Sports in Web3 is a Game Changer for Global Brands

December 1, 2023

Everything in life moves in cycles, and brands in web3 are no exception to the rule. 

In our recent blog posts, we’ve explored how web3 ushers in a new era of brand opportunities — from powerful customer retention and data analytics to dynamic product customization and personalized, user-owned experiences

So, what can this level of brand evolution mean for sports, a $500 billion global industry where teams like Manchester United are worth over $6 billion, count nearly 700 million international fans, and command a brand profile often said to resemble global corporations like Coca-Cola and Nescafé? Let’s kick off with some insights.

Sports in web3 started as a new spin on an age-old industry

The 2020-2021 NFT bull run demonstrated how much people wanted to own, flex, and flip things for profit. NBA Top Shot was a natural extension of this consumer habit, launched brilliantly when the world was stuck at home and locked into an era of speculative mania. 

At its peak, the platform saw combined sales of over $432 million in February-March of 2021, with an average “Moment” price of $181.81 and over 400,000 active owners. In the two years since, Top Shot sales have fallen drastically and hovered between $1-2 million in monthly sales, a similar metric to NFL All Day, another collectible-focused marketplace launched by Dapper Labs in 2022 alongside a collection for the Spanish football league, LaLiga.  

Platforms like Sorare also tapped into historic hype around collectibles and the inherently gamified nature of fantasy sports, though it experienced similar market turbulence in its first two years.

Still, as noted in Fast Company, which ranked the Parisian platform #34 in its World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2023 list, Sorare has shown expressive signs of global expansion with major partnerships across European football, the MLB, MLS, and NBA.

The latest era in sports in web3 has brands thinking differently — and dynamically

Sports collectibles will always have a market. While the onchain market has evolved for digital collectibles due to some relatively expected factors (broad market conditions, early tech, a handful of unsuccessful projects, etc.), it warmed up decision-makers to the technology and opened the doors for more diverse use cases centered around experiential fandom and loyalty. 

NFTs that enable game access (i.e., NFT tickets) and exclusive experiences have been adopted by the NFL (via a Ticketmaster partnership), NBA, Real Madrid, and Manchester United, which has leaned into match-specific, loyalty-driven experiences via an ongoing Tezos partnership

Another iconic football club, Paris Saint-Germain, has also experimented with different web3 strategies — from a $PSG fan token in 2021 to, most recently, a collaboration with avant-garde fashion brand Blvck Paris, which will unlock physical gear and exclusive benefit for holders. 

In F1, Red Bull has harnessed the passionate fan energy and success of its racing team with a limited collection of race-specific art drops (available via its Velocity Pass), while Honda recently launched commemorative NFTs ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Also in soccer, powered by Mojito, the Tampa Bay Rays-owned team, the Rowdies, offered free NFTs to its most loyal season ticket members to enable in-stadium discounts through a project that gained the team high fan participation, increased in-stadium revenue, and coveted consumer data.

Clearly, there’s been no shortage of web3 adoption across the global sports industry, with clear wins, occasional challenges, and ongoing experimentation across different use cases and implementations.

So what can brand leaders across sports keep on top of mind as we near a new year, one that many expect to be increasingly energetic and valuable for web3?

Web3 can reimagine the playing field for sports brands, teams, and sponsors

The real magic of sports in web3 is capturing — and driving — innovation and engagement. Historically, the meeting of these two worlds is a natural fit. From AI to AR and eSports, web3 has been a breeding ground for early adopters of transformational, digitally-native industries and products. A predominantly traditional industry like sports, which has long relied on slightly archaic business models, is ripe for web3-powered disruption. 

For generations, the business models of sports teams and leagues have revolved around getting fans in the stands and driving additional revenue and brand equity through advertisements and sponsorships. As a result, when many sports leagues or franchises consider adopting next-generation technologies — like web3 — the question will often be how to monetize that new tech through the same historic tactics (sponsorships, ads, attendance). 

Note: This doesn’t need to be a roadblock for leagues or consumer brands leveraging web2 technology; instead, it is an opportunity. 

In a web3-powered world, sponsors can embed their products into onchain loyalty programs, seamlessly integrating with teams and leagues to advertise their products and offer exclusive experiences “on the field” (or court, pitch, track, etc.,) and directly into digital assets — and the hands of fans. 

Dynamic NFTs like those offered by Mojito are loaded with flexible and customizable metadata that can unlock brand experiences, products, memberships, tickets, logos, and nearly endless integrations. 

Token-gated memberships and fan experiences can also boost loyalty and dynamic engagement among sports communities while offering key stakeholders access to rich and transparent consumer data with a higher degree of confidence. 

The magic of web3 often lies in its interoperable, modular, and composable nature, which allows different applications and technological frameworks to work together and build upon each other. In an industry packed with many different demographics, energies, trends, brand partnerships, and exciting personalities, the opportunity to leverage web3 technology in the future of sports is a game changer.


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