-dollar industry that has ballooned in the digital era. As it stands, there are millions of sports fans who are currently engaged in a competitive fantasy league. What if one could monetize this experience? Well, that is exactly what NFTs are bringing to the table. Upcoming Web 3.0 platforms such Maincard will soon be offering users a fantasy management ecosystem where they can leverage NFT cards to guess the outcome of sporting events.
Ideally, Maincard will allow players to purchase NFT cards that have different amounts of lives. These digital trading cards can be upgraded or damaged depending on the accuracy of one’s predictions over time. Players who manage to increase the value of their NFT cards can choose to store or trade them on Maincard’s marketplace. Though a nascent model, decentralizing the fantasy and esports industry will likely be a huge game-changer.
Virtual Sporting Events
As mentioned earlier, VR and blockchain technology have made it possible for people to live in the metaverse. Likewise, sports organizers can now host virtual competition events on a Web 3.0 platform such as Decentraland or The Sandbox. These two are currently the leading metaverse ecosystems, with land parcels going for top dollar. Investors who are fortunate enough to land on a piece could soon be cashing big on virtual sports.
Besides competing, fans can also watch live sports inside the metaverse and enjoy a shared experience regardless of their geolocation.
“The thrill of experiencing live sport is arguably built on shared experiences, it’s all about who you’re with and the opportunity to enjoy the consumption of sport in a connected fashion in real life.” – Rhys Beer, Content, Strategy & Planning at Meta (Facebook)
Since the debut of the internet, the world has certainly undergone a technological evolution. We live in an era where most are familiar with applications that connect humanity or solve the shortcomings in existing sectors. While the sports industry has often been touted as conservative in adopting changes, that is not the case regarding technology. In fact, many digital innovations are built solely focusing on sporting events. The intersection with Web 3.0 will further enhance the experience for sports fans across the globe.