Soccer clubs around the world are embracing the blockchain. In fact, they are utilizing non-fungible tokens (NFT) to develop a deep connection with their supporters.
The ability to develop this digital connection came along at precisely the right time, when the COVID-19 pandemic was preventing any personal connection between supporters and their favorite side. That included the greatest of all traditions, going to the stadium to watch the action unfold on the pitch on match day.
Sports teams aren’t the only ones in the industry ready to recognize and take advantage of the burgeoning potential of cryptocurrency and the blockchain. Online sports betting sites are also embracing the possibilities of this new method of transactional currency. Many are accepting numerous forms of cryptocurrency and promotions such as the Bovada Bitcoin bonus which are designed to encourage people to employ cryptocurrency as a preferred form of payment.
Legendary Spanish club Barcelona were one of the first major clubs to embrace the possibilities that NFTs present. Barcelona issued its NFT fan tokens in June of 2020. The entire collection was sold out within two hours, earning $1.3 million for the club. The NFTs were produced in conjunction with fan voting & rewards app Socios.com and the Chiliz Exchange – the world’s first tokenized sports exchange. To emphasize the scope of the club’s popularity worldwide, purchases were made in 106 different countries.
“Football is a global game and support extends way beyond the stadium, city and country of the club,” Alexandre Dreyfus, CEO & Founder of Chiliz & Socios.com said in a statement. “It’s a stat we’ve used often, but for the biggest clubs in the world 99.99% of their support is outside the stadium. The fact that $BAR Fan Tokens were bought in 106 countries is a strong testament to this.”
Fan tokens are digital assets which offer increased fan engagement on voting and rewards on the Socios.com app. Fans can use their tokens to vote in club-specific polls and to be in with the chance of winning digital and real-life rewards, such as appearing via video link on the LED boards at the stadium during a match, watching games as a VIP guest in club hospitality and meeting players.
Italian club Juventus uses the voting privileges assigned to NFTs to determine such matters as what will be the club’s goal song when Juventus puts the ball into the back of the net.
In general, these voting privileges offered to supporters who possess NFTs – the more you own, the more clout your vote carries, much like how owning stock in a company works – are items that exist on the periphery of the team’s structure. It could be what color to paint the team bus, a new marketing slogan, or the design of souvenir T-shirts. However, the Greek club Apollon FC took it a step further. They allowed NFT holders to determine the starting 11 and team formation for a preseason friendly.
People have played fantasy football for decades. The principle is a simple one. Players select a squad of their favorite players and then compete against similar sides selected by other members of the same fantasy football league. Points are awarded for such match elements as goals, assists and goalkeeper saves.
The world of fantasy football has also entered the blockchain thanks to the company Sorare. They are selling digital cards of soccer stars that serve dual purposes. They are versions of traditional cardboard trading cards that exist only in the digital universe. And they also serve as NFTs in the blockchain, creating a digital version of fantasy football.
As these players perform better on the pitch, the value of their digital card also increases. Establishing which young talent is going to evolve into a soccer superstar can prove rewarding, just as hoarding a cardboard image of a player’s rookie card woud in the traditional trading card market. Players can trade, buy and sell these NFTs to other players in the Sorare universe, either for game play, or simply as a collectible.
The game has become hugely popular. When Sorare launched in January 2020, its trading volume was around $70,000. Today, the valuation is in the area of $30 million.
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